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Denzel Washington Is the Master of Tables

An academic study of a movie star’s relationship to furniture

Getty Images/Ringer illustration
Getty Images/Ringer illustration

A Version of Historicism, but With Furniture:

The Qualitative Relationship Between a Denzel Washington Movie Character and a Table

Shea Serrano

The Ringer [dot] com


This study examined the qualitative relationship between Denzel Washington movie characters and tables. I watched movie scenes where both Denzel Washington and one or more tables were present. Prior to doing so, I hypothesized that each of these scenes would be more intense, heartbreaking, exciting, tense, surprising, or some combination of those things than in comparable scenes, regardless of the size or make of the table. The number of tables in each scene had no significant effect on the overall effectiveness or enjoyability of any evaluated scene, which is consistent with recent research on tables (Serrano et al., 2007; “Tables are fucking boring. They’re basically just bad beds, if you really think about it.”) However, there was a correlation between how actionable the table was in a scene and the scene’s overall rigor, suggesting that the importance of a table isn’t measured in its design, but in its application.


There are two primary components of this study: Denzel Washington and tables. (1) Denzel Washington is an actor. At date, he is 61 years old. He has appeared in more than 50 movies, including Malcolm X in 1992, in which he played the controversial and iconic civil rights figure Malcolm X, and Man on Fire in 2004, in which he played John W. Creasy, an ex-CIA operative who killed a man by tying him to the hood of a car and detonating an explosive he’d placed inside of his anus. (2) Tables are tables. If we are to assume that the first humans on earth were also the first to have tables, then that means, at date, they are approximately 1 million-2 million years old. The most important and meaningful table is the one that the Undertaker threw Mankind through during the Hell in a Cell wrestling match in 1998. The second-most important and meaningful table is the one from the Last Supper. The third-most important and meaningful table is the one from Jay Z’s “Dead Presidents” video that him, Biggie, Dame Dash, AZ, and a few other people played Monopoly with real money on. There is research available on Denzel Washington and also Denzel Washington movie characters. There is also research available on tables. The lack of research on the relationship between the two, however, made room for this paper, and leaves room for future examinations, as well.

Materials and Method

I watched a bunch of Denzel Washington movies on my television at home and on my computer at work. In a few instances, I simply rewatched specific scenes that I knew involved Denzel Washington and a table. In one case, I watched an entire movie on my phone (Safe House, 2012) while I was hiding from my family in a bedroom at home. I just so happened to be lying down in bed when my wife and children came home from the pool (I beat them home from work). The door was closed but I could hear them talking. One of the boys asked where I was. I heard my wife say, “He must’ve gone on a walk. He’ll be back later.” So I just stayed quiet in the room and kept playing Scrabble on my phone. After I lost, I figured I should at least get some work done while I was hiding, so I started watching the movie. I didn’t want to come out of the room because I didn’t want to talk to any of my children because sometimes I’m not that good of a dad. I mean, how many times can an adult reasonably be expected to play Candy Land with a 3-year-old? Have you ever even played Candy Land with a 3-year-old? It’s terrible. I draw a card from the deck and it’s a double blue square, and the baby’s like, “No, daddy. You can just move one red square.” He draws a card from the deck and it’s a single yellow square and he’s like, “I get to move three green squares.” I’m like, “Three? There ain’t even a three-square card in Candy Land, dude.” The baby’s like, “I get to move three green squares,” and it’s just like, Motherfucker, why are we even drawing cards if you’re just gonna keep making your own shit up, you know what I’m saying?


Though numerous examples abound, six key scenes from six separate movies that feature both a Denzel Washington movie character and a table were highlighted. The scenes appear in Malcolm X (1992), Philadelphia (1993), Training Day (2001), Man on Fire (2004), American Gangster (2007) and The Equalizer (2014). A 22-year research window was used so as to eliminate (or at least minimize) especially table-dependent (or nondependent) segments of time.

The most overpowering scene is contained in Malcolm X, directed by Shelton Jackson “Spike” Lee. Washington’s character, born Malcom Little but at the time of the table use, calling himself Detroit Red, plans a robbery at a table with Shorty (his best friend), two white women, and a man named Rudy, who challenge Red for leadership of the group. Rudy relents when Red forces him to play a game of Russian roulette to decide who should be in charge. Red sits at the table. He eats on it. He rests his bullets on the table when he empties the gun’s revolver of all but one bullet before Russian roulette starts. He gets up and stands by the table. He leans on it. The table in this scene is essential. The table is a kitchen table.

The most nuanced table performance comes in Philadelphia, directed by Robert Jonathan Demme. Washington’s character, a personal-injury lawyer with a poor understanding of the immune system named Joe Miller, sits at a table with Andrew Beckett, a homosexual lawyer played by Thomas Jeffrey Hanks who’s been fired from his firm when the partners discover he’s contracted the AIDS virus. The two discuss the wrongful-termination case Beckett wants to bring against his former employers while sitting at the table. Beckett slides a book slowly across the table. There are seven chairs at the table. Five of them are empty. Miller and Beckett take turns reading from a book that’s resting on the table. It is a library table.

The most intimidating performance comes in Training Day, directed by Antoine Fuqua. Washington’s character, a veteran police officer named Alonzo Harris who is later exposed as a criminal, sits at a table across from a younger officer named Jake Hoyt, played by Ethan Green Hawke, who also played Troy Dyer in Reality Bites in 1994. It is the first meeting between Alonzo and Hoyt. Hoyt is there to shadow Harris and be professionally evaluated. Harris reads a newspaper at the table. There are several items on the table, including coffee. Harris slams his hand down on the table on two separate occasions. The first time it startles Hoyt. The table is a diner table, which is different from a dinner table.

The most unbelievably unbelievable performance comes in the aforementioned Man on Fire, directed by Tony Scott. Washington’s character, John W. Creasy, walks into an old couple’s apartment because it offers a good vantage point on the road he is watching. Creasy rests a bazooka on a table near a window and prepares it for use. The old man tells him (in Spanish) that in church, they say to forgive. Creasy responds, “Forgiveness is between them and God. It’s my job to the arrange the meeting.” Then he picks up the bazooka and shoots a missile at a truck. The truck explodes. The table is an end table.

The most believably unbelievable performance comes in American Gangster, directed by Sir Ridley Scott. Washington’s character, a crime lord named Frank Lucas, holds court at a table during breakfast with his team. He sees a separate crime lord, Tango, played by Idris Elba, who is very handsome — more handsome than Old Denzel Washington, but not nearly as handsome as Young Denzel Washington. Tango owes Frank money. Frank wants it. Tango bucks. Frank shoots him in the head. Then he walks back to the table and sits down. It’s the farthest a Denzel Washington movie character has wandered away from a table and returned to it in the same scene. The table is a diner table.

The most table-overt performance appears in The Equalizer, also directed by Fuqua, who showed an astute understanding of Denzel Washington and his relationship to tables in Training Day. Washington’s character, an ex-Black Ops operative named Robert McCall, sits at a table across Nicolai Itchenko, a Russian crime boss who is hunting McCall to kill him. Nicolai considers eating from a plate resting on the table. McCall sets down a pair of broken, bloody sunglasses from one of Itchenko’s henchman he’d killed moments prior, and later picks them up and sets them inside of a wine glass, which is also sitting on the table. He writes down his phone number on a paper and slides it across the table to Itchenko. It is a dinner table. (Earlier in the movie, there is a diner-table scene, too. Fuqua is the most table-savvy director Washington has ever worked with.)


The purpose of this study was to examine the qualitative relationship between Denzel Washington movie characters and tables. I predicted that each and all of these types of scenes would be either intense, heartbreaking, exciting, tense, surprising, or some combination of those five things, regardless of the size or make of the table. In this study, the scenes with both a Denzel Washington movie character and a table were proved to be just that. Thus, the hypothesis was supported by the examination. However, I had not anticipated the extent to which the table was utilized in a particular scene would have any bearing on the effective measurement rating of the scene. That was an oversight on my part. Thus, the original hypothesis, while found true within its own capacity and not without merit, can also fairly be described as “limited in its anticipation.”

Research on Denzel Washington movie characters and tables could continue in several directions. First, other aspects of furnituredom could be considered. Is there a correlation between Denzel Washington movie characters and chairs? Ottomans? Trundle beds? Entertainment centers? Storage bins? Dressers? More and more. Second, longer-term examinations could be held re: each scene. Perhaps there is residual table-induced greatness left over inside of Denzel after an especially great or harrowing scene involving a table, causing for moments that are one scene removed from table exposure to be great despite being tableless. Expanding the parameters of the examined clips seems to be a sound way to approach the quandary.

In conclusion, the results of this study provide fascinating insights into the qualitative relationship between Denzel Washington movie characters and tables of varying varieties. In line with what was predicted, the appearance of a table in a scene does appear to boost the scene’s overall impressiveness, regardless of the type of table. And outside of what was predicted, it was shown that the utilization of a table in a scene made for more compelling work. The mixed results of this study suggest that we have much more to learn about Denzel Washington movie characters and furniture together.