The Honorable Aviators: Did “Red Tails” Do Them Justice?

Did the film truly honor the first African American aviators?

By: Taren Vaughan

For weeks, much hype has been centered on the release of George Lucas’ latest production Red Tails, based on the true story of the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II. Lucas’ previous work including a countless number of Star Wars flicks, have earned him tons of praise, not to mention money, over the years. But exactly how well did he do with a movie based on something so instrumental to the progression of African Americans?

For starters, there is much that can be said about the actors who took on such powerful roles. Terrence Howard did an outstanding job, nailing his role as “Colonel Bullard”. With a touch of arrogance mixed with an abundance of confidence, Howard’s character, along with Major Stance (played by Cuba Gooding, Jr., who did an equally great job as Howard), reflected how African American males were given authoritative positions in the U.S. Army Air Corps. Though true, the movie still showed how they had to go above and beyond to prove themselves and those associated with them worthy individuals for true combat.

As for the tone of the movie, it was overall a serious one. The blatant racism during these times was evident in the film as the “N” word was dropped a time or two in addition to some “awkward situations” that the men experienced as well. Aside from the rather serious moments, there were a number of humorous moments too, fueled by funnymen, “Smokey”, “Lightning” and “Joker”, allowing the audience to let out a few laughs. Even with that being said, neither of those things took the audience’s attention away from the main focus of the story.

As educating the audience was the mission, Red Tails can be summed up in one word…Action.

Nearly two hours of action packed footage is what one should be prepared for. This movie was filled with it from scene to scene, with the occasion down time. The dull moments were held to a minimum. Not harshly graphic in nature, Red Tails was typical of most war-based films, capturing full fledged combat and the fatalities that went along with it.

Red Tails was a solid, updated film of the legendary story behind the courageous African American aviators from now Tuskegee University. Focusing in on the general history was not all this film did. It zeroed in on the racial discrimination that the men faced as well as the comradery and the brotherhood that these men shared.

For those who knew little about the Tuskegee Experiment, they will most definitely walk away with more knowledge than they came in with.

Red Tails had a healthy mixture of battle, historical references and humor and it was a wonderful break from the stereotypical roles that Black men tend to play in Hollywood movies, making it a must see film.

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