White Man's Burden
This film reminded me of an elementary school assignment. Remember? The teacher asked you to imagine what the world would be like if things were reversed and write an essay about it. So you imagined a world where the sun rose in the west and not in the east, or you imagined a world where instead of "101 Dalmatians" we had "101 Tabby Cats." Director Desmond Nakano is well out of elementary school, so he's imagined an America where the roles of blacks and whites are reversed. The dominant class is portrayed through the person of Thaddeus Thomas (Harry Belafonte), while Pinnock (John Travolta) is the undereducated worker who feels betrayed by society.
On the surface, this film appears to lack subtlety and complexity. There's no integration at all. All the blacks have all the advantages and all the whites have all the disadvantages. Try and talk about the political implications of this film with someone of another race and you'll probably end up in a screaming match -- everybody's idea of a good time.
However, look deeply into this film's psyche and you discover the depths of its madness. Travolta plays an uneducated, lower class, white guy who sports a thick Eastern accent and whose vocabulary consists primarily of cuss words. Good God! It's "Vinny Barbarino at 40!" Suddenly, everything makes complete sense. Vinny was always resentful that Freddy "Boom Boom" Washington was smarter than he was. Naturally, when he grows up to find that Freddy is a successful businessman, Vinny is going to exact some kind of revenge since Mr. Kotter is no longer around to keep order.
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