May 1, 2014

THE JEM MOVIE'S SHANA AND COLORISM


from a decidedly brown-skinned black girl with a big bouncy purple fro to a beige biracial "safely black" girl with straight hair

This strikes close to home for me, because this was my favorite cartoon show growing up.

For those who aren't familiar, Jem was a show about a young woman who lived a double-life as the head of a charity organization called The Starlight Foundation and the lead singer of the pop-rock group Jem and the Holograms.

The group was made up of lead Jerrica Benton/Jem, her sister Kimber, Shana (a black woman of Jamaican heritage), Aja (Asian-American of possible Japanese/Chinese heritage), and later Raya (a Mexican woman).

Here's what was amazing about this group.  Aside from the lead and her sister,  NONE of the members of the group were white.

There was representation for every little girl, whether you were Asian, Latina, Black or White.

Heck, even Jerrica's boyfriend (and my first childhood crush) Rio wasn't white.

This was before the politically correct era and it's subsequent backlash.   That, I think, has a lot to do with the whitening of both Shana and Aja in this supposedly  enlightened era.

from awesome 80's diversity realness...

...to safely "diverse" visual homogeneity

Whether it be a subconscious or purposeful act, both characters of color were cast to be more "white-friendly", despite the fact that the original incarnation got to be popular just fine without it.

Both actors cast, Hayley  Kyoko and Aurora Perrineau, respectively, are biracial, with white parental ancestry.

Because full-blooded Black and Japanese American actors would be just too much for the white American mainstream to handle, apparently. :-/

This is not only erasing women of color, who don't have the extra-"palpability" of obvious whiteness in their bloodlines, but it insults white audiences.  It assumes that white audiences have the same tolerance for POC as the recently publicly-shamed, Clippers' owner Donald Sterling.

We live in the year 2014, a future that seems to be stubbornly avoiding enacting all the social advances that has been written on paper for decades.

I am saddened but not amazed by not only the lack of progress, but by the fact that this is emblematic of the fact that in terms of race, we've actually gone backwards in some respects.

Sure, Lupita is People Magazine's Most Beautiful Woman, but I wonder if, like the penalties placed upon Sterling, if it's just about soothing public perception vs. actually solving any of the ills behind it.

Lupita still doesn't have a mainstream leading role on her imdb page and Sterling was more demonstratively racist BEFORE this recording happened, actually keeping Black people and Mexicans out of housing.  And he would have received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the NAACP, as well.

Mine is the bitterest of laughs.

I guess, I should not have expected any better considering the lack of involvement from series creator Christy Marx.

Still, it would have been nice to see Hollywood take some actual steps in the 21st century, instead of simply giving it lip service.

Just listen to the heartbreak in this fan's voice:



The BlackGirlNerds tweeted Aurora Perrineau about the issue, but as is too common with my fellow lighter-skinned and biracial black girls, she simply didn't get it.

She took it as being about her own acceptance of her blackness and not what the true issue is, colorism.

Aurora, listen.

We get that it's hard out there for any woman of color in the industry trying to work, but there comes a time when you have to take a stand for your darker-skinned sisters.

The fact of the matter is Acceptable Blackness is a thing white Hollywood often uses in lieu of casting dark-skinned black actresses.  It is a form of whitewashing that is divisive and unfair.

It's putting the lighter-skinned blacks in the house while the darker-skinned blacks remain in the field. Both are still slaves, no doubt, but lighter-skinned/mixed is deemed worthy of visibility.

If you are truly proud of your black side, then you should have empathy for those sisters who have it much harder than you.

You should be able to see that being used as a pawn in white Hollywood's game is the last thing you want to do.

I get that opportunities are scarce for people of color in Hollywood, yes even for a benefactor of nepotism, such as yourself...but please, this simply isn't the right foot to get off on.

I'll understand if you keep the role, but I'll be pretty damned disappointed that your parents didn't raise you with better racial awareness.

As for the men behind this project, Scooter Bruan, Jason Blum and John Chu?  If you're going to care so little for the product, extending that disdain to the creators, canon, and fans...

Realize this.

You are sabotaging your own wallets.  If you actually make a quality product with care for the canon and creators on top of simply capitalizing on the brand name...You might actually have a surprise hit on your hands.

A franchise and a revitalized brand instead of the path you're going down right now, a quick sleazy easy buck.

It's the difference between fifty million and five hundred million, capice?


P.S.

You know something is seriously wrong when you can't even use the actors' un-altered skin colors in your publicity image:

Yeah, that white background 
pumped to 11th power-glow to make Shana
sorta/kinda' look like she could be brown is totally subtle.


*sigh*

Hollywood keeps Hollywoodin'.

March 8, 2014

5 ROLES LUPITA NYONG'O COULD PLAY IF HOLLYWOOD GOT ITS ACT TOGETHER


With her beauty, talent, and her ability to convey genuine down-to-earth wisdom and humble gratitude, Lupita Nyong'o is the belle of the ball right now.

Her out of the box Oscar win, her lithe delicacy, fashion-sense, and regal bearing brings to mind a young Audrey Hepburn.

It would be a shame if Hollywood squandered her potential, simply because they have no clue what to do with an actor of her promise, who is also a dark-skinned African woman instead of a white girl...

Hell, one look at Hollywood's recent track record, proves that while they love to pat themselves on the back for noticing promise; -for initially lavishing praise upon their black Oscar-winning Cinderellas, NOT A SINGLE one has gotten the kinds of opportunities her win would likely have garnered if she had been white.

Monique, Jennifer Hudson, Octavia Spencer...NONE have gotten mainstream leading roles.  NONE have been given any star vehicle opportunities.

Just one look at Lupita's imbd page, showing all zero of upcoming roles, proves just how likely this is, even for the stunning Lupita.

Now, a rather ignorant argument could be made by the largely white-male group running things, that it's simply *too hard* to fit such an "exotic"-looking woman into mainstream Hollywood.

I, of course, know that's bullshit. Media shapes perception just as much as they adhere to it.

I'm going to prove it with five awesome star-vehicle roles, she could EASILY play if Hollywood weren't so terrified of stepping away from the status quo (in other words, if they weren't racist).

#1 ANYANWU - Octavia Butler's Patternist Series



As you know, I really, REALLY see a *lot* of potential in Ms. Butler's Hugo-Award-winning books for the next great sci-fi franchise.  Not only do they avoid the typical non-inclusive pratfalls of so many other sci-fi franchises (ALWAYS using white males to embody allegories about oppressed underclasses *Oblivion, X-Men: First Class- with so much cruel irony), but they are just plain awesome books full of original ideas and wonderfully imaginative settings and characters.

This particular character is a powerfully evolved immortal African woman who can shape-shift.

#2 RENIE SULAWEYO - Tad Williams'  Sword and Thorn Series



I am actually not personally familiar with this character, but I heard Ms. Nyong'o's name mentioned twice in wishlist casting in this role from a good friend of mine who's tastes I trust and from the white fanboys over on reddit.

In my mind, that means she's probably born to play this character.

#3 MARTHA WASHINGTON -  Frank Miller's comicbook series



Comicbook movies are hot right now and...

Just look at this character:



Enough said.

#4 SUSY HENDRIX - Wait Until Dark



We all know that Hollywood loves to exploit properties that already have a brand and this one, I think, is a perfect low-risk star vehicle for Lupita.

She plays a role originated by an actress, whom many are reminded of when they see her.

She's vulnerable, but not helpless.

And it would be a real-showcase for her chops; an opportunity for her to show why the audience should root for her.

#5 NYASHA - John Steptoe's Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters



An adaption of this tale, one on the same scale as all the reboots and reimaginings of Eurocentric fairytales, that are hot right now would be amazing, if done right.

Can you imagine what Lupita could do with a Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters with the kind of adaptive twist and production scale as Snow White and the Huntsman??

...And more importantly, can you even fathom one legit reason Hollywood should NOT give her the same scale of a chance Kristen (one-facial-expression) Stewart got???

Hollywood, these are all roles perfectly suited for an actress who exudes the kind of magnetic charisma and beauty Lupita has.

What I don't want to see her play is second-fiddle with no life, but to be a "magical negress" BFF to the white lady who is actually starring in the movie (see: Jennifer Hudson's role in Sex in the City).

I don't want to see her play a down-trodden miserable tortured soul of a tragic black woman redeemed by her faith in Christ (see: Tyler Perry's movies).

I don't want to see her be sassy and neck-swervy (see: Octavia Spencer's Oscar-winning role in The Help).

I don't want to see her play a stoic warrior, stripped of all femininity (see: a good chunk of Grace Jones's career).

I don't want to see her play exotic sexual play-thing for white man-with-angst, a tool to help him forget his white man-pain (see: The Kids Are Alright and Monster's Ball).

I want to see her get to lead with a leading man (it would be awesome if he were of color) protectively wooing/loving her.

I want to see her be the delicate, wide-eyed beauty with flawless skin, who's director exploits her ability to get the audience to care for her (see: Julia Roberts' doe-like quality in early roles like Sleeping with the Enemy and Pretty Woman).

I want to see her play mythological characters suited to her ethereal beauty (elves, goddesses and the like).

I want to see her smile, joke, and be charming enough to have both her leading man and the audience fall in love with her.

I KNOW that's not too much to ask.

The question is...

Is anyone in Hollywood ballsy enough to actually do right by our new "it" girl???

...Or will Hollywood prove that all the accolades now are only all about appearing progressive as opposed to actually being so?

P.S.  I've seen the internet bandy around the idea of casting her as Storm. While I know she'd be amazing and it would be nice to see an actual African woman play the part, I feel like that ship has sailed.

They cast the most well-known black actress (one who was all wrong for the part, but the only black actress known to white audiences at the time) in the role and then gave her nothing to work with.

She didn't have a story-arc or any dynamic relationships.

In fact, when Halle Berry, herself brought up her disappointment with Storn lacking any kind of romance in the series, "fans" shouted her down, saying she was married to Black Panther:

Halle talks about this at about 7:45 into it.

Of course, fans predictably took the opportunity to rip into Halle's ignorance about Storm's comicbook history and heap hate upon her for it.

Yes, totally non-racist fanboys, she *is* married to Black Panther in the comics.   She's also had several relationships with well-known characters in her many comic incarnations, including Wolverine and Thor.

Sooooo, then why in the films is she relegated to the least of side-characters; nurturing mammy to the X-men, with absolutely no personal life???

Halle-fricking-Berry got no love in any of her big-screen roles as Storm.

this Gary Coleman side-eye
is directed at Bryan Singer for giving her nothing
and those fanboys who were so quick
 to *not* see Halle's extremely valid point