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Zoe Saldana played a 120lb killing machine in the movie Columbiana. Pure fiction. Good fiction. But can she, should she, be cast as Nina Simone? Word on the Hollywood street is that Saldana has replaced Mary J. Blige, who had other film commitments.
For the record, I’ve been here before. A month or so ago I questioned why the fair skinned actress Jaqueline Fleming was cast in the role of Harriet Tubman in “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer”, and here we are again. Last time, commenters harped on how, since the Lincoln movie was fiction, casting of an actress who reflected Tubman’s features didn’t matter, but what’s the excuse now? This is a biopic, based on Simone’s actual life. She isn’t chasing zombies or anything, so why is she being portrayed by Saldana? Will Saldana defenders stupidly attribute this casting to creative license as well?
Is it really that hard to find darker skinned actresses to portray darker skinned women? Or is it that people have yet to wrap their heads around the idea that darker skinned women should be portrayed by darker skinned actresses?
And it’s not just the case with these two movies. Remember the Hunger Games fiasco? In the book, Rue was “ most hauntingly, a twelve-year-old girl from District 11. She has dark brown skin and eyes….” But by the time little brown Rue made it to Hollywood, she was, voila! Light skinned! And even that raised the hackles of racist white people, who had a hard time mustering any sympathy for a black protagonist.
But white racists don’t bother me. They’re a product of white supremacy. They were bred that way. They’ll die that way. I am, however, taken aback by the throngs of black people who don’t take any issues with the whitewashing of history, and the methodical process by which darker skinned people, women especially, are being written out of it.
No, I’m not prejudiced against anyone. And yes, black people’s racial make-up is all over the place. But is it too much to ask that the actress who portrays Nina Simone look like Nina Simone? Same for Tubman, and the Hunger Games character Rue?
And if you’re totally A-OK with these depictions, then I have to call into question your self esteem. Why have you made peace with seeing less and less of a reflection of yourselves on the silver screen? How can you claim to love your black self and then largely ignore the beauty of India Arie, Ledisi, Viola Davis and others? ( And by being OK with this sort of casting, that’s exactly what you’re doing.)
Light skin men were “in” back in the 90′s, but then darker skinned brothers, like Idris Elba and Denzel Washington, made a comeback. This question goes out to all of my darker skinned sisters and the people who love them: What are you gonna do? Sit back and let it ride, or re-emerge. Your call.