I really don’t have an issue with Zoe Saldana.
This post is not about throwing shade or sipping on that “haterade.” She’s a perfectly fine actress, who’s managed to do well for herself.
This is about Hollywood.
Apparently somewhere all the way at the bottom of a disclosure notice on those entrance gates to Hollywood’s most noted studios, in teeny tiny print, only one Black woman can be cast in the role of “the Black woman” in mainstream, commercial film projects. Or something like that.
And for some time now, it has been Zoe Saldana. Apparently [though not officially confirmed] Zaldana has been tapped to portray soulful, jazz legend, Nina Simone in the Nina Simone biopic, Nina. It’s my hope that Saldana is simply being cast in a supporting role, because let’s get real; there is nothing about Zoe Saldana that says Nina Simone to me. Nada. But this wouldn’t be the first time that Hollywood inaccurately cast an iconic person of color.
Remember the release of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter earlier this summer? Among the many things that were glaringly terrible and just straight up wrong with this film, the casting of Harriet Tubman was most troubling to me. Not only was Harriet Tubman chumming it up with batshit crazy Mary Todd Lincoln over tea and biscuits in the WHITE HOUSE, she delivered silver to Union soldiers via the Underground Railroad, you know to kill all the vampires with. The actress Jacqueline Fleming’s accent was laughable, and well and she looked like this:
Dear America, Tim Burton & Timur Bekmambetov,
The depiction of Harriet Tubman as biracial in a new Hollywood film ranks as the most hurtful denunciation of Blackness yet. In a nation that claims itself ‘multi-cultural’ and that everyone is part of a rainbow humanity-why are we constantly bombarded with the erasure of Authentically Black images? Why does Harriet Tubman, a dark Black woman whose grandmother identified her as an Ashanti from Ghana, West Africa have to look European in order for Westerners to acknowledge, celebrate and value her?
Why specifically are academics and critical thinkers, Black and White alike, unable to see the blatant Colorism in music videos, magazines and countless films that seek to portray Africa as a continent peopled by light skinned Biracial women? How is it that intelligent people claiming there’s only one race-the ‘human race’-consistently paint the darkest people as motherless invisible un-people? How do they fail to see the blatant visual distortion as millions of African teenagers take up skin-bleaching and other forms of neurotic self-hatred to become the Whitened images that Western media routinely presents in place of Authentic Black ones?
She’s right. I guess because there was so much other nonsense in that film, Hollywood thought they could just bamboozle the viewer into accepting Fleming as an acceptable representation of Tubman. Why is Black history only revered or celebrated when the images are lightened or distorted? Could it be to pacify post-slavery pangs of White guilt or even worse as KOLA BOOF suggests, a reprisal of Black self-hatred and lack of cultural and historical awareness. Are some of us so delusional that we’ve forgotten the faces and experiences of our own ancestors?
A biopic of Nina Simone’s life is huge. And I can only hope that the film’s writers and director’s understand the weight of this project. This is more than simply capturing Nina’s life, it is about capturing the experience of what it meant and continues to mean to be Black in America; to be the darker sister; to become disillusioned with your home and the movement because of racism and sexism; and to live in exile. Her life was a great one and I wonder if any actress can do the part justice. But I do know this, inaccurately casting a woman who looks like Zoe Saldana to play Nina Simone will be another successful erasure of an authentically Black and beautiful image.
What are your thoughts: Does it matter what an actress or actor looks like?