Postechian’s Pick : Green Book
Postechian’s Pick : Green Book
  • Reporter Lee Seung-Joo
  • 승인 2020.09.03 14:07
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▲ Green Book (2018)
▲ Green Book (2018)

Green Book (2018) is a film based on a true story of existing figures: Donald Shirley, a renowned African American pianist, and Tony Vallelonga, an Italian American bouncer. Nick Vallelonga, son of Tony Vallelonga, shares this touching tale with the audience as the screenwriter of the film. The movie has been praised with a total of 57 awards and 119 nominations.      

Tony “Lip” Vallelonga, a bouncer at a New York nightclub, is recommended to work as a chauffeur for a doctor during an eight-week break due to the club’s renovation. Tony heads for the job interview to find out that this “doctor” is a “colored” pianist, Dr. Donald Shirley, heading off to a concert tour in the southern regions of America. Not fond of “colored” men, Tony tries to refuse the offering. However, due to the high wage and refined job conditions, Tony takes the offer and starts his long journey to the southern part of America. 
At first, the two cannot stand each other, and all conversations are misled. However, during a series of events that crudely show America’s racism during the 1960s, the two eventually bond and return to New York to enjoy a family Christmas together.    

The film title Green Book refers to The Negro Motorist Green-Book, a guidebook written by an African American mail carrier, Victor H. Green. In the 1960s, racial segregation prevailed in the states, and many public institutions were segregated. Schools, restaurants, restrooms, bus seats, and even water fountains were labeled “white” and “colored” to distinguish users. To aid African American travelers, Green published the “green book” which contained information regarding gas stations, stays, and restaurants that accepted African Americans. 
When Tony first starts his job with Shirley, he is given a copy of the book. At first, he shrugs, not realizing the importance and necessity of the guidebook. Such response, along with the scene where Tony disposes glass cups used by African Americans, portrays Tony’s ignorance and lack of awareness regarding Shirley’s situation. Shirley, on the other hand, due to Tony’s properties that earned him his nickname “Lips”, worries that he will act out during the trip as most of Shirley’s audiences are high-classed. The two men start off their trip with prejudice towards each other. However, such prejudice is dissipated through mundane conversations in the driveway and a series of events that risk Shirley’s tour, and the two truly understand and respect each other by the end of the film. 
Through a series of events that occur during the trip, Tony witnesses explicit racism towards Shirley. Some do not take Shirley seriously and refuse to arrange conditions written on contract just because he is “black”, and some require Shirley to take 20-minute-long bathroom trips to motels. These events “put Tony in Shirley’s shoes”, forcing Tony to acknowledge the horrid treatment regarding African Americans, and Tony’s opinions slowly change. 
As Tony’s ultimate motivation for the trip was money, at first, Tony helps Shirley to escape such situations just to continue the tour. However, during the final performance, when Shirley is banned to dine from the very institution he was to play in, Tony refuses to persuade or assist in holding Shirley’s concert in such facilities and ends the tour, even though this may affect his contractual payment. Tony’s actions show that true understanding, not sympathy, was achieved between the two. 

“So, if I’m not black enough and if I’m not white enough, then tell me Tony, what am I?”
The movie raises a fundamental question to the audience. What makes a person? What describes a person? Can race really be a category to identify a person? The movie depicts the two characters as anomalies of the prevailing stereotypes: Dr. Shirley, a “colored” famed classical pianist with refined tastes and perfect manner, and Tony, a “white” “bullshitter” bouncer who uses strong language and violence. The plot and lines continue to build on to the idea that ethnicity and race cannot characterize a person. The film strives to convey to the audience, not a strong message to destroy racism, but a man’s dignity to prove with his own talents that color matters not.