Andre Seewood recently posted a provocative piece about Lucy, a movie that stars Scarlett Johansson, and was reviewed favorably by Paul Constant. Seewood basically points out that Hollywood has yet to make a film that comes even close to the true story of human origins. Human brains, bodies, and language did not come from space or some forgotten civilization at the bottom of the ocean. The origin of the defining features of our species is Africa. The first humans were black. Modern humans issued from an area around what is now Ethiopia. There is no mystery about this. It's no longer the Out Africa Hypothesis; it's the Out Africa Theory. But you would never get the idea that our origins are scientifically known and understood by watching Hollywood films like Lucy. (True, there is mention of the hominid Lucy in the movie; but Lucy, who lived over 3 million years ago in East Africa, was hardly a human. She was somewhere between a chimp and us.)

Seewood post is generally good, but it does make this mistake:

Luc Besson’s new film tells the story of a woman named Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) who is tricked into being a drug courier by her boyfriend and in turn is forced to become a drug mule when a vicious Asian drug lord has a bag of a powerful new synthetic drug sewn into her abdomen. Unfortunately, due to the rough treatment she receives at the hands of her captors the bag bursts and the mysterious new drug enters into her bloodstream causing her to have continuously increasing access to the untapped mental powers of the human brain.

The central theme of the film is that if humans had access to more than the 10% of the mental capacity that they now use, we would be able to control our body’s involuntary functions, then other people’s bodies, matter and eventually even the flow of time. Along the way this action packed “mind blowing” concept film hits a few rough spots as it avoids the issue of race in ways that spark one’s curiosity as well as confound. For instance, Lucy is able to change her physical appearance by the power of her own mind. She changes her hair color from blond to brunette to avoid detection from the cops- but the film stops short at having her change her racial identity which as implied by the story and her other powers in human cell manipulation, language acquisition and knowledge she would have had the power to do.

This, to me, is a curious willingness to shortchange an idea on the part of the filmmaker Luc Besson who wrote, directed and edited the film after 10 years of research and development. The ability of Lucy to race shift would have elevated the concept of the film’s central theme of the untapped power of humanity to a broader cross-cultural model that would demonstrate that human intelligence and power is shared among different races, classes and genders, but is often hidden from our view because of our own preconceived perceptions, otherwise known as prejudices.

Seewood should have reread the second quoted paragraph and given it some thought. Why did the famous white actress not turn black to elude the cops or who ever wanted to get their grubby little hands on her? It sounds like a pretty cool thing to do (use your brilliant brain to become a sister like that); cool, that is, to someone who has no clue about the history of 20th century entertainment in the US. Scarlett Johansson could not turn black because that would be: blackface. Change the color of your hair, your eyes, your teeth even—but do not change the color of your skin from white to black. We are not there yet. We are not a post-racial society.
Black like me?
  • Black like me?