Live Your Dreams: Thoughts And Insights Into “Save The Last Dance”

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again–I like bad movies.  I wish I could control it, but some movies, no matter how stupid or lame or whatever, you are just completely drawn to.  One movie that I can’t help but watch any time it happens to be on TV is “Save The Last Dance.”  Doesn’t matter what else I’m doing; if it’s on, I’m glued.

Back when I first started watching it, I don’t think I noticed how bad it was; I just enjoyed the dancing.  I’ll admit, I still enjoy that part.  But as time has marched along, the deep flaws that make up this film have become more and more obvious.  Now, when I watch it, I can’t help but enjoy just HOW bad it is.  This most recent time…I took a few notes.

Consider this a slightly less vague but even more unhelpful movie review.

But, oh, where to start?

  • Let’s start with the stereotyping of inner city kids; according to this movie.  The moment our “heroine” Sara (Julia Stiles) walks up to her new school, there’s nothing but a sea of black faces, all of whom are listening to hip hop and rap, slacking out in front of the school, dancing and cutting up.All right; not every family that lives in an inner city is black.  Let’s just state that right from the get-go.  No; these are usually the families that are lower income, and they come in a myriad of colors.  Even if you want us to stretch our imaginations and have us believe that there are very few poor white kids, and that lack of money is specifically a “minority” issue, then where are the Latinos?  If we want to force this stereotype, then we need poor/thuggish Hispanics in the mix, too.  However, poor is colorblind, and no one is immune to it.Another news flash; black kids are like every other kid.  They all have their own individual tastes in music; not every one of “those blacks” will be into their music stereotypes.  Yes, there will be certain kids who won’t go around saying they like polka or death metal for fear of ridicule from their peers and will pretend to be into what their friends are into, but even high schoolers can have a certain degree of individuality.
  • White kids with glasses are smart and annoyed by their stupid classmates.This is exclusive to neither white kids, nor kids with glasses.  Our first (and only, I believe) classroom scene shows our resident dumbass Snookie (Vince Green) talking out of his ass about Truman Capote, or that “Compote” dude, then another moment where he’s talking his version of smack (including the word “libarry”) toward Sara.  During both of these moments, they cut to a mousy looking white girl with glasses rolling her eyes and appearing generally frustrated.  While I understand this sentiment, I would imagine that, since being black doesn’t automatically make you stupid or amused by a stupid person, this would not be the only person in this class annoyed with Snookie.  I would have actually appreciated showing the faces of other (non-white) frustrated students.  It turns out that while many people don’t really like school, they do like learning.
  • Why is Derek the ONLY well-spoken black person?The same scene with Snookie behaving stupid is the same that introduces us to Derek (Sean Patrick Thomas), the ONE black kid that doesn’t speak the way everyone who’s never been in a ghetto imagines black kids to speak.  He’s the only one that is well-spoken.  Not even his sister speaks in the same manner.
    • Last summer when I was watching Big Brother, a black woman on the show was discussing her race with someone else, and how people liked to comment about how well-spoken she was.  I found this to be terribly interesting, mainly because I don’t really notice when someone (regardless of color or whatever) is well-spoken (unless I’ve been around a bunch of people with really poor grammar).  I do notice when someone sounds like an idiot when they talk, but I frequently find that this is in no way limited to the color of someone’s skin.  Spend some time in the south and you’ll hear hundreds of whities with grammar skills so poor it’ll make your ears bleed.

    But alas, there is basically one person at this whole school who doesn’t speak “ghetto.”  I’m fairly certain that while people who live in a certain area will develop their own vernacular and accents, they will NOT all sound the same (in this instance, uneducated).  And for whatever reason, when a movie wants to show black kids/people in an “urban” area, they all wind up having a southernish accent.

  • No one really speaks this way.  You hear this several times throughout the movie:  “Ain’t nobody dissed or dismissed me.”  “…white so you gotta be right.”  “…ain’t no shame or blame in that.”  Chenille (Kerry Washington) does the bulk of this.  How many people in real life use cutesy expressions like this?  And if you want to roll with these “gangsta” kids in the “ghetto” theme, there’s a good chance they won’t be making up these lame-ass rhymes.  At least not more than once in their lifetime, never mind several times in one movie.  I think it would kind of ruin
    your street cred.  I don’t know anyone who says things like this, at least not with any modicum of seriousness.
  • Sara can do ballet, but not follow a beat?I can’t be the only one who finds this a little odd; Sara’s first sojourn into Stepps reveals a world she’s not seen before.  Fair enough.  It’s pretty fair to say that most 17-year-olds aren’t entirely up on the club scene, and even if she had been, this is her first club in Chicago, so it’ll probably be a little different.  Prior to the going to this club, she told Derek that she’d dance in circles around him.  When she gets to the club, she’s reluctant to dance.  Again, this seems fair, mostly because she’s received a fairly chilly reception by these people, and it’s not uncommon to feel self-conscious in a new situation.  Derek finally convinces her to join him on the dance floor, where she proceeds to first stand around, mostly lumpish, and when she then attempts to dance, it’s the most awkward fucking thing you’ve ever seen.  It looks like a stork trying to walk backward on a turntable.Um…this girl is a ballerina.  A BALLERINA.  Meaning she has the ability to follow a beat, successfully, even.  While the music at Stepps is completely different than the music she uses for ballet, I’m almost completely positive she would be able to find the beat in hip hop music.  She may not have immediately been able to move the way the others were able, but she would have been able to emulate some of the moves around her and NOT look like a colossal white dork in the process.  Hey Hollywood–some white people can actually dance.  Much in the same manner that not all black people are able to dance.  Just look at Nikki.
  • Angry black girl stereotype.  We meet an angry black girl stereotype named Nikki (Bianca Lawson).  We’re never given a clear reason as to why she’s so angry and mean, especially toward Sara, we just know that she’s supposed to be a bitch.  There’s not much that’s more stereotypical in a movie than an angry black chick.  She’ll have the proper amount of swagger and head-weaving, she’ll never crack a smile, and she’ll hate everyone and anyone on sight.  Even if she’s supposed to be sort of friendly, she’s angry and bitchy.  Because every black chick is an angry bitch, apparently.  I’ve got news for Hollywood; not every black girl is an angry bitch.  Some white girls certainly are, though.  But this brings me to…
  • Seriously, why is everyone so anti-Sara?  There are very few other white people in this movie, and the few that you see behave in the stereotypical way that Hollywood believes when whites “try to be black.”  Diggy (Elisabeth Oas) is a prime example of this.  Overall, though, you see the races intermingling overall, even at Stepps (the local club that allows the underage set, of course, another Hollywood stereotype).  However, the moment Sara and Derek dance together, the anti-white race is on.  Everyone starts to rag on this girl about how she shouldn’t be dating this black guy.  Derek’s bff Malakai (Fredro Starr) says that she’s milk, Derek’s oil and neither the twain shall meet.  Nikki gives Sara shit about being in “their” world (even though, I should point out, that Nikki had dumped Derek at some point prior to this movie), and even Chenille jumps on the Sara-bashing bandwagon and says it hurts people to see those two together, that she’s taking the one guy in the neighborhood that’s “about something.”  Of course, no one says anything about Derek’s ability to choose a girlfriend, or that perhaps, because the movie has framed it in such a way that Sara’s the only other person that seems to want to do something  with her life, she’s the logical choice for a person like himself.  Sara didn’t force herself on him; he decided to pursue this girl, even though she’s white (an obvious character flaw at this point).  But no…Sara’s a whorebag skank hell-bent on stealing herself a good man.  It’s also never pointed out that all of these other girls have had years of opportunity to land Derek, and it seems they’ve all been unsuccessful.It’s also interesting that while this great stink is made about Sara and Derek, not one person gives Diggy, a white girl, shit for dancing with a black guy.  Not one.  Is this because she’s dancing with guys who aren’t “about something?”  Has she been around so long, thinking “she’s down” that no one sees her as white?  Was the character written as black but wound up being cast as white?  Was Sara perhaps too white, or Diggy not white enough?  If it’s not an issue for one white girl but an issue for another, that’s not only racist, but hypocritical as well.
    • I’d also like to point out that if this movie was completely racially flipped with the bulk of the cast being white, etc etc, there would have been a great big stink about just how racist these white people were behaving.  And rightfully so, to be honest.  Because some of these people are being hard-core racist.  But for some reason, in American society, we only seem to count it as racist if it’s white people hating anything other than white.  But racism, unfortunately, affects every color, and it’s a bit disappointing that this hasn’t been pointed out about this movie more.


  • Malakai is a giant douche-bag.This is something that can’t be denied.  He’s a complete ass.  I realize that this is probably to show the differences between he and Derek, and how one little difference can change a whole life, but good grief, he’s an asshole.At one point, we hear Derek tell the story of how he and Malakai broke into a liquor store and tried to empty the register, someone called the police and the two started to run.  They ran in opposite directions and the police were closing in on Derek, then Malakai broke a car window and drew the attention to himself, so the police nabbed him instead, and he never ratted on Derek.  All right–sounds like a good friend, right?  Well, later in the movie, Derek is trying to convince Malakai to not do stupid shit and says that he’s always getting in his own way.  Then Malakai points out that he had some help getting in his own way.  That’s a shitty and untrue thing to say.  He didn’t have to draw the attention to himself, did he?  He was probably just acting on instinct, trying to help a friend, and we have no way of knowing if Derek wouldn’t have done the same thing if the situation had been flipped.  Regardless, Malakai made a choice; he chose to break into a store and he chose to turn the heat to himself.  He also continues to make bad decisions.  He is perfectly capable of change, of not being a criminal (since he was in Juvie, I assume the record would be expunged at some point), and yet, he seems hell bent on not only leading a life of crime, but trying to bully everyone else into being a criminal as well.  At the very least, he shouldn’t be giving his bff shit about trying to lead a better life.Overall, anytime you see Malakai, he is full douchebaggery.  Full of it.  Beating people up, making threats, belittling people.  He has no redeeming qualities, and it’s hard to imagine how someone like Derek being friends with this dick.

    All that said, it’s still a movie I thoroughly enjoy.  I just wish I could figure out why.

    Also, don’t EVER watch the sequel.  It’s beyond horrible.  Nine times out of ten, if you can’t get the original star/stars to return, a new person as the same character is a bad move.  But seriously–the sequel was pretty much horrific, and essentially the same plot, except moved to Julliard.


~ by raspychick on April 5, 2012.

One Response to “Live Your Dreams: Thoughts And Insights Into “Save The Last Dance””

  1. This is very funny – and oh so true.
    Oh and unfortunately, I saw the sequel … It was worse than you described – I didn’t even know that it was the same character until the 112th “Sara Johnson” – even then, I had trouble understanding why she’d become Russian.

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