I was doing some mild binge-watching of 13 Reasons Why on Netflix and I noticed one of the characters: Joseph Phillips. He plays the role of Greg Davis, an Air Force officer and father of Jessica (Alisha Boe). He’s been in the series since Season 1 but his role has been so minute that I didn’t really notice him before. I remember him from the later seasons of The Cosby Show, where he was Denise Huxtable’s husband and Olivia’s father. Where I remember him most is a film I saw back when I was a kid. That brings me to this week’s moment in the Flashback Friday series: the Strictly Business film.
How I first came across this moment? I first came across the film in 1992, during its run on HBO. I saw a familiar face in Tommy Davidson, whom I recognized from many episodes of In Living Color.
What it meant to me then? Back when I first saw it, I liked the swagger in which Bobby Johnson (Davidson) carried himself. Even though he was a mail clerk, he had much greater ambitions and his confidence in himself never wavered. I liked how Waymon (Phillips)—who was every bit of a well-spoken nerd out of place with people who looked like him—managed to end up with the most beautiful woman in the film. As an 8-year-old at the time, seeing that moved me…so much so that I made a move on a certain girl in my class who always wore a Seattle SuperSonics jacket. More than anything, the film showed me that I didn’t have to necessarily be a product of my surroundings to be successful.
What it means to me now? Today, at the ripe old age of 35, I still think Bobby’s confidence was the key to his identity. And I still respect the way Waymon conducted himself in a different world. I do see the film a little differently today. I didn’t pick up on the racist tendencies of Waymon’s colleague, David. His willful sabotage of Waymon’s deal with the Japanese is something that probably happens every day in Corporate America…especially in situations where Blacks have steps up the ladder on the line. I’ve even come around to understanding Anne-Marie Johnson’s Diedre and her quest to make her and Waymon a “power couple”…even though she didn’t really love him. I see a lot of that in today’s time: people getting together because the appearance of them together speaks more to the socioeconomic side of things more than the true love side of things. My biggest takeaway from the film today is that Halle Berry and Sam Rockwell, who were early in their respective careers, eventually blossomed into Academy Award winners.