Guest Post: Monique Takes on Joyful Noise

12.1.13 ShaSha LaPerf 4 Comments

Hey everyone! Finally feeling better and starting to get back into blogging again. I know I have some emails to reply to so I'm apologizing to folks about being so slow taking care of them. :( I'll reply back I promise!

In the meantime here's a guest post from blogger Monique. who last year gave a great analysis on the films Sayonara and the Teahouse of the August Moon. This time she's discussing the film Joyful Noise which features KeKe Palmer, Dolly Parton, and Queen Latifah. I haven't seen this movie yet, but I've hear some good things about it. I'm a fan of all three ladies so I need to check this out soon. Just giving a fair warning that there might be some spoilers here, but Monqiue gives some insight on the AM/BW couples that pop up throughout the film. You can check out more of Monique's great mind on her blog as well as her new started YouTube Channel. Some good stuff there! Now on to the post:  

Joyful Noise: The unsuspecting film with a heavy interracial message

Randy (Jeremy) and Olivia (Keke Palmer) discuss some stuff. Credit: Van Redin –
© 2011 Alcon Film Fund, LLC
Joyful Noise, the film that I wouldn’t have watched if it wasn’t for my sister and her love for those type of schmaltzy movies. Now, I’m sure you think I would have jumped at the chance to watch it since there’s an interracial couple in it, but sometimes I just recognize the interesting factors of some films without actually watching them. That’s probably bad of me, but don’t act like you don’t do it too! We’ve all had movies that we praise without actually having seen them.However, Joyful Noise isn’t much of a movie to praise. I love Queen Latifah. I even interviewed her. But I still can’t overlook how many plotholes there are in this film. There are times when you get literally lost in the plot. The fact that Queen Latifah is giving her all in this movie–and every movie she’s in–makes the plotholes even more painful. For all the work and depth Queen Latifah digs through to turn out awesome performances, you’d think the film could have held her up a little with a strong backbone of a plot. Ditto Dolly Parton and double ditto for Dexter Darden, who plays Latifah’s son Walter, a boy who suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome and doesn’t understand why God made him the way he is. Walter’s story alone could have made a movie by itself. As the film stands, however, it’s just a standard feel-good movie.

This post isn’t really a review of the film, but more of a recognition of a running narrative in the film. Did you notice how many interracial relationships there are in this film? We have a relationship between white guy Randy (Jeremy Jordan) and black girl Olivia (Keke Palmer), a blasian relationship between Mr. Hsu (Francis Jue) and Earla (Angela Grovey), and another blasian relationship between Earla and the extremely young Justin (Roy Huang). (It’s obvious Earla has a thing for Asian men.)

Sometimes, you can find the most progressive undertones in films and shows you normally wouldn’t watch, and this happens to be one of those films. I’m quite glad there’s a mainstream movie out there that’s putting out a story that’s not just about interracial relationships, but interracial relationships that don’t contain any racial tension. When Olivia and Randy argue, it’s never about their races; it’s generally about Olivia’s mother, who is being really ornery about everything. Even when the black guy competition Manny (Paul Woolfolk) comes out to challenge Randy, it’s just about claiming Olivia, not about “saving her” from her white boyfriend.

Earla might have relationship issues, but it’s not because she and Mr. Hsu can’t get along, it’s because he died in her bed after they had sex. That’s a big, bad, thing to have happen, but before then, she and Mr. Hsu were getting along just fine, no racial tension existing at all. Also, I might have cracked wise about her having a thing for Asian men above, but she’s not ”thirsty,” if you will. She’s not one of those women who are chasing down only one type of man because she has an ill-conceived idea about what race is best for her. The men seem to be coming to her, actually, since Justin admitted that he had been semi-stalking her when she and the choir would perform at all of the Joyful Noise competitions. Justin and Earla later get married at the end of the film.
Justin (Roy Huang) reacts to Earla’s oddness in this scene. But he’s a bit odd himself. IMDB.

The fact that the film even recognizes the possibility of blasian relationships shows there’s someone culturally savvy behind the writing and/or casting of this film (I say that since while Mr. Hsu was obviously written as an Asian man, the role of Justin could have been a blind-casting one. I don’t know, but it’s a possibility. I doubt that a little, though). As I’ve said on Moniqueblog before, shows and films typically recognize white/black relationships instead of thinking outside of the box and seeing that people of all races can attract one another. Just because white is the technical majority doesn’t mean everyone’s going to be in a white/other race relationship, so it would make sense to represent all relationships. With an Asian/black relationship being one of the rarest in both society and entertainment, this film is actually making a bit of cultural entertainment history.

Also also, the fact that this film is set in Georgia notes something The Smithsonian caught, which is that the film is indulging in the ideas of the New South. People, if you still think the south is full of racists, think again. I mean, I’m not going to lie and say there aren’t racists in the south–racists are everywhere, mind you–but from what I’ve experienced, the majority of the New South are culturally savvy, like experiencing the differences new cultures bring, and (gasp!) marry outside their race. I can’t tell you how many white/black, white/Latino, white/Asian and even some black/Asian relationships I’ve seen in Birmingham, Alabama. Heck, I was almost in a black/Asian relationship myself, but that’s getting a bit too personal for my internet comfort zone. I would love to ask the writer and director of this film, Todd Graff, the thing that propelled him to write about race relations in this film, but I don’t think I will be able to, since I’ve kinda demolished the film in the top two paragraphs.

In short, while I might not love the film for its huge holes, I do like the fact that the majority of the major relationships in this film reflect the growing number of interracial relationships in America. If only there was a scene with Earla and Justin posting pictures to, then this film would be culturally complete.


  1. You know much as that film Joyful Noise been out, I've never bothered to look at it, I guess because I didn't have time to look at it and I thought that my brother would get and borrow it as he mostly do.Still I was interested in seeing it.

    Besides KeKe's role, I had no idea that there were other IR/AMBW characters in the movie.This goes to show that there are some people who acknowledge their existence. Even you go shows like Scandal and Deception out. Though they aren't in AMBW relationships in their shows, the idea of these Black women being at the forefront of these shows are impressive.When I was a kid, I was looking at The Jeffersons where Florence went to Hawaii (I think?) with her employers. I remembered on part of the show Florence and her Samoan/Polynesian love Leon getting close to each other.Though I was a child, I was happy about their relationship because I thought it was beautiful. I hope that one day I will see a healthy AMBW relationship be on TV( would nice if it be as action pack as Scandal.. lol!)

    I'm grateful that you brought up GA in a positive light and the South as a whole when it comes to mixed couples. I think the biggest misconception about the city is that mixed couples don't exist here.Ironically, I was looking at the news about a White policeman man being treated for cancer and his Black fiancée and cute Asian friend cop in tow at his home. Then,went to a mall we're there were several mixed couples.. one consisting of an AMBW couple (South Asian man/Black woman) .In compared to other IR couples,I rarely see AMBW couples but in my life time I have seen 10 of them including my late grandfather's Asian side of the family, but they are
    out there.

    Don't get me wrong there are some knucklehead racists in GA but whether in the South ,every other American region or they world ,racists and racism exists in all of these places. There is no such thing as a totally racially" safe"place,but GA isn't so racist where its segregated and where people of different races interact...or even date /marry with no problem.I was even shocked when I went to my moms small town.Her "conservative" town seem to have a lot mixed kids/couples in it and gay people in it and the people know it. If they care about it,they aren't saying anything about it.

  2. Although we're still lacking in the AM/BW department, IR couples in have black women in them do seem to be on the rise in TV (and even webseries for that matter). And both Scandal and Deception are doing fairly well in the ratings showing that black women can carry their own in as a lead in a series. I hope to see this trend continue and go even further, like into Sci-fi shows.

    As for the South, initially I assumed the reason for the setting was because of the idea that the region is big on religion/Christianity, and this is a movie's religious themes/undertones. So maybe that's a stereotype the movie itself is still exploiting? But I also appreciate that movies are looking outside of New York and LA for their settings. Joyful Noise is a positive film and it does get to show the South in a more positive light without having to focus on the redneck culture that's on the rise (i.e. Honey Boo and Buckwild type stuff) or the ghetto fabulous life (Love and Hip-hop type stuff).

  3. I agree with you about the AMBW department. As a kid, the only Blasian couples I would see consisted of BM/AW. Like I said, when it comes to the other way around, there would be very few. The first time, I learned about AM/BW was from my own flesh and blood. My grandpops was an offspring of the union and met rest of my Asian relatives in D.C./Maryland in the early 80's. Then several years later one of my college classmates was an Indian-American guy who dated nothing but Black women and a Japanese guy that dated a Black woman for the 4 years I was there. Then every so often, I would see more of them,but nothing like BM/WW couples. Even with WM/BW I see far more of them the AMBWs. I think the only time I see AMBWs is when I attend an Japanese or some other Asian festival For some reason you see a lot of mixed couples there. Festivals seem to bring more interracial couples out.

    Don't let Joyful Noise fool you. Yes, a lot of folk here may be religious,and you try to get those old Southern people to hold on to the past,but you also got wild and wooly folk in the South as well. While I can speak about all Southern folks, I know in GA it's like this. Strip joints, Hookah Bars,, thug life..etc..were good people it can be family oriented,but it also has it dark side. It's like most Americans cities..the good and the bad.

    Dont let Honey Boo-boo fool you. Most of the people in McIntrye/Milledgeville( I say it like that because they are a skip and hop from each other) Georgia isnt what she and her parents portray the natives to be. You will find way more sophisticates in her town than her
    family. To be honest, I don't really know the last time I came across a rural Southern person like that. My mom is also from a West Ga town. My sibs and I have been going there since were were babies. From the poorest/richest , Black/ White. I 've never came across people like a Honey Boo-Boo type. Even going to what I call a "one horse town".. with hardly nobody living in those places, I still didn't see a honey boo booish person in it. Not saying there aren't any people like that,but I've visited a some towns in Ga and I just haven't came a family like that. The closest thing I could come up with is when my late grandmother's employer's kids( she was a maid) would get drunk on moonshine, talking about woe is me and feel asleep on my uncles bed.They almost reminded me of the Beverly Hillbillies but that was it. A lot of people in her town resent the show because of the town is portrayed Milli/McIntyre to be. I wouldn't see surprised if the producers of the show put them up in acting like that.

    Im also happy that All My Babies Momas wont be shown( Yes!) As an ATL native and as a Black woman, I was horrified to what Oxygen was going to put that junk on TV. Though I feel like that Black people shouldn't have to prove any racist anything, I just felt that it gave Black people the wrong portrayal of who we are and make people of ATL seem that the Black people here are classless. I also thought that it would be more Blaxpolitation of the 21st century. Initially, when the Housewives came out, I was for it because it showed Black women in high society. Now how did it go from that to being ghettofabulous and other mostly Black reality went from there I don't know,butBlack folk have to be careful with this. ATL have far more to offer than what Oxygen is leading people to believe. What you see may not be what you get.

  4. Oops..I forgot to comment about Scandal and Deception. You said that Deception got high marks.Im hoping so. I was afraid after all of those kiss of death reviews about the show, I just wanted to hear something good about it.

    PS. I know that I had a very long post. Forgive me for that.