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Film / Made in America

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Made in America is a 1993 comedy film, starring Whoopi Goldberg, Ted Danson, Nia Long, Will Smith, and Jennifer Tilly. The film was directed by Richard Benjamin, previously known for such films as Downtown (1990) and Mermaids (1990).

Zora Mathews (Long) is a 17-year-old high-school student, working on getting a scholarship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Sarah Grace Matthews (Goldberg), her mother, is the proud owner of the "African Queen" bookstore, a shop providing reading material to an African-American audience. Sarah is a widow of 17 years and Zora has never met her father. One day in school Zora and her best fiend Tea Cake "T.C." Walters (Smith) are learning how to test blood for blood types. Zora learns that her blood type is AB. She immediately realizes something. Sarah's blood type is A, her dead husband's was O. Which means said dead husband was not her real father. (A mother with blood type A and father with blood type O, typically result in children with blood types A or O.)


Zora confronts her mother about it and learns the truth. She is the result of artificial insemination by donor. Which for Zora means one thing: her real father is somewhere out there. So she gets Sarah to give her the address of the sperm bank. Then visits the bank with Tea Cake. The boy serves as a donor, while the girl manages to locate an unsupervised computer. She checks out the files of the clinic and finds out the name of her father: Halbert Jackson.

Zora managed to locate said "dad" and contacts him in person. She gets the shock of her life as this happens to be Halbert "Hal" Jackson (Danson) of Jackson Motors. A well-known car salesman, famous for his outrageous television advertisements using trained animals. Hal is a womanizer, a chain-smoker, a booze-hound, a self-styled modern cowboy, and very much white. Very different from the father figure Zora had in mind. He is currently living with Stacy (Tilly), an aerobics teacher not known for her intellect. The newfound family ties between Zora, Sarah, and Hal result in much confusion in their lives.


Though this film did not fare well critically, it was a box-office hit, earning about $105 million in the worldwide market (about $45 million of which came from the United States market, where the film was the 30th most successful film of its year).

This film provides examples of:

  • Award-Bait Song: Colors of Love by Lisa Fischer.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Tea Cake and Zora know each other since they were 7 and once made a promise to marry each other. In the present, ten years have passed. Tea Cake is infatuated with Zora. She isn't interested in him romantically. He is not particularly happy to see her dating Diego.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: Tea Cake does his best to donate to the sperm bank through this method. He was at first worried that he could not fill the cup. He is next seen asking for a second one to keep going.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Hal. At one point he gives Zora a lift. He drives his car at high speeds, over the grass next to the road, and swerves while in traffic. Barely avoiding a collisions with another car. Zora is feeling sick when leaving the vehicle.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: Hal uses a chimp in one of his commercials.
    Hal: Hey, pick your nose later.
  • Honest John's Dealership: Averted. Several scenes involve Hal and the salesmen, and one saleswoman, working for him. They rely on their charm to make sales. But they seem to sell quality cars and none of their clients is depicted complaining.
  • Over Protective Dad: Once Hal starts treating Zora as his daughter, he shows signs of this. He has this advise to offer to her love interest Diego (Rawley Valverede): "Diego, you lay a hand on that girl and I'll kill you personally."
  • Parental Fashion Veto: A jealous T.C. points out Zora's skimpy outfit for a date to her mother.
    Sarah: Oh, no you don't, Miss Thing!
    T.C.: (piping in) Oh, no you don't, Miss Thing!
  • Parental Incest: Toyed with twice. 1) When Zora first approaches Hal, Hal finds her to be hot. He flirts with her, with some rather suggestive lines. For example, she says "You are white". He replies with "Well, that's true, darling. But when we're alone in the dark, what difference is that gonna make?". Clearly thinking about sex. 2) Later Hal has a problem with the zipper of his pants. Zora kneels on the floor to help him with it. His secretary gets the impression that the girl is about to perform fellatio on him.
  • Smells Sexy: Hal invites Sarah out for dinner. This is at first not depicted as a romantic situation. But then he gets turned on ... by her scent. Repeatedly sniffing her and commenting "You smell good ...I could get lost in that smell. I could just close my eyes and no one would ever find me". The two then head to her house for sex.
  • The Smurfette Principle: The sales personnel of the car dealership includes only one woman: Paula (Charlene Fernetz).
  • Two out of Three Ain't Bad: The tagline for the film: "She wanted a sperm donor who was tall, black, and handsome. One out of three ain't bad."


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