'Couples Retreat' poster sparks controversy in U.K.

Universal Studios is facing criticism abroad for removing two black actors from the overseas version of the poster for Couples Retreat, reports Britain’s Daily Mail. Stars Faizon Love and Kali Hawk—who appear on the U.S. poster alongside Vince Vaughn, Kristin Davis, Jason Bateman and three other white actors—were left out of the international version “‘to simplify the poster to actors who are most recognisable in international markets,” according to a Universal spokesperson. Responding to criticism from journalists and moviegoers, the studio has agreed to discontinue the controversial poster.


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  • bunker

    The studio all but deleted them from the TV spots, so this doesn’t surprise me.

    • carole

      maybe too many faces staring back from the poster will scare away those stiff brits…

  • Aaron

    As opposed to the American poster where they’re alllll the way in the background.

    • charles

      Lol. Aaron I’m glad you mentioned this because it was the first thing I noticed when I saw the US poster!!!

      • It’s Not Always about Race

        You do realize that was because that couple is the least important of the movie, right? The poster layers the characters based on name popularity and screen time.

        What’s more annoying than racism is when people turn anything involving a black man/woman into a racist problem. The couple barely mattered to the movie. The end.

      • And Sometimes It Is About Race

        ……..you dolt!!

      • KC

        But the point is, it isn’t ALWAYS about race.

      • DaTruth82

        To It’s Not Always About Race: it has nothing to do with the couple being the least important. I guarantee that poster imagery wasn’t only used in England, but probably in other parts of Europe, as well.

        London is very multi-cultural, and accepting of black people. So is Portugal. The rest of Europe…not so much. So, someone got lazy in the art department, and probably used one poster image for across the region, changed the language of the copy depending on the country, and did not realize that this kind of nonsense wouldn’t fly in the UK. People were bound to notice. Dumb weasels.

      • Karl Hungus

        DaTruth82: “London is very multi-cultural, and accepting of black people. So is Portugal. The rest of Europe…not so much.”

        Oh, really? You’ve been to every country in Europe? Talked to a good number of the about 700 million people that live here? Sure, there’s plenty of racism to go around, even in the more northern and western parts of Europe, but to insinuate that, outside of England and Portugal, Europe is not accepting of minorities (or black people, as you put it) is just downright simplistic reasoning. Just look at the southern parts of the US (or even the hillbilly parts of Ohio for that matter) if you want to meet people that are not so accepting of minorities. You’ll find racism everywhere. Don’t lump all of Europe together as if it’s one big nation, it shows how uninformed you are.

      • Holly

        That is right Karl. DaTruth82 shouldn’t lump all of Europe into one category, but you should do it to the South. That isn’t at all hypocritical.

      • Karl Hungus

        It wasn’t meant to be hypocritical. I said that to point out that racism happens everywhere. Hence my inclusion of the line: “You’ll find racism everywhere.”

        And lets not pretend there’s no racism in the south of the US. I could have listed the rest of the world, too, but my comment was running long enough already.

    • Season

      Exactly! I prefer the British poster to the “back of the bus” American poster. I don’t know how many times I had seen that poster in the subway before I realized black people were in it.

  • jon

    Now that is just plain wrong of Universal.

    ‘watch online music videos, tv and moveis on defSpot com’

  • Yolanda

    Talk about disrespect. They were great in the movie!

  • Jenna

    They are not really famous/recognizealbe. I was suprised they were on the US poster in the first place. That they were excluded from the international one doesn’t surprise me, they do stuff like that all the time. I don;t think it has anything to do with race.

  • Fatima

    Even more depressing…if you go to the comments section of the Daily Mail article, any comment that suggests that thinks it is subtle racism is being rated down. The “most helpful” comments are people telling you to get over it. People all out deny everything.

    • Kelsey

      Well if you have any familiarity with the Daily Mail at all (most Americans don’t), you’ll know that it’s tabloid trash and attracts the lowest common denominator.
      I think it’s funny that movie studios, Microsoft, etc. always get caught editing minorities out of European promotions. Trust me, Europe is not just blond-haired, blue-eyed people. It has minorities!

      • Yesenia

        I love that site but I agree- trash mag

  • Shelley

    If they really wanted to simplify the UK poster, Jean Reno’s name could’ve been left off…especially since his image isn’t featured amongst the other 6 actors who are. Kali Hawk is unknown, but Faizon Love is not and has done a number of features.

  • PMD

    Being an Indian from London, I really have to raise my eyebrows when accusations of racism are being thrown around. I was also in London a few weeks ago when they were promoting the film and it was completely different because they were targeting to a different audience!

  • @ImStillToni

    Yea Universal, Faizon Love is completely “unrecognizable” to international markets right? Faizon has a longer IMDB resume than Malin Akerman!!! Who’s Malin Akerman? Exactly my point!

    • Steve

      Her nude scene in Watchmen certainly put Malin Akerman on my radar…and the promise of her in a bikini (given the premise of the movie) is a definite selling point.

      …and the poster’s job is selling the movie, right?

      • Rachel

        ok, but how many people saw Watchmen? i did, and it was a waste of time, it was a horrible movie that was way too long, and her nude scene wasn’t great, so i don’t know what you’re talking about.
        if it was about international recognizability, why is it that the other white actors who are relatively unknown weren’t also taken off the poster as well???

      • paige

        To Rachel:
        First, Watchmen is one of the best movies/novels ever. To say that it was horrible is a disgrace.
        Second, her nude scene was not put in there so that there would be a nude scene. It had actual meaning.
        Third, I know several people that went to see CR simply because she was in it, myself included.
        Fourth, the black couple was the only couple that had no recognizable face in it. You cannot cut out certain actors/actresses simply because they are not famous in this movie, they come as a couple. You cannot put only Vaughn, Bateman, etc. on there, you have to have the other half of the couple. The job of the poster is to sell the movie; who knew who the black couple was? They were unrecognizable and the least significant couple.

      • Rachel

        i’ll say it again. WATCHMEN WAS NOT A GOOD MOVIE!!!!
        i didn’t know who the other white people were, they could have been taken off the poster too since they were also unrecognizale (that was the “excuse” of universal.)

    • Josh

      You know the movie is called “Couples Retreat,” right? So they put the couple with the most bankable star (Vince Vaughn) up front. Then the couples with the more recognizable, marketable names/faces closer to the front. Then the least known, in the back (or left out altogether).

      Guess what? It’s not called racism. It’s called ADVERTISING. If Faizon Love’s role had been played by Will Smith, he would have been up front.

  • don

    Did it ever occur to you people that they’re in the background of the U.S. poster because their characters weren’t as prominent in the film? Why do people like picking at every little thing that might help them stir some controversy. Just get over it!

    • @ImStillToni

      Don, yanno what Universal billed this movie as? “A comedy centered around four couples who settle into a tropical-island resort …”
      So 4 couples are integral to the plot in the US, but NOT in international markets? Cmon, I can understand why Universal cropped out the Black couple, but the “international market” excuse makes no sense in this day and age when there are many markets more diverse than the US. The revamped poster was shown in the UK, which is way more diverse and accepting than the US…so why edit out the Black couple in the UK specifically? In addition, Love has higher billing than Akerman in the US, but not in the UK? its BS, imo

    • james

      Um…did you see the movie? They are just as prominent as the other 3 couples! In fact its the black girl’s character who runs away and brings the whole storyline to a climax!

      • jk

        I know you’re trying to defend her, but it would really give your perspective a lot more credit if you called the woman, Kali Hawk, by her name, rather than referring to her as “the black girl”. Especially since her name is mentioned several times in the comments and also in the article.

      • BilbrosB4Hos

        LOL, that’s true.

  • BG

    People keep searching for racism where it doesn’t exist. I completely understand why they left the black couple out – not to be racist, but because the actors who portray them for the most part are unknown to the world. I saw couples retreat and enjoyed it, but I recognized all the actors except for the black couple. Faizon Love may have been around for a while, but looking at his IMDB resume, I barely recognized any of the movies he’s appeared in whereas the other actors, even if their resumes was shorter, had appeared in more prominent works. Universal wasn’t been racist, they were just looking to make money by banking on the bigger names.

    • Jenna

      Yes. This is reasonable and true. I don’t understand how people can be reading so much into something that isn’t there.

      • L. R.

        Jenna, you probably don’t understand it because you’re not taking the steps to understand the perspective of the people who feel the most pain from this. I CAN understand your point, though I don’t agree with you. I wonder if you could do the same.

      • Josh

        L.R.: If you actually feel “pain” because of the Couples Retreat poster, you are beyond help.

  • Kelsey

    I don’t think it’s deliberate racism so much as it is unfamiliarity with demographics and the assumption that Europeans will relate more to white actors. It just shows ignorance of the European population. Microsoft did something similar when they edited a black man out of a print ad in a Scandinavian country. I don’t think it’s an accident that it’s EUROPEAN markets that get this treatment. It’s easy to think of English, French, German, etc. white people and forget that a lot of Europeans have African, South Asian, East Asian, Middle Eastern, etc. ancestry.

    • Fatima

      There’s a smart comment. You don’t get too many of those on message boards.

    • Me

      Having lived in the UK and watched a lot of British TV, I see more diversity in British shows than in American ones. British TV/movies also has a lot more interracial relationships than American ones.

      • Kelsey

        I’ve also lived in the UK, and I agree. But I’m not talking about demographic perceptions *within* the UK. I’m talking about how *international, outsider* companies view European countries like the UK. Yes, UK television shows a lot of racial diversity, but do you honestly think that Universal knew that when it made the decision to cut the minorities from its poster?

      • April

        You make an interesting point. What was Universal thinking when they did this? They had to know that removing the black couple would cause controversy. They also had to know that British TV/movies are way more diverse.

  • darclyte

    WGAS WGAF the movie sucked.

  • gigi

    Those who state it’s not racism but a business decision go back to sleep. Keep to your ignorant bliss. Hollywood has been playing this game for decades. The black characters are not only featured in most of the film but the black couple’s relationship is the catalyst in the story that brings all the other couples together. If you watched the movie you would realize that all the couples are an equal important part of the film. Is this move to remove the couple racist? Yes. Is this story newsworthy? Well that depends on the eye of the beholder. If you live in a fairy tale were racism doesn’t exist then yes…this story should not be about racism. But if you live in the real world where it took Hollywood almost 80 years to recognize the 1st black best actress and best actor…then call a duck a duck because there is a lot of quaking going on!

    • jk

      Honestly, I don’t think you can call this particular Hollywood marketing strategy a race thing. How many times have you seen a preview for a film and then gone to see the actual movie and thought “Wow, I didn’t know that actress/actor/etc. was in this,” simply because they weren’t hyped in the trailer? Just because Faizon Love’s and Kali Hawk’s characters were the catalysts in the story, as you say they are, it does not make them the film’s stars, even if the premise is that “four couples go on a retreat.” The structure of most films wouldn’t allow for there to be eight top-billed stars. I think the real issue, if people want to find one with this film (and I’m sure some do), is why the three white couples are more prominent in the film’s script itself than the fourth-billed black couple. The film’s poster can only reflect what’s onscreen.

      • gigi

        Well let’s see…in the 60s when a black artist’s album was featured in the South their image was often excluded from the cover in order to make it more “marketable” to the white southern market. I’m sure you’ll say it’s not the same thing and you might even say that those who were offended by the poster’s exclusion of Faizaon Love and Kali Hawk’s character are just super uber sensitive but there is validation to why some people commenting on this board find this issue an issue. No matter how small it is, the issue is an example of why some people believe that racism may never go away. Scary notion huh?

  • Wes

    I keep hearing “they aren’t on the poster because they aren’t famous.” How do you get famous if they don’t put you on the poster? Kristen Bell and Kristen Davis aren’t big movie stars either (neither is Jon Favreau, for that matter), but they’re prominently placed.

    • Buzz

      Jon F. …it helps when you co-wrte the movie….
      The producers must be doing cartwheels over this controversy , giving them one more chance to drum up some bizness for a movie that tanked at the box office and got lousy reviews in general; imdb: 5.5 stars out of 10 . EW critics gave it a B- while not enough readers saw it to justify getting an overall grade.

      • Fatima

        Didn’t tank at all. Made over 100 million.

      • BilbrosB4Hos

        I was really surprised how bad the movie was – I’m a huge fan of Vince Vaughn and Jason Bateman, and was so excited to see it – but it was rotten!

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