Someone I follow posted this today, quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:
“All I’m saying is simply this: that all mankind is tied together; all life is interrelated, and we are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of identity. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly…
— Heather Brandt, PhD (@BlondeScientist) January 15, 2022
Actually, that was the first part of a two-tweet series, finishing with this. But I initially only saw the first one, and I reacted this way:
Which of course is why all forms of Identity Politics are a very bad idea. Because they cause people to forget that we’re all just people…
I realize that wasn’t where she was going with that, but it’s where I went. Partly because I’m always down on that harmful phenomenon. But also because I was irritated earlier this week when I saw this headline from Variety:
My irritation arises from more than that headline. Perhaps you’ve noticed, perhaps you hadn’t, but we get a lot of headlines like that these days. Every story written about, say, the latest award nominations, tends to center on whether this was a good year or a bad year, based on how many Asian female directors were recognized. (Or something like that. Maybe just female directors or Asian directors or directors “of color,” to broaden the field somewhat…) So this is just another in that series.
And no, that is not what losing Sidney Poitier makes us think about — not if we appreciated Sidney Poitier.
That’s because Sidney Poitier was AWESOME. To cite Donne, his loss makes us all “the lesse.” His accomplishments were not, as would have been said in his early career, something you had to say “Negro actor” to acknowledge. He was just a great actor, period.
Take away the fact that he was black, and that’s what you’ve got left. And it’s enough, more than enough, for reflecting upon his prodigious talent, and being thankful for it.
You want to recognize the struggles he had as a black man? Certainly, do so. You want to talk about his political activism? Great, let’s do that — in a separate discussion. But you don’t immediately drop the subject of Sidney Poitier, remarkable human being, to start counting how many actors with dark skin have won a particular Oscar. That indicates you’re thinking of him as “oh, that famous black guy” instead of the talent he was.
Anyway, I’ll drop that for now, and turn to a more worthy subject: I need to go out and find the Sidney Poitier movies I haven’t seen, and watch them and enjoy them. I’m realizing I’ve seen too few of them, and that’s good news: I have a lot of enjoyment ahead of me.
For instance, I haven’t seen either “Lilies of the Field” or “Raisin in the Sun.” So I’m looking forward to those. And after listening to a discussion of it on NPR the other day, I want to check out “No Way Out.” And yes, I’ll be careful not to accidentally watch the one with Kevin Costner (which, unfortunately, is way easier to find on streaming services).
At this point, I’d compose a Top Five list, but that would be ridiculous when you consider the important films I haven’t seen yet. So maybe later.
Among those I’ve seen, there’s… “The Defiant Ones,” which personally I found forgettable. (I find most Tony Curtis movies forgettable. Chain even Sidney Poitier to Tony Curtis, and you have a problem with me.) I probably ought to go back and watch “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.” I’ve seen it, but it’s not a favorite. (I remember the point of it being, Let’s see how liberal and broad-minded Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy really are, which seemed to me a thin premise for feature length.)
My faves include “In the Heat of the Night” and the lesser-known sequel, “They Call Me MISTER Tibbs.” (I haven’t seen the third in the trilogy — in fact, I just this moment learned that there was a trilogy.)
But my Number One is so far above those that it’s a separate category. That’s “To Sir With Love.”
Hey, I’m a child of the ’60s. I’ve gotta love that one. Right, Lulu? And I do. If I did a Top Five of that decade, I’m pretty sure it would make the list.
Let’s cut away for a clip…