Racism in the NY Times Movie Review of “Obsessed”

“The movie’s most disturbing aspect, of which the filmmakers could not have been unaware, is the physical resemblance between Mr. Elba and Ms. Larter to O. J. and Nicole Brown Simpson. It lends “Obsessed” a distasteful taint of exploitation.”- Stephen Holden, NY Times, 04/25/09

Actually, I was totally unaware that Idris Elba looked anything at all like OJ Simpson.

How in the world did this make it into a newspaper of the caliber of the NY Times Arts Section? Even if Holden truly believes that Elba looks like Simpson, which is ignorant at best and “they all look alike” racism at worst, I am appalled that the editor didn’t do something like, say, look at pictures of Elba and Simpson side by side before running that closing statement. What point is Holden trying to make? Does Elba wear an OJ jersey in the film? Does he drive a white Bronco? Does he have a friend named Kato? Where could he possibly have made the connection between Elba and Simpson, except that both have been on TV with blonde white women? I’d be surprised if they don’t get a multitude of emails and letters about this.

I’m looking forward to Holden’s review of the upcoming remake of The Taking of Pelham 123, where he notes Denzel Washington’s uncanny resemblance to Barack Obama.

~ by russellhainline on April 26, 2009.

12 Responses to “Racism in the NY Times Movie Review of “Obsessed””

  1. I have no clue why anybody would even look into this. It’s just a goddamn movie! If the roles were reversed: a ridiculously gorgeous black woman, like Beyonce, flaunts herself to a powerful successful white man who’s married to a white woman, the characters would’ve reacted similarly. The plot would’ve still be the same. Everything would’ve been the same except for the skin color. It’s just Hollywood. Get over it.

    • um…george you do realize that statement had absolutely nothing to do with the movie… except for skin color
      which was the original point

  2. But the audience would perceive it differently. The same movie, with reversed races, doesn’t get made because it can’t sell tickets the way this one can.

    I’m not sure if you agree or disagree with my post, since you didn’t address what Holden said…

  3. @Russell: You’re spot on. I said the same thing myself.

  4. Idris Elba & OJ Simpson favor in NO physical respect, not even skin pigmentation. The movie’s plot does not even come close to the alleged incidents between OJ & Nicole. For Holden to comment “Obsessed” was a ‘distasteful taint of exploitation,’ revels that he either had not seen the movie or he has some pinned up agression towards white women being drawn to a black man. I read this article prior to you posting your views, Russell, and I honestly did not know whether to label him a rascist or an idiot– they’re both one in the same. I just don’t get it…

  5. Let’s take this further, so we can really cement how terrible this comment was.

    According to Holden, a physical resemblance between the Simpsons and these actors is evidence enough that the filmmakers intended to make a correlation between the two stories. So, Holden believes what? That this film is about how Nicole Simpson was asking for it? Ladies, once you go black you never go back to sanity?

    If I was Holden and believed there was a connection while watching this movie, I wouldn’t have been able to think about anything else! My whole review would be to expose this connection, or examine how Americans’ views on interracial coupling may still be imbued with memories of the Simpson murder and trial.

    Not only is Holden foolishly projecting his own racist thoughts onto these filmmakers, but as a writer, he’s putting in no effort.

    • One can definitely draw those conclusions from the article, Alberto, well said. I’m still stuck on the initial racism, the one written in plain black and white (irony?), where he said in the NY Times the filmmakers must have seen that Idris Elba looks like OJ Simpson, when they in fact look nothing alike.

      Worlds of analysis can be spun off from there into the depths of Holden’s psyche to see just how racist the comment is. But I remain baffled on the blatant, need-no-analysis racism right there on the page.

  6. Haven’t seen the movie, only the previews. But I couldn’t help but wonder how much sh*t would fly if the races were reversed in this movie. It also plays on the common stereotype of there not being “enough good black men”, and how “the best ones are either gay, married, or “stolen” by other races”. But again, that’s just the impression the preview left on me.

    • 1) It wouldn’t have sold nearly as well, so…
      1a) It never would have been made.

      But I bet Stephen Holden wouldn’t have said how much they physically resembled Robert DeNiro and his wife.

      My interest in this isn’t so much in the quality of the film, but the sheer ignorant negligence of the reviewer/editor in printing that nonsense.

  7. Guess what? Time magazine says Stephen Holden is wrong. Idris more closely resembles Kobe Bryant.


    “The Elba character synthesizes two Michael Douglas roles in movies about white-collar husbands victimized by predatory females: Fatal Attraction and Disclosure. The only wrinkle is that the man is black, the crazy lady white. In a New York Times review of the film, Stephen Holden notes that Elba and Larter physically resemble O.J. Simpson and his late ex-wife Nicole, which, Holden argues, “lends Obsessed a distasteful taint of exploitation.” But this isn’t a rewriting of the O.J. murder farrago. It’s closer to another case involving a high-profile athlete: the L.A. Lakers’ Kobe Bryant, who beat a rape rap brought by a young white woman with whom he had sex in a Colorado motel room. In Obsessed, the woman is utterly ruthless, the man wholly blameless. Indeed, he’s a passive character — a pliable politician who just wants to “keep looking forward” — compared with his suspicious wife and his nutsy stalker. Elba plays the victim here; Knowles will be the avenger.”

  8. Rus thanks for bringing this to my attention. I wouldnt have seen it otherwise.

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