Best of Enemies – Marketing Recap

best of enemies poster 2Best of Enemies comes out this week in the unfortunate position of following last year’s Green Book. Both feature pairings of white and black characters, the former needing to learn something from the latter amidst the largest Civil Rights Movement. Green Book was a financial success but came under significant criticism for presenting a too-simplistic portrait of the era and going too far in making the white person the hero of the story.

This week’s new release stars Taraji P. Henson as Ann Atwater, a civil rights activist in Durham, NC who goes head to head with Ku Klux Klan leader C. P. Ellis (Sam Rockwell) over school desegregation. The two are obviously on opposite sides of the issue, but over a decade of conflict the two form a grudging respect for each other.

The Posters

best of enemies poster“Change is worth fighting for” we’re told on the first poster, which shows the two main characters standing next to each other. It’s simple, selling the movie on the basis of the stars. The same copy is used on the second poster, but this time the characters are placed more at odds with each other, facing different directions and with more of a contrast in the lighting they’re given.

The Trailers

The story’s setting in 1971 Durham, NC is established at the outset of the first trailer, which opens with an elementary school burning because of an electrical fire. The need to find those kids somewhere to go to school opens up the issue of segregation in the area, as local white folks don’t want black kids mixing with their kids. Atwater and Ellis stand on opposite sides of the debate but are put together on a board to discuss options. The violence and anger on both sides is clear, but some of the extents the segregationists are willing to go to upsets even Ellis, who has begun to view Atwater as a human being.

Online and Social

There’s almost nothing on the movie’s official website, just the trailer, a synopsis and links to social profiles.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A 30-second online ad featured not only clips from the movie but also Henson talking about her character and the story as a whole. The impact segregated schooling has on children and the reason the two leads are facing off against each other were communicated in a TV spot.

Media and Publicity

STX finally gave the movie an early 2019 release date late last year.

A featurette released in early March had the cast as well as the real people they portray in the movie talking about the events depicted and what the dynamic between the two main characters was and is. Another came out a few days later specifically to mark International Women’s Day, focusing on the real life women who inspired the story.

Atwater and Ellis square off with guns and Bibles in a clip released last week.

Rockwell showed up on “The Tonight Show” to talk about working with Henson and the movie in general. While it was mostly about other upcoming projects, this movie was mentioned in a profile of the actor. There was also attention given to Henson, who used this cycle to open up about the anxiety and depression she deals with. Most of the press about the actress, though, focused on her reaction to what’s happening with her “Empire” costar Jussie Smollett or was focused on her series “The Last OG” with Tracy Morgan.


What a missed opportunity to really educate the audience about an important historical moment. While the featurettes and some of the other clips and ads feature background on Atwater’s struggle to overcome systemic racism, there’s no background on the real events that inspired the movie on the website, not even a link elsewhere.

You can’t go wrong with Henson in a drama like this, but the way things are presented raises the concern that once again we’re getting a movie that wants to humanize the racists and sell the idea that just talking to them is the key to everyone getting along. That’s all well and good and certainly non-violence is preferable, but given the current social atmosphere presenting a decade of dialogue as the best possible outcome to hatred, we’re not in great shape.

Picking Up the Spare

A new spot debuted that was made specifically for the podcast “Pod Save America.”

The movie’s filmmakers spoke about wanting to remain true to the real story, but it has come under a lot of criticism for what are seen as efforts to rehabilitate a racist Klan leader, which is problematic.

Henson showed up on “The Tonight Show” to talk about the movie, with Rockwell doing so on “Late Night” a bit later.

What Men Want – Marketing Recap

what men want poster 2In the current cultural mood there’s a movement to “cancel” terrible men who have a history of abuse and other awful behavior. One of those often targeted is Mel Gibson, who ever really apologized for that anti-Semitic rant he went on, instead just lying low for a while before mounting a comeback a couple years ago.

One way of doing that, it seems, is remaking his movies starring women of color. That’s basically what’s happening with this week’s What Men Want, a loose remake of Gibson’s What Women Want. In this version Taraji P. Henson stars as Ali Davis, a sports agent who is having trouble getting ahead in her male-dominated company.

After drinking some whacked-out tea and hitting her head, Ali develops the ability to read men’s thoughts. She uses that to anticipate their actions and position herself accordingly, working against their weaknesses and getting out ahead of challenges. She finds there are downsides to what she can do, though, even if the results are hilarious.

The Posters

what men want posterAli is front and center, standing amidst a crowd of people and holding a pair of baseballs in her hand to symbolize…yeah. That she can read men’s minds is stated at the top, but the overall design is pretty boring and not all that funny at all which is a shame.

The same tagline – “She can hear men’s thoughts. Let the games begin” – is used on the second poster, which just features Henson and costar Tracy Morgan standing next to each other against a blank blue background. It’s even more uninspired than the first one, which is impressive.

The Trailers

The first trailer is exactly what you would expect it to be. We see Ali as she’s passed over for a promotion at work for vague and clearly sexist reasons. When her friends convince her to see a psychic and she has an accident she develops the ability to read men’s’ thoughts, an ability she puts to use to gain the advantage she needs to finally get ahead.

A red-band trailer from late November offered many of the same beats, just with a few additional curse words and the freedom to explain all the ingredients in the tea Ali drinks. She’s also shown to be unrepentantly sexual, using her new abilities to figure out what men are really thinking about during sex and more.

Online and Social

The website just has the trailer, a synopsis, ticket-buying prompts and links to official social media profiles. So nothing much and certainly not anything all that engaging.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

I’m not sure if this was a TV spot but a minute-long “Rules” video played like one, showing audiences the basic premise while offering more information on the movie’s website.

Media and Publicity

A “Special Look” released last month offered an extended clip focused on Ali using her mind-reading skills to make sure she and a partner have a good time in bed. Another clip featured Ali in the car with her assistant and realizing what she can do.

Henson hosted a red carpet event in Atlanta while the director and producer shared what happened when they took the movie on the road to select screenings across the country. Henson also received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame as part of the publicity for the movie.

A brief interview with the star allowed her to talk about this movie as well as some other projects she’s involved in. She later appeared on “The Late Show” to talk up the film.

Others from the cast, including Morgan and costar Max Greenfield, also did a bit of publicity while some stories focused on the way the movie takes on gender inequality, something that’s only hinted at in the trailers.


There are some interesting choices in the campaign, including how it sometimes loses focus on Henson’s Ali in favor of the men around her. That makes some amount of sense, but there’s also no attempt to show much of Ali’s overall arc and what happens as a result of the abilities she gains beyond the overtly comedic.

It would have been a much more engaging campaign if it had shown it tackles more substantively issues like gender or racial inequality. Henson is so funny but also such a wonderful actor that the campaign wouldn’t have lost anything if it had been more overtly socially relevant.

Picking Up the Spare

Another TV appearance by Henson, this time on “The Late Show.”

Proud Mary – Marketing Recap

proud_mary poster 6Taraji P. Henson plays Mary, a professional killer at a moral crossroads in this week’s new movie Proud Mary. She’s been doing her thing – working for the mob to eliminate their problems – for a while and is good at her job. That efficiency is thrown into doubt when a hit goes bad and she meets a young boy that causes her to question what she’s doing and why.

That sums up the brief plot synopsis Sony has offered for the film, one that kind of makes it seem like a gender-swapped version of Leon: The Professional. I don’t mean to diminish this movie with the comparison, but it’s hard to avoid the comparisons. Unfortunately, as we’ll see, the studio hasn’t done a whole lot to flesh out a unique identity for the movie in the minds of the audience.

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