This weekend will see the takeoff of Robert Zemeckis's new movie, Flight, which stars Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, and John Goodman. Washington plays a pretty conflicted character: Whip, a star pilot who also happens to be an alcoholic with a cocaine problem. He parties hard with one of his flight attendants before going up in the air one morning, and of course, shit gets unfortunately real with a crash landing. He's a hero for a minute, but that all changes wtih the investigation into the emergency landing.
It's a great performance from Washington, but, as with nearly all Hollywood products, it toes the line on negative racial stereotypes: in this case, the black substance abuser and absent father. In the name of Sydney Poitier, these challenging roles have got to be out there for people of color. But how do we determine if a movie is actually doing justice to its representation of members of a marginalized group? I'm going to share a few rules I've developed to help explain whether or not a character is more than just a stereotype.