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'.

1 comment:

  1. I think it's important to note that Perrinau isn't white, so I don't agree that this isn't whitewashing. But I do agree that they are making this sadly more white-friendly, and dismissing a huge part of their audience. I don't want to take away anything from the actresses who will play shana and aja (they could have easily given those roles to white actresses, so i am glad to see women of color in the roles), but I do wish they made Shana look closer to her animated alter ego. It's really sad that they felt the need to make her look a certain way for their apparent target audience.

    ReplyDelete

As always, I appreciate all comments whether you agree or disagree. Just do not be vague, spammalicious, or disrespectful.

Trolling will get you deleted.

Thanks. :)