By Nad |
African drums booming in the background. Singers chanting “Awemoway, Awemoway.” The camera circumnavigates the forest. Nah, this ain’t The Lion King. This is Coming to America. Caution: This movie is not for the faint of heart, if you into Ben Stiller (didn’t know you could be a comedian while not being funny) this ain’t your film. No, tea, no shade, but if you are into that type of “comedy,” then I suggest you exit stage left. But if you want a change for once, let’s be real, y’all need it: then this is the movie for you! I promise you while watching this film your face gon’ be like: The Obama meme, where he’s laughing so hard his face is crinkled, with eyes shut. Now for the Africans, please don’t take this film to be our “accurate” portrayal of your home country, oops I meant continent (Hey, Raven Symone!) That’s what makes this film so great, the sheer ridiculousness of these stereotypes. The writer, and Eddie Murphy knew how to capitalize on our stereotypes of both Americans and Africans.
Coming to America, a Paramount Studios Film, was directed by John Landis in 1998 and stars Eddie Murphy, who plays multiple characters: Akeem, Jewish man, preacher, and barber. Every time I saw those characters I was like “Damn Eddie back at it again with them impersonations.” Arsenio Hall plays Akeem’s best friend while Shari Headley is Lisa, the woman Akeem pines for. The film is originally set in Zamunda (fictional), Africa. Eddie Murphy plays Akeem, the prince and son of King Joffer and Queen Aeoleon. As soon as the film begins, we can see Akeem’s displeasure with his life. He complains to his dad about not knowing how to perform basic human tasks. He wants a wife who is intellectually and aesthetically stimulating. In essence, the film implies this kind of woman is only found in America.
Akeem arrives to New York City, in hopes of achieving his version of the American dream. Though he comes from royalty, he starts from the bottom up, mopping floors, cleaning windows, working as a sanitation worker. He vies to earn Lisa’s heart, though she has a boyfriend. We see how Cleo McDowell (Lisa’s father) is the epitome of hard work; he worked for 30 years to own a house to raise his two daughters in. He owns the fast-food restaurant McDowell’s, and is a member of the middle class. If Cleo had a theme song it would be “Started from the bottom.” Her father is the true epitome of a hard-working American citizen. He harbors the founding principles of America: pride, hope, and determination. This American dream is something that authors like Teddy Roosevelt painted, I see what ya did there Mr. Landis *wink, wink.
Funny thing is, Cleo is actually running an illegal business, because McDowell’s is a rip off of McDonald’s. Chile, I know I said the director did a clever job capitalizing on our stereotypes. But that don’t mean I can’t give him some negative critiques. I’mma bout to read Mr. Landis to filth #shadymood. First off how you gon’ have the only character in the movie who earned their keep to be a fraud?! That don’t make no damn sense. Does he not remember who helped build this country? Okay, Mr. Selective Amnesia, I’mma let that slide because the film is too damn funny.
I did notice how after Akeem arrives in America, he starts shedding his African identity, thus becoming more American. We see this when he hops the turnstile, which is categorically so New York. Pre-“American” Akeem would have asked for assistance instead of just illegally hopping it. We see him forgetting formalities. In another scene, he makes fun of his friend Simmy because Simmy wants to get pampered. He gives a lecture to Simmy warning him to stop spending money on lavish things.
The joke’s on us! Why? Though, this film is plastered with stereotypes of African peoples, Akeem in the end does not give up his royalty. In the beginning, Akeem complains, “I want to do things by myself, like being able to tie my own shoes,” says the person who has no responsibilities, whatsoever, living the highlife, in a mansion as a prince. But, that’s none of my business tho. When he captures Lisa, he of course quits his job and goes back to his “responsibility free” pampered life in Zamunda. So, did Akeem really want to achieve the American dream? Nope, the desire of this American dream vanished as soon as he gets the girl. The Americanization of Akeem lasts for a quick second as he goes back to Zamunda with his prize in tow: Lisa. That was all he wanted after all. I must say, everyone involved in the film should be applauded for their efforts. Touché Mr. Landis, and touché Eddie Murphy.
Nad is an English and Psychology major with plans to pursue doctoral study in social psychology. Her career ambition is to work as a professor who conducts research abroad. In any career she chooses, she wants to help people of color realize their limitless potentials.