Black couple removed from ‘Couples Retreat’ poster in the UK, is it racism?

There’s some controversy over differences between the US and UK versions of the poster for the Vince Vaughn movie Couples Retreat. The film was out in America in early October and did very well at the box office, earning $102 million domestically. It seems to have opened in the UK on October 14, so I’m not sure why this news is coming out now and maybe The Daily Mail is just belatedly noticing. The film features four couples on vacation together, including one minority couple played by Faizon Love and Kali Hawk. According to people who have seen the film, Love and Hawk are featured just as much as the other couples.

In the US version of the poster for the film all eight people are shown and billed, albeit with Love and Hawk in the back. In the UK version just six people are shown and listed, with Love and Hawk removed. Universal has apologized for the difference and explained that they wanted “to simplify the poster to actors who are most recognisable in international markets.” They also promise not to use the six-person poster for additional markets. (Couples Retreat opens in the Netherlands, Spain, and Italy later this month, among other countries.)

The makers of a hit Hollywood film are at the centre of a race controversy after removing two black actors from a poster being used to promote it in Britain.
The American advert for Couples Retreat, a comedy starring Vince Vaughn and Kristin Davis, show all eight principal actors – six of whom are white and two black.
But the poster in Britain, where the film is on general release, omits actors Faizon Love and Kali Hawk.

Couples Retreat, about four couples who go on holiday together and receive therapy to improve their relationships, has taken more than £70 million at the box office worldwide since it opened last month.

A spokesman for makers Universal Pictures confirmed the poster had been changed to ‘simplify’ it for the UK and international market outside America. The studio said it regretted causing offence and has abandoned plans to use the revised poster in other countries.

Mail on Sunday film critic Jason Solomons said: ‘We don’t cater much for the black cinema-going audience in this country, which is a great shame, so it seems strange that when there are black stars in a major feature film this fact isn’t promoted. And, in terms of business decisions, this seems a pretty counter-productive one.’

Caspar Salmon, a 29-year-old translator from London who has seen the film, has complained to Universal. He said in a letter to the film company: ‘My hackles are up. I would like to ask what the thinking was behind this move to gaz-ump [Love and Hawk] from the promotional material.’

[From Mail on Sunday via Huffington Post]

Is this subtle racism or just an innocent gaffe? The revised posted is more visually striking because you can see the couples’ faces. It’s hard to fit that many people in there. Plus the two actors they removed aren’t as well known. They are the only African American couple in there, though, and it does seem strange that they’re the ones that were cut. It seems more interesting to have four couples instead of just three, and I’ve heard some buzz over the fact that Faizon Love shows his bare butt in one scene.

Couples Retreat star Kali Hawk has sort-of addressed this controversy on her Twitter account. She responded to a tweet from someone who wrote “I can never understand racism,” with “Thank U! I’m touched that so many people care :)”

Here’s the trailer. It looks mildly funny, but it got creamed by critics. It has just a 12% aggregate rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

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22 Responses to “Black couple removed from ‘Couples Retreat’ poster in the UK, is it racism?”

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  1. BitterBetty says:

    Considering you need superhero vision to see them on the original poster, I say racism all around.

  2. Dolkite says:

    This is normal, and isnt racism. The two black actors are not well-known in the UK, and the poster – duh – is meant to promote the movie and entice people into the theatre. Its also a well-known fact that black movies (Spike Lee, Tyler Perry, etc.) dont do much business overseas. The studio isnt obligated to make sure its artwork is racially harmonious, and if I hear Faizon Love complaining about this, someone should remind him of the poster he WAS on (for Whos Your Caddy) showing him in a golf cart customized with huge rims…

    For what its worth, the movie looks stupid anyway.

  3. RobN says:

    Now I would have just assumed they had asked for their pictures to be taken off this piece of crap so that nobody would realize how low their standards are. I’d have paid somebody not to list me on a movie as bad as this one.

  4. Cristina says:

    No big deal and no story here. Looks like they changed the entire poster n remved other people too

  5. Anna says:

    I don’t think it’s racism. Here in Switzerland we have the UK version of the poster. People here have no idea who the two black actors are (heck, I’m a film journalist and I didn’t know!) and so it makes sense to only put those on the poster the public actually knows.
    Plus, while Faizon Love does have an extensive part in the movie, Kali Hawk doesn’t and it’s sorta not entirely justified that she be on the poster. However, there were special posters with each couple by themselves and on those posters, they had one for the black couple.

    For all of you who are thinking about seeing the movie: don’t. It’s boring as hell and ever so predictable. The trailer looks a lot more funny than the film actually is.

  6. Ashley says:

    I have seen this movie and to be quite honest, they are not the main people within the movie. Whether its racism or not, I don’t know I just know that they are not main characters within the movie and so they don’t necessarily have to be on the poster. Plus it wasn’t a very good/funny movie so many not being associated with that movie would be a good move for their careers.

  7. lucy2 says:

    Hard to say. If all actors are featured equally in the movie, it doesn’t seem right to omit any of them from the poster. But at the same time, I do have to agree that the 2 actors in question are not nearly as well known as the others remaining on the poster (though I don’t know this Malin Akerman girl either, but she’s partnered with the star).
    I would truly hope there were no racial factors at play here, but I guess you never know unless someone admits to it.

  8. djork says:

    Good god–look at the US poster. Could the black couple, even though present, be any more marginalized and removable?

  9. SageAdvice says:

    It seems fine to me. The actors aren’t very well known and from what my friends tell me, the movie is terrible and they aren’t featured as much anyway.

  10. MAX&RUBY says:

    if it walks like a duck, farts like a duck…its racism

  11. Sigh. says:

    As the critic Solomons pointed out — they don’t “cater” to black film-goers, so this is not THAT unusual.

    Which is DUMB. The UK has a very large non-white/-Anglo society, and they have money to spend as well, and it’s worth the same.

    But THIS country just recently figured out that you don’t have to BE the culture to APPRECIATE it…so again, not surprising.

  12. Mairead says:

    It does come across as the black couple were expendible, which is appalling. Although the UK poster does have a better composition. But Jean Reno wasn’t featured in either poster and the man is a walking legend, so it’s difficult to say.

    Not that I’d particularly want to watch it anyway, even as a Vince Vaughn fan. It looks so predictable and not even the kitschy guilty pleasure The Love Guru was. :blush:

  13. Zoe says:

    This is ridiculous. The only people who ever appear in posters is the people who are “name” talent, people recognizable and known to audience widely that are going to fill seats in theaters. Sometimes, actors aren’t even on posters at all. I worked in the entertainment business and media for five years, this is totally normal. Sorry folks, not everything is racism.

  14. fizXgirl314 says:

    How can you claim it’s not racism? So what if the actors aren’t as well known? why remove just the black couple? I’m always hesitant to call racism on something… but, clearly, they removed the black couple here to appeal to the masses… which is sad…

  15. lena says:

    thank you fizXgirl314… couldn’t have said it better myself

  16. Aspie says:

    If the black actors aren’t featured on the cover, how else are they supposed to become more well-known among international audiences in future films?

    Those two black actors contributed to the film and deserved the same respect accorded to the other actors in the film by being featured on the movie cover. It’s just sad.

  17. Lia says:

    I saw the movie. Faizon and Hawk were just as much a part of the movie as everyone else. Each couple had a story line going, and at the end, the “black couple” had the best and happiest ending.

  18. Jo 'Mama' Besser says:

    I remember hearing about this story a while back, and the same issues were raised at that point, as well. I’ll take a wild stab in the dark and guess that the reason that the black actors aren’t as well known has very little to do with the er- ‘towering Colossus’ that is Malin Akerman’s acting talent. Occam’s Razor: Party of Two.

  19. Bete says:

    Even in the original poster or the US version, the black couple are standing in the back, which to me, means that they’re not the main players in the film. But there is no real need to remove them from the poster.
    While I don’t think it’s racism per se, I do think that the omission is more related to appearance. Look at the white couples. All are ‘thin’ or uniform. Still, it doesn’t justify a different poster.
    I can understand a different title or caption based on language differences,but not a different image.
    Those who decided on this different version of the poster are moronic and superficial.

  20. meglet says:

    hmm I saw this movie, and the characters cut from the poster do play as big a role in the movie… It’s about all four couples. Terrible movie too. I think in Aus we may of got the UK version of the poster, it looks most familiar. It’s really not uncommon for marketing to differ for different countries though, so I doubt it is race related.. honestly that arguement makes very little sense to me. If a white/italian etc couple were removed would everyone be calling racism?? The UK has a very diverse culture so I doubt this was done in a racist way to ‘appeal to the masses’, and more to promote the actors the masses may know. I really had little idea who many of these actors were, Vince, Kristen and Kristin were the only ones I knew. The movie could of been a bit more diverse in race to begin with, however, I do not believe the poster was changed with racist intent.

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