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UK’s Colorless ‘Couples Retreat’ Ad

Hollywood Couples Retreat UK Version

The above poster for the hit comedy, Couples Retreat, has been causing a ruckus ever since it debuted in the U.K. earlier this week. In designing the ad for the movie’s international release, marketers at Universal Pictures prominently displayed six of the eight main actors: Vince Vaughn, Malin Ackerman, Jon Favreau, Kristin Davis, Jason Bateman and Kristen Bell. The only problem is that the two actors who were left out (Faizon Love and Kali Hawk) are both black.  The American version of the poster features all of the characters.

A rep for the studio says:

(The new image was used) to simplify the poster to actors who are most recognizable in international markets.

He went on to say that all plans to use the airbrushed poster in other international markets have now been scrapped. British film critic, Jason Solomons, feels that the poster was a big mistake. He tells the Daily Mail:

We don’t cater much for the black cinema-going audience in this country, which is a great shame, so it seems strange that when there are black stars in a major feature film this fact isn’t promoted. And, in terms of business decisions, this seems a pretty counter-productive one.

Others feel that the marketing move was not only dumb, but overtly racist. It doesn’t help that, typically, movies that cater to black audiences do not fare so well overseas. The poster’s omission reveals a lot about the underlying racism that still exists around the world — whether intentional or not. Hollywood is no exception (although, obviously, stars like Will Smith, Denzel Washington and Tyler Perry are very marketable here compared to other countries).

Last month, Thandie Newton told the Daily Mail:

I’ve experienced racism in Hollywood but not as conflict or in a threatening way, just the ignorance of people. There was one time I went for a meeting for this big movie and I was up for a character who wasn’t written as black. The character was a college graduate and the studio head, a woman, said, ‘How can we make this role more black if we are going to have you in the film?’ And I said, ‘Well, I think as it’s written it’s fine…’ And she said, ‘Yeah, I know, but she is a graduate, she has been to university.’ So I said, ‘I’ve been to university.’ And then it was, ‘Yeah, but you’re different.

I think now is a healthy time for studio heads and the U.K. movie-going public to take a long, deep look within themselves and figure out why race makes them so uncomfortable.

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