Eddie Murphy representing Black culture for the second time in 33 years
“Before Black Panther, there was Coming to America. It set a precedent, it set a standard, it opened up so many doors, it was the first of its kind to celebrate Blackness unapologetically,” said Jermaine Fowler in a BBC interview.
On March 5, 2021, Amazon Prime released the sequel of Coming to America, one of the most important cultural Hollywood statements for the Black community.
In 1988, when Coming to America was released, it brought with it a lot of attention. It had an all-Black cast, and it represented African culture on a mainstream level. Although there were some stereotypes such as the perceived submissiveness of African women, they were modified during the sequel.
In the original movie, Akeem Joffer (Eddie Murphy) is an African prince from Zamunda who goes to America to find his future queen. In the movie’s sequel, Joffer goes to America to look for his long-lost son, Zavelle, who Joffer brings back to Zamunda to meet the rest of the family. It depicts the multiple differences between African and African-American cultures, yet we can see them blend during both movies, especially the sequel.
During the movie, Joffer’s family in Zamunda welcomes his son Zavelle and his family from America. We see the differences between the two families but also witness them blend and bring out the best in each other. In the end, Joffer’s daughter becomes the heir to the throne, and his son marries Mirembe, a woman native to Zamunda. She appears as an empowered, independent, and ambitious woman.
In Coming to America, African women were portrayed as submissive, dependent, with no ambition, and only aspiring to marriage. The sequel showed, however, that Black women, African-American and African women can be independent, ambitious and powerful.
“I’m very excited about African women who are kicking down those pre-existing narratives that held them back. I’m excited by my generation as we’re not taking anything less,” said Nomzamo Mbatha, who plays Mirembe in Coming 2 America, during a BBC interview.
The positive representation of Black people in the media is not common, especially in mainstream movies. The Black community constantly battles for more positive representation.
They portray us either as the good ones that are all docile or the aggressive and dangerous person, and it stems from history. That’s sad,” said Victoria, a student at Université du Québec à Montréal.
Eddie Murphy both plays the leading role and produced Coming to America and the sequel. He is seen as a role model and an icon around the world, and more importantly, within the Black community. Many other influential figures are in attendance in the sequel, such as Teyana Taylor, James Earl Jones, Garcelle Beauvais, Leslie Jones, Arsenio Hall, and more.
Mbatha, a native South African woman, plays the role of Mirembe, a hairdresser. Having a native South African woman in mainstream media is inspiring to South Africans of the younger generation. The film “speaks of what I want young girls from the African continent to feel — that they’re not invisible and they’re not too far, their dream is tangible — we need to open those doors for African girls and women,” said Mbatha.
From Coming to America to Black Panther, it took 30 years for another mainstream Black movie of this magnitude to come along. This in itself shows the lack of representation for people of colour in Hollywood.
Since the beginning of 2020, it has been challenging for the Black community because of the pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement and the loss of influential people in the entertainment business such as Kobe Bryant, Chadwick Boseman, Cicely Tyson, and more.
Coming 2 America is one of the biggest mainstream Black movies in recent years. During these challenging times, Black people being represented at such a high level, as well as having Murphy back on screen is a light for the community.