Film / The Color of Friendship
The Color of Friendship
is a 2000 Disney Channel
Original Movie directed by Kevin Hooks and based off of "Simunye", a short autobiographical story by Piper Dellums.
In 1977, Steve Biko, the famous anti-apartheid activist, is arrested by South African authorities. Around this time, Mahree Bok (Lindsey Haun), a young Afrikaans girl, decides to spend a semester abroad in the United States, and learns she will staying with the family of U.S. Congressman Ron Dellums (Carl Lumbly).
Unbeknownst to her, Ron Dellums is not only black, but one of the most outspoken critics of apartheid in Congress. His daughter Piper (Shadia Simmons) is excited about the prospect of meeting what she assumes will be a black girl her own age.
When Mahree and Piper meet, they are confused and shocked. Mahree spends the first few days locked in her room, and Ron is dismayed that a racist girl is spending time in his home. Gradually Mahree opens up to the family, she and Piper become friends, and she realizes black people aren't so different. But when a scandal hits South Africa, it may force Mahree to see the oppression in her own country or drive a wedge between her and Piper.
The film was positively received for its message and its frank discussion of race, and it won an Emmy for Outstanding Children's Program.
- Amoral Afrikaner:
- Subverted with Mahree, who is pretty racist, but her attitudes were things she was taught as a child, and after some time with the Dellum's family, she grows out of them.
- Mahree's father is a straighter example. He is a family man, but as a policeman, helps enforce apartheid. See Kick the Dog.
- Armor-Piercing Question: A couple directed at Mahree by Piper:
- "Can I come and visit you?"
- "Do you have any black friends?"
- Bittersweet Ending: Carrie, Mahree's inspiration, overcame her prejudice, but Piper Dellums claims to have never heard from her again, speculating that the South African government disappeared her. And Ron Dellum's apartheid bill was passed in Congress in 1986 over Ronald Reagan's veto, the only override of a veto of a foreign policy bill in the 20th century.
- Disneyfication: Mostly averted. The movie isn't as lighthearted as other Disney films. We see the issue of apartheid touched upon, as well as a scene with a black ghetto.
- Dramatization: The story is based off a real life event, but some things have been changed. Mahree's real life counterpart, for example was named "Carrie".
- Everyone Has Standards: Mahree, early in the film, was very disgusted with the cruel treatment a black waiter received by another patron while out on dinner with her family, this is in contrast to her father's non-chalant reactions.
- Historical-Domain Character: Steve Biko, the anti-apartheid activist. His arrest is a joyous occasion for Mahree's father, as a dead give away to his own racism. His death in police custody results in South African embassy employees trying to sneak Mahree out of the country, and Piper's own anger at his death results in Mahree truly understanding the injustice in her country.
- Innocently Insensitive: Mahree, having grown up under apartheid, makes many condescending remarks about black people, and doesn't notice the anger her family's maid has for apartheid.
- Kick the Dog: Mahree's father says a lot of the same things many white South Africans said, but when he acts nonchalant when a black waiter is beaten in the middle of a restaurant, it shows his enormous racism.
- Nice to the Waiter: The aforementioned Kick the Dog moment for both Mahree's father, and the abusive Afrikaner is contrasted to an American guy who instantly forgives a black waiter accidentally dumping a Sundae on his shirt (and asking for an order of it).
- N-Word Privileges: Averted. Congressman Dellums nearly kicks Mahree out of the house for using the Afrikaans slur Kaffir.
- But Piper and Mahree say the word out loud when discussing what "kaffir" means vs. what "bantu" means in Afrikaans.
- Positive Discrimination: Actually subverted. Flora, the Bok family maid, is quite perceptive about the society she lives in with her "weaver bird" analogy, but is clearly uncomfortable with Mahree's racism. Ron Dellums' fight against apartheid is highlighted, but he treats Mahree pretty coldly, and the rest of the family are shocked to see Mahree is white. The film does not condone their behavior anymore than Mahree's. While many of the black characters are well-to-do, they also show a scene with a black ghetto.
- Washington, D.C.: The setting, and justified since Mahree is sent to live in Congressman Dellums' family.
- Television Geography: Dundee is set near a coastline in the movie. Dundee is really a town surrounded by mountains.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Piper calls Mahree out early on for hiding in her room and not opening up to her family.
- Roscoe, Piper's mother, calls Ron out for his own attitude toward Mahree, a young girl.
- Piper later gives Mahree a bigger one for refusing to acknowledge the injustice of apartheid. This comes after Steve Biko is killed by the South African police, and Mahree believes that he was criminal who killed himself (as the official story went).