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Green Book: a clap on the back

A crowd-pleasing comedy on racial complexities lulls white America

Samantha margot, Staff Reporter
Originally published January 17, 2019

Based on a true story, newly released “Green Book” took a comical twist on the discriminatory era of Jim Crow laws, skating along the surface of the deep racial divide in the country. The movie was tailored to a white audience, giving the white American people a false sense of self-congratulations.

The first minutes of the movie portrays what can be called the typical second generation Italian immigrant family to the United States perfectly; the dedication to a massive family, long talk of meatballs, impressive and loud gestures thrown at one another, words spit in aggressive Italian and a prejudice to anyone who isn’t at least descended from the mother country.

After the long lead, the audience is introduced to Dr. Don Shirley, played by Mahershala Ali, an internationally known black pianist, who looked to journey into the deep South to entertain men and women who, if not in name, were slave owners.

He searched for a guide, protection, someone willing to punch right back. Brash and uncouth bouncer Anthony Vallelonga, known in the Bronx as Tony Lip, played by Viggo Mortensen, was right for the job. Here is where the primal American archetype begins.

Shirley and Lip are polar opposites; black and white, refined versus vulgar, gay versus straight. America is always ready to fall in love with the paradoxical relationship between two contrasting parties.

The audience follows their travel from New York to Alabama using “The Negro Motorist Green Book,” stylized the “Green Book;” describing where below the Mason Dixon line African American men and women are able to sleep, eat and play.

Predictably, the men run into trouble almost immediately in the Carolinas. Attacked and spit on, the men face racism practically bleeding from the homes they pass. The openness at

seeing Lip faded into a nervous lecture or rough posturing upon his deference to Shirley.

The film played up the idea that racism is not an isolated attitude, it was something faced in North and South. While not the aggressive nature of the South, the threat remains active; Lip’s own family tosses threatening slurs at black men and women.

The trip from New York to Alabama is transformative, neither man can deny. The initial wariness gives way to warmth and friendship between the polar opposites. The film dismisses Lip’s continuous racism in favor of the undeniable bromance.

“I’m more black than you! You don’t know your own people. You, Mr. Big shot, doing concerts for rich people!”

The blatant discrimination gives the audience pause, many nodding to themselves in a “look how far we’ve come” fashion. Almost as though black men and women aren’t still stopped in the street by cops, that there aren’t people who refuse to serve another of color. Supposedly, in the land of the free, there is no discrimination against skin color, sex, gender or religion.

There is no milestone in Green book that couldn’t be seen a mile away. The buddy-road trip movie is predictable, leading to the creation of a white savior and said savior’s redemption upon defending Shirley from his family.

The film flattens the importance of the Green book itself with short glimpses of Lip flipping through it, making the namesake of the movie unfortunately forgettable. The fact that these safe spots meant the survival of men, women and children seemed forgotten in whirlwind bromance.

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Green Book: a clap on the back