Did The New York Times’ Critics Slight ‘Think Like a Man?’

April 20, 2012  |  

Moviegoers live for New York Times movie critiques. The prestigious paper’s reviews hold about as much weight as a review by Roger Ebert, and just by looking at what movie was reviewed and who critiqued it, the public at large gauges whether a movie is worth seeing at the theaters, is an “I’ll rent it from Redbox when it comes out” release, or a film not worth seeing at all.

That being said, it’s a little curious that none of the newspaper’s three major movie critics reviewed “Think Like a Man” in their weekly movie review roundups published yesterday. Yes, A.O. Scott, Manohla Dargis, and Stephen Holden were working Thursday because they had time to pen reviews of other films coming out this weekend like “The Lucky One” and “Goodbye First Love”, but instead of showing some love to TLAM, the task was passed on to another lesser-known reviewer, Rachel Saltz, and the review isn’t given much real estate on the website either.

I’m not attempting to race bait this review or even question Rachel’s credibility as a reviewer but I think the choice (which is what it was) not to highlight this film over others answers the question many have been asking about TLAM, which is whether it has crossover appeal. I’m going to assume that if three notable NYT critics didn’t take the time to watch the movie neither will most non-black moviegoers. And while we might think, who cares? We all know that the goal of most filmmakers behind movies with  nearly an all-black cast is to also rake in dollars from people who don’t just look like the ones in the film. After all, we are just a small percentage of the population. Filmmakers also want their characters to transcend race. In this movie, for example, the dating woes the actors are displaying are universal, and if it weren’t for that pesky thing called skin color, the public might see it that way.

The other issue that makes this slight curious is that “Think Like a Man” is expected by many to come in at number one at the box office this weekend, considering “The Lucky One” is it’s only main competitor besides “The Hunger Games” which has been out for some time. (“Goodbye First Love” is only showing in Manhattan.) Again, that being said, why wouldn’t one of the publication’s major critics review a film with that much hype—and speak on whether it lives up to it. Audience research numbers show the film scored some of the highest testing numbers ever recorded. In Inglewood, CA, which is predominantly black, audiences gave the movie a 95 percent approval rating. In the racially diverse area of Long Beach, the film garnered 99 percent approval, which would make one think it wouldn’t just be black folks running to see the film this weekend.

Last week, Vulture did an extensive review of “Think Like a Man” and the very issue the New York Times slight highlights. Claude Brodesser-Akner writes “Hollywood has great difficulty marketing ‘female movies’ to men, let alone ‘urban movies’ to white audiences — which is why everyone in Hollywood is simultaneously confounded and astonished by the forthcoming ‘Think Like a Man.’” He then poses an interesting question based on the fact that as of late last week, only slightly more than one in three white moviegoers (37 percent) were aware of the film, and only one in four (23 percent) expressed “definite interest:”

“How do you get white audiences to see a film that they are mostly unaware of but that audience research shows they actually love once they see it? The key words being ‘once they see it.’”

Claude points out that studios are known to slight marketing for black films which doesn’t give the movie a fair shot at topping the box office but I have to say the “Think Like a Man” cast has been hitting the media circuit pretty hard, although as far as Internet advertising goes, I have only seen promos on black blogs. I’m going to take Claude’s point one step further and say the New York Times omission of “Think Line a Man” in its weekly review—and likely other “black films” of cinema’s past also adds to this issue of movies like this being overlooked by white audiences. A critique is nothing more than free promotion and NYT decided not to give TLAM much. The question is does the blame fall on the studio for not making the film appealing enough for the major critics to consider or was this decision made because of the very fact that the reviewers didn’t think it would appeal to “their” audiences?

What do you think about the fact that NYT‘s main critics didn’t review this film? Does it speak to it’s lack of crossover appeal or is it deeper than that?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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  • jsmith0552

    And to people who think the movie was promoted properly. I’d like you to compare the marketing campaign of TLAM to The Hunger Games. I don’t recall seeing any of the actors in TLAM on the covers of any major entertainment magazines, even after the movie was number 1 at the box office for 2 weeks (a surprise to everyone it seems)! All that time I was still seeing articles on Jennifer Lawrence and was Katniss some new breed of wh. . . action heroine.

  • jsmith0552

    A lot of people don’t get it. Movies movies is hard work, and it takes money. Hollywood is considered a bottom line industry and they have decided that a particular “black” film will only earn so much. If it’s not within their bottomline, they don’t advertise and promote it. As a result fewer p.o.c. filmmakers get the shot to make films. And Hollywood then justifies it’s practice of only spending so much on black film so the production values and experimentation will never never be as high as on other productions. You need people to see your movies, as many as possible. They won’t go if they don’t know about it. Some people won’t go if a film doesn’t get a good review. A lot of none blacks aren’t picking up black oriented magazines, or listening to black stations, so you’ve effectively lost those potential dollars.

    It’s not about blacks “looking for something to gripe about” that’s stupid logical from people who don’t have a clue how things work or it’s people that have such a chip on their shoulders about blacks being treated fairly that they’re never going to see discriminatory practices or admit that they occur. I wish I could say that ignorance is on the downtrend, but sadly since internet, I still out there in force.

  • Think Like A Man? I Think Not.

    The advice given in this book is utter trash. Here is the best review iv seen yet on the subject! Thank God somone spoke out! http://on.fb.me/Think-Like-A-Man–I-Think-Not

  • joe

    Bottom Line: Critics don’t like black films. It is what it is. If it is a good film, they will try their damnest to minimize it by saying it’s similar to some film or show made long ago. It’s ugly, blatant racism and bulls**t. F**k them.

  • FromUR2UB

    I’m shocked!  This never happens!

    Seriously, I don’t pay attention to movie critics.  I see the movies I want to see because it’s all about entertainment for me.

  • Jythomas1

    Think like a man was good really good.  It should have crossover appeal.  Good writing.  CNN did a review of it this afternoon and it was a good review.  That was a good movie for something coming for Steve Harvey, I expected something different.

    • Jythomas1

      I mean that I expected the movie to go in a different direction.  I was not suprised that he could pull off a good movie 🙂

  • Brittanychantel5

    It’s interesting that they want to label our movies but expect us to support the majority of their movies that rarely have any familiar faces at all. Everything will always come back to race and division and not understanding that color is just one small aspect of the human race and that there are universal issues that every person no matter what race will deal with in their lives. Ultimately all people want to be accepted and acknowledged and respected but white people are constantly programmed to have a superiority complex which is just a delusion, the same way we are fed all the negative images of ourselves. I think too much influence is given to people’s opinion and the nyt is not the end all be all. Numbers don’t lie and promotion for the film will pay off regardless of what one paper has to say. Taking to heart the fade of old narrow- minded white people should really be the last thing we worry about.

  • Nitty

    Black cast???
    They always have movies with only white people in it aaaallll the time..but they still get reviews.
    reviews or not..i’m watching.
    Never needed their reviews to dictate what i watch so…whatever.

  • Acharleston52

    I am tired of stereotypical movies based on made up categories like gender and race.  This movie is another example of a gender binary.

  • It’s the fact that it’s being marketed as a “black film”. I heard a kevin hart interview where he said it isn’t just a black film, it’s a film all races will enjoy. So the fact that the NYT can write it off as a black film without even considering watching it is offense. 

  • ieshapatterson

    lol it’s because it’s a BLACK cast.not only that,it’s a black cast showing successful black men and women.why would white main stream hollywood talk about that??

    • Netdandri

      Right! Hollywood is quick to nominate the “it’s hard out here for a pimp” movie for an oscar, but TLAM can’t get a movie review?

  • IllyPhilly

     Wait a minute, who room are they sitting in?

    • Netdandri

      I think it’s one of the dude’s childhood room…

  • A.J.

    It’s definitely not the promotion; I’ve seen posters and ads for this film all over the place, in many different neighborhoods.  I read the “New York Times” review, and I do think that it was unnecessarily snarky.  There are a number of issues going on with this film.  One is that the film industry automatically labels films as “Black films” based on the cast and content.  Because of that label, even if it’s really good, a lot of non-Black moviegoers may hesitate to see it, probably because they feel it won’t have any appeal for them. I thought it was so interesting that the white people who did view the film found out that they loved it; I’ll bet they were surprised.  Also, TLAM offers a very positive image of Black people, something that in this day and age is still not represented enough.  I hope that it blows them all away at the box office.

    • LezMiz

      It’s sad, I do think that a lot of the poor quality movies and shows over the past 10 years, led by Tyler Perry’s less thoughtful work, has led to the stereotype that films and TV shows with all -Black casts are presumptively silly. Too bad, because there were several nearly-all-black shows in the 1990s that people of all colors liked (like Fresh Prince and Family Matters). What happened? America’s ready for all-black casts, but these funders (probably old and closed minded white men) don’t want to do it, that’s what.

  • Kenedy

    Its being heavily promoted yes…..but on mostly black forums. Is there an ad for it like for example in Vogue magazine? Or fox news channel (lol)?

  • No Disrespect

    I think you hit the nail on the head – films are made to make money so crossover appeal is VERY important. The fact that major reviewers ignore black films is detrimental because chances are non-black people will not know about it. Therefore, they will not go to see it and the movie won’t make as much as it would if it had the appropriate coverage (reviews from the major sources). Black blogs attract mostly black people, but NYT and other major outlets are read by various races. White people trust white people so if a reputable white person reviews the movie and says it is worth a watch (i.e. it won’t be uncomfortable for non-blacks to sit through), then more non-blacks would see the film which would mean more profit for the film. It’s not about approval from white people, it’s about a film being profitable so that more can be made. Just like black people will fly to the movie theater to see a predominantly white film (i.e Sex and the City), black films should get the same love from non-black people. The problem is that while non-black films get a lot of free promo via reviews which translate into additional ticket purchase, black films don’t get the same love so non-blacks (who might have been interested) are less likely to see it. I do think that as time passes, things will get better because black stars and black films are much more profitable and popular than they used to be. Soon, it will be detrimental to these major news outlets to ignore a black film just because it is a black film.

  • ieshapatterson

    lol it’s BECAUSE it’s a BLACK movie,with most of the actors&actress being BLACK!! if they were white,then you know without a doubt,this would be advertise on ET and the other entertainment shows and sites. it hurts to see black people making it on their own and showing other blacks in a good light. 

  • Helado31

    Listen, there are some white films that I have never even heard of. But then again, they don’t lack in financial support ever. 

  • Tsk

    Who cares if it isn’t reviewed why are black people always searching and digging for something to be offended by??

    • Smacks_hoes

      Exactly…it’s like bossip and madame noire always scrape and try to find some racial issue (other sites as well like wssh). Is the world trying to promote some kind of race war because that’s what it’s starting to feel like.

    • I agree. Tyler Perry’s movies haven’t gotten alot of attention from “the critics” but always do well. Let’s not worry about Think Like a Man. Im sure It will do great.

      • Tsk

        I actually saw Think Like a Man last night lol. It was what I expected, funny, enjoyable for other races, anddd.. Had nothing to do with thinking like a man hmm.. Who needs an article.

  • NikkitaMichelle

    The movie has definitely been well promoted, but it’s been well promoted for black viewers, and I think this is more than a black film.  Several of my white co-workers hadn’t even heard of it until I mentioned the film. 

    • Tallchiick

      You’re right about that…this movie has been promoted properly…its all on Twitter, Facebook, reality shows, talk shows, magazines, etc. Everywhere u go nowadays, they’re talkin about this movie…I HOPE it’s as good as the trailers..b/c I feel like I’ve seen it already…as far as a ton of non-black people turning out to see it…I doubt it.