Whoopi Goldberg’s role as Deloris Van Cartier/Sister Mary Clarence could have been given to any actress. And by “any actress,” I mean that it could have, in a different situation, been given to a white actress. In fact, the role was originally considered for Bette Midler, who turned it down. There’s nothing in her role that denotes that she would be a black woman, Goldberg was cast as the role anyway.
The film’s also went to many rewrites, but it’s surprising that even though there was an evolution to the film we know today, race was never really explicitly brought into the film. Instead of focusing on Deloris possibly having a culture clash with the sisters simply because she’s the only black nun there, the film more appropriately focuses on the culture clash of Deloris’ secular ways and the sisters’ godlier ones. Also, instead of just focusing on Deloris’ reclamation in a type of “White Savior” way–which could have been too easy–the film also shows Deloris helping the nuns reclaim the neighborhood and attract a congregation through her knowledge of old ’60s pop tunes. Both parties learn something and become better for knowing each other instead of just Deloris learning the error of her ways.
It’s also just a good film.
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