Film & TVReviews

Review | Putting The Black In “Black Monday”

Black Monday is a fictitious story framed as a prologue set to explain a real moment in history – the largest single day stock market from which it gets its name.  The lead character, Maurice “Mo” Monroe (Don Cheadle) who runs a multimillion dollar trading company on Wall Street, attempts a dangerous and seemingly impossible trade of a lifetime.  Filled with all the highs and lows of the 80s – rampant cocaine usage, good ol’ workplace sexism, and a robot butler – Black Monday is an uber American (read capitalist) satire that teeters the line of excitement and slight repulsion.  However, what makes the show most interesting is that even in the ultra white world that is Wall Street, the narrative centers two badass (and sometimes quite rude, lol) black persons – Mo and ex-girlfriend/business partner Dawn (Regina Hall).  In fact, it is the titillating push-and-pull dynamic between Mo and Dawn that is the heart of the show.

Dawn’s appeal is her ability to hold her own.  In a room of obnoxious men, Dawn does not shrink herself, in fact she lives even more loudly.  While everyone bends over backwards for Mo serving as incessant yes-men, Dawn challenges him and holds him accountable. Despite Mo’s massive ego and overall over-the-top attitude, it is his relationship with Dawn that reveals his softer side and makes him more endearing.  At the surface, Mo is a loud, fast-talking, and selfish man. But underneath all that bravado is a deep loneliness. To see not one, but two black persons running a place that has been historically devoid of of people of color is in itself a treat.

In addition to the relationship between Mo and Dawn, another exciting aspect of the show is the affirming way it displays the indulgence that seemed to mark this nation at the time.  With Dawn’s big hair and expansive wardrobe to the guys playing Nintendo in the office, the show leans all the way into its extravagance giving us a glimpse of what it was like to be living the life in 1987.  Ultimately, the pairing of Cheadle and Hall in such an intense and high stakes environment makes Black Monday a worthwhile watch.

***

Black Monday, while normalizing the presence of black persons in spaces like the Stock Exchange, is not the only narrative that highlights the relationship between persons of color and brokerage.  In fact, Lauren Simmons is currently the only full-time female trader at the New York Stock Exchange, and only the second African American woman to do so. Then there was Black Wall Street, a black community in Tulsa Oklahoma, with a thriving economy built from black-owned businesses that was decimated by white mobs who bombed and burned the entire neighborhood.

MJ VanDevere

MJ VanDevere is a doctoral candidate at a predominately white elite institution in the South who uses humor to combat racism, sexism, and all the other –isms that seek to diminish her greatness. She is a self-proclaimed “stand-up snob” who does not have a favorite comedian, so please don't ask unless you have several hours to spare. Some of her favorite movies include, Life, Dead Presidents, and Happy Feet. If, she could only do one thing for the rest of her life, it would definitely be laugh, and maybe write. Adulting is her greatest work in progress.

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