Faizon Love, a comedic actor known largely for his parts in Friday and Elf (yes, the dude in the Santa store), was in a movie with Vince Vaughn back in 2009 called Couples Retreat.
It was a moderately good time about four couples who visit this all-expense retreat in hopes to rekindle their relationships. Hijinks ensue. Shenanigans run-a-muck. The guy gets the girl. The end.
Back in 2009, there was a minor hullabaloo over the posters. Keen-eyed marketing fans noticed a problem with whitewashing, but that was about the end of it. The movie came out, made a $100 million profit, and no one has really thought of it since.
Until now as Faizon Love has sued Universal Pictures over racial discrimination these 11 years later.
A Thin Line Between Faizon Love and Hate
Faizon Love, and his direct co-star Kali Hawk, make up the only non-white couple in the Peter Billingsley-directed film. (Yes, Ralphie from A Christmas Story.) While nothing was odd at all with them being the only couple of color in the film, there was with the marketing.
Even before the meme became famous, Faizon Love was a part of “How It Started; How It’s Going”. Check out these posters. Can you tell what was removed from the marketing plans?
But that was 2009? Why bring this up now? Well, according to the lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, Love “recently discovered that the offending image remains in wide use to market the film abroad and among bilingual audiences in the U.S.”
See? The poster on the right is the U.S. movie poster. The poster on the left? That’s the international marketing one. Hmmm…
Back then, Universal acknowledged the “oversight” and made a pinkie promise they would never do that again. So much for that. (Who knew Universal was still marketing this thing anyway?!)
Faizon Love believes that promise was broken. And because he rose a stink then, the studio also reneged on an offer of lucrative TV and film roles, “which he now believes was an effort to keep him quiet about the controversy.”
What Universal Studios had initially portrayed to Mr. Love as an unintentional act of oversight and carelessness was, we now know, an intentional act of disparate and discriminatory treatment by Universal Studios and the remaining Defendants.Faizon Love v. Universal City Studios LLC, Eden Resort Inc. and Relativity Media LLC via Variety, Nov. 2020
Universal Pictures is being sued for fraud, breach of contract, and violation of California’s fair employment act and civil rights law. As far as Faizon Love’s personal feelings, the seed that was planted is much deeper that breaking a promise.
“They have not only hurt me financially, they have hurt me in a deeper way by dismissing me because of my Blackness — and they have hurt all Black performers by continuing to perpetuate racism in the movie industry. I want to ensure that future generations don’t have to endure the racism and whitewashing that I have experienced.”Faizon Love via statement, Variety, Nov. 2020
As of now, Universal declined comment on the lawsuit.