There has been much talk about Red Tails online, with George Lucas receiving both praise and condemnation for his honest sharing about the difficulties of getting Hollywood to make a "black" film in which white actors are not central to the story. Across the black blogosphere, the upset at Red Tails has been at the apparent omission of black women from the Tuskegee airmen's story. Clutch Magazine for example, has featured a series of posts on this question, where the feeling is that the lack of black women in Red Tails is a reflection of their broader status as second class citizens.
As always, populism is both liberating and fun.
The Tuskegee airmen could not win World War 2 alone. There were many support personnel, mechanics, and the like who kept the P-51 Mustangs, "the Cadillac of the sky," up and running at peak performance. This actress should be attractive, but also comfortable with machines and tools. It would be a bonus if she complicated gender stereotypes about black femininity. She is a "strong black woman." She is also vulnerable. Her body and habitus should suggest athleticism, confidence, and a no nonsense attitude balanced with a need to love someone--be they male or female. Queen Latifah (or perhaps the movie Pariah's Adepero Oduye) is a great choice for the part of Master Sergeant Mechanic for the 332nd airgroup:
There were Afro-Germans, French, Italians, Russians, and other nationalities across the continent. One of the pilots in the Tuskegee airmen should have an intense relationship with a character who is the child of a Black Sicilian and a white Northern Italian woman.
Hauntingly beautiful, she would be marginalized by the French in the small town near where the Tuskegee airmen are based. One faithful night she meets one of the black American pilots outside of a segregated U.S. Army club. They then proceed to dance the night away in an alley where he sings jazz classics in her ear and she provides the chorus in Italian. There relationship is a whirlwind of sexual bliss and intense, immediate love. She becomes pregnant with their love child, only to have her lover killed during one of the Tuskegee airmen's final missions of the war.
There is only one choice here: Halle Berry.
Rosie the Riveter is an iconic image from World War Two. Women served throughout the U.S. military. While they were not allowed in "combat" positions, they took great personal risks flying aircraft across the Atlantic to Europe, towing planes for gunnery practice, as nurses and spies in Europe and Asia. In fact, one of the most noted aviators of the 20th century was Bessie Coleman, an African American woman, who in the dark days of Jim Crow, flew across the United States solo. If history does in fact echo, Red Tails should include many more women of color in its narrative.
Truth is fiction; fiction is truth. The Tuskegee airmen were facing difficult odds. The War Department, in realizing that it was foolish to hold back talented war fighters from the front lines, have called up an elite group of female aviators. "The Black Banshees" are assigned to the Italian theatre of World War Two, where they appear in the last thirty minutes of Red Tails in order to save the day after the 332nd suffers heavy casualties on a particularly harrowing and poorly planned mission. At first, their presence is resisted by the Tuskegee airmen. Inevitably, The Black Banshees win over the Tuskegee Airmen, and each woman pairs up with their opposite number among the 332nd. At first the mutual attraction is resisted, but eventually each member of The Black Banshees marries a Tuskegee airmen after retiring from the service, pregnant of course with future aviators, who just like mom and dad, will be the cavalry of the skies in the jet age.
Members of The Black Banshees include Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, Missy Elliot, Jean Grea, and MC Lyte. Their flight leader is Angelina Jolie channeling her earlier role as Cleopatra.
War is hell. Blood is spilled. Bodies are broken. Nurses in wartime are sisters, mothers, confidantes, objects of unrequited love, and skilled technicians who put broken bodies back together again so that they can go out to fight (and be broken) again. There is something almost Freudian and Oedipal about nurses in many World War 2 movies: they are sister-mother-lover figures. The love is many times quite chaste...until it surrenders to desperation...and lust. Red Tails needs this actress to be compelling, pathos filled, and sincere. Gabrielle Sidibe, of Precious fame, is the perfect young actress to play the role. She is a member of the U.S. Army's nursing corps who is transferred from Atlanta, Georgia to the European theater in order to tend to the young and homesick men of the 332nd air group.
In that spirit, what other actresses would you add to Red Tails and why? And how would you cast the obligatory big budget black actress of the last few years, she who is Miss Beyonce (who I intentionally left out of my hypothetical casting game), in the film? Would you include a dance number where all of the black women in the movie break out in song Dreamgirls style?