So, in a world where Adepero Oduye exists, Nina Simone will be played by…Zoe Saldana.
It’s just so blatantly racist. And yes, I know Saldana is Black. And no, I am not one of those ridiculous Black people who administers “Black exams” to judge who’s “Black enough” and who isn’t. God knows I’ve met enough assholes who try to do that shit to me. But it’s obvious that the whole reason she is cast is because she is a Black woman who is attractive in a way that is non-threatening to White people. But more specifically, young White men. If White men between the ages of 18-25 don’t wanna bang you, you are pretty much seen as useless in Hollywood. She has a straight nose, thinner lips, long straightened hair and has starved herself into a bobblehead (sorry, but she has and it’s so sad). And she is often in sexualized roles where she is intimate with White men. This, apparently, is all you need to be fap material for your average White dude. She has apparently joined the ranks of Halle Berry and Beyonce as “Black women it’s ok to openly admit to wanting to bang.” And the fact that these things factor into her being chosen to play NINA SIMONE, of all people, is so offensive I want to spit glass shards.
Nina Simone wasn’t a straight haired, fair-skinned waif. She was repeatedly told all through her youth and career that she was too dark, with too wide a nose and lips to be successful. She wanted to be a classical pianist but was turned down from conservatory because they were racist. Her triumph and success, especially during the civil rights movement was all the more powerful because she wasn’t some passive, light skinned, Europeanized version of a Black woman. Her appearance is so integral to her story because of those things. And to completely erase that aspect of her struggle to appeal to a demographic that most likely doesn’t even give a crap about Nina Simone or what she stood for anyway is disgusting. And it is obvious that the director and producers have absolutely no respect for Ms. Simone or her music and message not only because of the laughably absurd casting but because they didn’t even consult her family/estate at all during the entire process and still have not; even as they are approaching their shooting start date.
Whitewashing is disgusting and Hollywood needs to be called out about it. The only thing more vomit-inducing than their portrayals of women is their portrayals of Women of Color. Black women are not only half White or light skinned. But these are the only kinds of Black women that they feel comfortable casting as romantic interests. And I use “romantic” quite loosely being that these women are only around to be groped, ogled, abused and fucked in roles that are completely passive and gratuitously sexual. But when you don’t need a Black woman for White guys to fuck, like, you just need a Black woman to be angry or fat or addicted to crack or, like, to clean something, then you cast the dark Black women. It’s disgusting and appalling that White executives have the gall to be so blatant about it. But when PoC in Hollywood rarely stand up to challenge it, what do you expect? Textbook bully syndrome, really. You only go after the ones that don’t fight back. That’s pretty much been White culture’s m.o. for a couple thousand years now. You think we would’ve picked up on that at some point.
There is a petition here: http://www.change.org/petitions/jimmy-iovine-cynthia-mort-replace-zoe-saldana-with-an-actress-who-actually-looks-like-nina-simone
I haven’t signed it…on one hand what these filmmakers did is undeniably disgusting but on the other hand I don’t like telling some rich White execs to fire a Black woman but on the other hand Saldana should know better but on the other hand her entire career is based on being the palatable, non-threatening Black woman so I don’t know. This is a huge problem in Hollywood so I thought I would at least address it and then present it to you to make the choice if you feel strongly enough to sign.
This practice has angered me for a long time. I decided I wanted to make films when I was 13 or 14 and consumed them obsessively since then. And from Rosario “I’m a little bit Black but not that Black really hardly any Black in me but oh are you casting a Black role then yeah I’m totally Black!” Dawson in many of her movies but specifically in the Josie and the Pussycats movie (laugh all you want but I loved that cartoon as a kid and Valerie was dark and had an afro and was in a band and even though she only played the goddamned tambourine (wtf) it was awesome and I was SO MAD when she was cast with Dawson and yes I was 19 when that movie came out which made me a grown ass woman but we are not going to address that right now, thank you very much) to Halle Berry as Storm, like, what the fuck. How dare you. HOW DARE YOU, A PLAGUE ON BOTH YOUR HOUSES, etc. My only dream is for the head of Fox to get a damn aneurysm and fall into a coma and then wake up with the mind and personality of a strong and self respecting Black woman so we can finally get a goddamned Storm in a movie that is true to the comics and has all her strength, regality and general African badassery and not all this meek, doe eyed, sexualized bullshit. I mean SHE WENT FROM A THIEVING ORPHAN TO BEING EQUAL TO XAVIER IN POWER AND LEADERSHIP AND LED THE X MEN AFTER BEATING CYCLOPS EVEN WHEN SHE LOST HER POWERS AND BASICALLY TOLD HIM TO GTFO. Ugh. I have so many repressed feelings about that character and how she was massacred. And DON’T even get me started on what they did to Rogue…
Sorry, I got sidetracked and have a lot of nerd feelings (obvs). But yes, the roles available for Black women are atrocious and the way Black women are presented in the film and music industries is atrocious and though I’m sure Halle Berry could very possibly be a lovely woman who went through a lot of shit to get her career, you can’t use that as a reason not to comment on all the racist, damaging fuckery that many of her roles and the roles of many other Black actresses like her help perpetuate. It’s damaging to young Black girls who really feel that they are not worthy of respect. And they grow into Black women who feel the same way. I mean, you should see the way some White people I meet through playing shows and booking my band try and speak to me/treat me. Or even before, when I was working regular shitty jobs in retail or whatever. Or even occasional people who were supposed to be “friends”. It’s like, did you seriously just talk to me like that/do that to me? What planet are you from that you think that’s even vaguely appropriate? And when I say don’t treat me disrespectfully, they look at me like I have 12 heads and pull out the whole “angry, uppity Black woman with a chip on her shoulder” schtick. Like I’m supposed to just stand there and grin while you talk to me like I’m your 3 year old or your fucking dog or some shit. But they act like that because I really don’t think they are used to Black women standing up for themselves. It’s shocking to them. And White culture raises White people to think that Black people who fight back are bad and Black people who are passive are good. Just look at the difference between the way they portray MLK Jr. and Malcolm X. I’ve even heard many crazy White people compare The Black Panthers to the Klan. I mean, seriously?
I am going to make films and just like my music, I will have to do it independently with no outside support because there is no room in either system for PoCs and especially WoC to be who we are and not filtered through lenses of White male supremacy. I mean, where are the movies made for Black people by Black people? Where are my generation’s Robert Townsends and Euzhan Palcys, etc. If the stereotype is your reality, fine. You have a right to that. But I have a right to my reality as well. My experience and perspective as a Black woman is just as valid and authentically Black as yours. But there is no room for varied and complex Black experiences in the industry. So fuck ’em. They are desperate and running out of ideas because they are not the creatives. They are the suits. They need us more than we need them. But Black people and Women don’t seem to understand that. So they just line up and straighten and weave and starve and smile and lighten and strip and shimmy and twerk and hope to be thrown a bone. That is pathetic. And it makes me angry that WoC and especially young Black girls are led to believe that is the only way to get ahead. And things will only change when we start thinking differently about ourselves and start demanding more. Or better yet, picking up our pens, cameras and classical or contemporary monologues and fucking doing it for ourselves like we used to. That will change everything.
Now, off to write…