Denzel Washington has been playing bad boys lately, and it's a good thing for black America, Mark Anthony Neal argues in the Washington Post. Washington's turns as a drug lord and corrupt cop in recent flicks have sparked slams that he's catering to white America by playing crooks, but Neal believes that Washington and black Americans are hungry for such complex portraits.
Washington long played the "race man"—a term for an exemplary black who strives for betterment—but recently said he wanted more. "It's not about the black experience," he said. "It's what I feel like doing." With Oprah and Obama reaching out to wider audiences, Neal writes, it's time for black actors to take on nuanced roles—and "give the race man the eulogy he deserves after more than a century of service."