Discretion often borders on deception Interracial romance is big in movies but bad in ads

December 01, 1992|By Bob Strauss | Bob Strauss,Los Angeles Daily News

LOS ANGELES -- While making movies about the controversial subject of interracial romance is all the rage these days, marketing them is another matter.

However sensitively or honestly a particular film may handle the issue, trying to sell it with a minute-long TV ad or single-image poster involves serious reductionism.

Marketers run the dual risks of alienating customers who are uncomfortable with the concept and offending more open-minded viewers by trivializing the matter.

While theatrical trailers and television commercials can't hide the colors of actors' skins, posters, newspaper ads and billboards enjoy a much wider range of graphic gambits. For the most part, print campaigns for films with interracial romances lean toward discretion that sometimes borders on deception.

With the major exception of -- what else? -- "Jungle Fever." The teaser graphic of interlaced black male and white female fingers screamed bi-racial love, although the film itself turned out to be equally concerned with drug addiction and the panoply of pressures that destroy families.

However, if you go by the still images used to sell "Malcolm X," "The Bodyguard," "The Crying Game," "The Lover," "Candyman" and "Flirting," you might never know the films contained a cross-racial date.

"X's" ads just use, well, a big X; Kate Vernon, who plays Malcolm's white mistress for the film's first hour, is not even listed in the display cast list. Whitney Houston's face is buried behind Kevin Costner's head on "The Bodyguard" poster, and the photo is tinted in a way that obscures both performers' skin colors.

The ad for "The Crying Game" shows only supporting English actress Miranda Richardson, not the film's lead couple, Irish actor Stephen Rea and mulatto Jaye Davidson. "The Lover" and "Candyman" posters at least reveal half of the romantic duo -- in both cases, white females, but not their Asian or African-American male partner.

And "Flirting's" graphic is three teen-age girls dancing together in their underwear. Two are white and one is black, and the latter does have a cross-racial affair. But despite what the picture may indicate, it's a heterosexual one.

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