If there is a poster child for bigotry in Hollywood, it may very well be ads for Couples Retreat. The 2009 comedy had an ensemble of top comedy stars, but when it was time to bring the names and faces of the talent for the film poster, the Black actors were not seen in the international poster. Just what did this decision mean about Hollywood’s impression of moviegoers around the world, and what did it say about Universal Pictures, which released the film? While many can trace this infamous act of bigotry to the film industry’s early days, things haven’t gotten any better, says Couples Retreat star Faizon Love, who filed a fresh complaint against Universal for what happened on Wednesday.
In approaching Universal, Love takes on a studio that prides itself on the advancement of diversity and is dedicated to finding prospects and preparation for minorities. In 2017, the Comcast subsidiary developed a mentoring and networking programme called Global Talent Growth & Inclusion, and the studio has one of the strongest rosters of multicultural franchises. However, Universal also faces the 2009 Couples Retreat Saga, which is not the only time that Hollywood has faced awkward concerns about whether Black players have been excluded from the publicity campaign. See, for example, the turmoil over John Boyega’s disappearance from the Chinese Star Wars movie poster: The Force Awakens.
According to Love’s latest lawsuit, he was “aghast” when he first noticed the discrepancies between the domestic film poster and the foreign version for Lovers Retreat.
Universal Studios have no trouble with black actors in the comedy movie, the lawsuit claims. But when it came to publishing a film in foreign markets, Universal Studios want white film stars. Instead of enjoying the maximum publicity with the release of the film, Mr Love was demoted to the proverbial ‘Invisible Man,’ as written by Ralph Ellison. Although Couples Retreat produced a run of over $171 million worldwide, Universal Studios put Mr Love in the back seat of the ride enjoyed by his six white costars.
So why is the Couples Retreat movie poster coming to court only now? The answer is probably just as important.
Back in 2009, in the U.K., Newspapers noticed the airbrushing, and there was a little fury on the internet. At the time, the Universal Spokesperson said that the poster had been changed to “simplify” it and that the studio regretted the offence and abandoned plans to use the revised sign in the future.
Instead of reacting with adversity, Mr Love opted for loyalty and peace. He reached out to Universal Studios and sought to communicate constructively, he continues. Universal Studios, trying to console Mr Love and discourage him from filing suit, promised both the immediate cessation of the discriminatory international poster and a timely reward to Mr Love in the form of lucrative, career-making film roles. Universal Studios lied.