I go to movies to escape reality, not to ponder the vagaries of life. The occasional thought-provoking indie movie is great, but most of the time I’m interested in action–car chases, shoot-outs, and a good looking actor who takes his shirt, or more, off. Hey, I may be old, but I’m not dead.
Anyone who’s gone to a movie with me knows if there’s anything aviation-related in the movie and it’s not correct, I’ll bitch and moan throughout the showing. It’s like listening to physicists’ complaining about how Star Trek gets it wrong.
And if the movie is about an era in history I’m familiar with, that’s just another possible nit for me to pick.
So, the George Lucas film “Red Tails” is about the human condition, about aviators, and about World War II. A potential strike-out, right?
I left this movie feeling so up-lifted after all the snide, coded racial baiting done by Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum for the past few weeks. Here was a positive story about the Tuskegee Airmen–African American men who flew bomber cover in an all-African American aviation unit and how they did it so well, despite the prejudice of the Army and their opponents. Yes, the movie is hokey in places, and I didn’t see the need for the love story, except to add a little pathos at the end.
A lot of the flying sequences are computer-generated because there are just not that many WWII vintage airplanes available to portray a large bomber group and its fighter escort accurately. But the CG is seamless in its integration with real flying scenes. All the maneuvers are doable, i.e., airplanes aren’t made to do things they can’t do without pulling the wings off. This is not to say a little dramatic license hasn’t been taken, because it has, but the important thing is the story of these men. That is correct.
I had the honor and the privilege of working with several of the Tuskegee Airmen, as they ended their careers in the Federal Aviation Administration and I began mine. It was a rare event for them to call attention to themselves. As one of them told me when I interviewed him for a story for the magazine I worked on, “We just did our job.” Another told me, “Being in America at that time meant we weren’t the freest of the free, but it would have been a lot worse under the Nazis, so there was no question but that we would fight for our country.”
They always had a good snippet of career advice for me since they had navigated being black men in an agency of mostly white men. I was a woman in a then mostly male agency. Work hard, do your best, and no one can deny your skill. That echoed exactly what my own father had told me, and I owe my career to him and them.
I remember in particular Mr. Weathers, who would stop in the hallway or in the cafeteria to ask me how it was going or if I needed anything from him for an article I was writing. I wonder how he would react to hearing Gingrich’s comments about food stamps and welfare. Mr. Weathers was actually Lt. Col. Luke Weathers, Jr., and he probably would have fixed an officer’s no-nonsense glare on the 4F reject from Georgia, and that’s all he’d need to do.
But that won’t happen. Mr. Weathers, like so many WWII veterans black or white, was buried last week in Arlington National Cemetery, with the dwindling number of Tuskegee Airmen in attendance. Mr. Weathers was the epitome of someone who was judged by the content of his character and not the color of his skin. Someone like Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum will never understand that. Never.
“Red Tails” was a movie the Tuskegee Airmen had long waited to see made. Yes, if you go see it, you’ll get George Lucas’ Hollywood-ized version of history. In this case, that’s not a bad thing.