8220;meet Your New Murder Consultant a Black Man”


I recently watched “Horrible Bosses” and was shocked by the amount of racial othering (and just plain blatant racism) in the movie. If you haven’t seen it, the movie is about three white men who hate their bosses and decide to kill them. Initially they want someone to do it for them, so they go out searching for a hit man. After an unsuccessful attempt to find one through the internet, they decide to simply look up the area with the highest crime rate, go there, and ask around. When they arrive at this area, they walk into a bar which happens to be completely full of people of color. The movie emphasizes that the three white men do not belong in this area as they walk through the bar wearing suits and are stared at by the people surrounding them. They end up finding someone who agrees to help them – Jamie Foxx, a black male.

A huge problem exists in the fact that these white men are portrayed as knowing nothing about committing crimes, and therefore, they must turn to the “experts” – aka the black community. They walk into a bar in an area that is distinguished as having a much higher crime rate than their own areas, and not so coincidentally, there are no white people to be seen in this bar. The white men clearly convey feeling out of place being there, indicating that it is out of character for them to “venture” into a place that is so unfamiliar to them because of its frequent crime and dominantly black population. Jamie Foxx’s character then serves to confirm the stereotype that all black men are experienced criminals by telling them that he has spent time in jail and agreeing to teach them how to kill someone. In this way, the movie perpetuates the notion of the criminal black man. It also others the black community by making them seem not only physically separated from white people/white areas, but also as extremely different from white people (and not different in a positive way).

Some might argue that the movie actually challenges white dominance and black stereotypes because Jamie Foxx’s character calls the three white men out at the end of the movie for assuming that he was a murderer because he is black and says that he has never killed someone, but actually went to jail simply for pirating music. Yet I argue that this minor plot twist at the end does not negate the stereotyping and racial othering that occurs throughout the majority of the movie. As well, the fact still remains that his character has spent time in jail, and his character also steals money from the three white men, in addition to tricking them.

Discussion questions:

How do movies like this reinforce white dominance?

What are the real-life consequences of movies such as this one?

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