Last week a good friend of mine commented, repeatedly, on the latest verbal sparring over racism in Hollywood.
By now the Twitterati, dedicated Facebook junkies like myself and anyone who takes a cursory glance at an entertainment industry story knows what happened when Charlize Theron and Viola Davis did an interview for Newsweek’s Oscar roundtable.
Davis, who is nominated for her leading role in “The Help,”confronted a thorny issue when asked how this controversial part could possibly be her first leading role. “There just aren’t a lot of roles for- I mean, I’m a 46-year-old black actress who doesn’t look like Halle Berry- and Halle Berry is having a hard time. You know there’s not a lot of leading roles.
Theron jumped in and said Davis should stop saying that Davis shouldn’t keep saying that because she’s “hot.”
I keep hearing about this lack of roles for black women in film. Indeed, statistics show there aren’t enough opportunities for African-American women in a lot of industries, especially the lucrative ones, and I tend to feel those slights more directly. That said, I care about the issue because the arguers are going about it the wrong way and will never effect change.
The problem: we’re shooting the wrong people. I don’t know if Charlize Theron is ignorant. But I’m quite sure she’s not in charge. Castigating her will have either no effect on the problem or the verbal blast will have the wrong effect.
Theron, a white-blonde woman raised in South Africa during apartheid, called a dark-skinned black woman from the United States ”hot.” She then attempted to encourage that woman by getting her to think positively and acknowledge her beauty. Admittedly this is much easier said than done but consider this: maybe Theron was not being naive, she was just cheerleading.
We need to stop blasting the people who are trying to support us even if they’re a bit ham-handed about it. All this blasting Theron only makes her and people like her feel it’s too hard to be in black folks corner. Meanwhile, the producers, directors, studio owners and other power-mongers slink off to their seaside homes unscathed.
The fact: Theron may be glamorous and high-profile but she’s really just another studio employee.
We seem to be ignoring the fact that a white woman--an Oscar-winning star- who looks like the historical American “Ideal” --noticed that Hollywood is mired in racism. We should be saying, “Hey, why are y’all ignoring what even Theron can see? You should be ashamed and we demand change now.”
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