Tag Archives: ethnic

#DifferenceMakers: Janel Martinez’s “Ain’t I Latina” Reps for Afro-Latinas Left Out of the Conversation

There is not enough focus on the people who live at the intersections of cultures and ethnicities. The Afro-Latina identity is one such group that seems to go under the radar in the media, and for no good reason. In the media, the idea of the Latina is that of a light-skinned, European or mestizo looking woman. Even in popular magazines geared towards the Latinx community and Latinas in particular, the diverse range of Latinas aren’t routinely showcased, Afro-Latinas in particular. The stereotype of what a Latina should look like isn’t capturing the full scope of those who are, in fact, Latina. Enter the much-needed site, Ain’t I Latina? to work to correct that oversight.

Ain’t I Latina was created by Honduran-American multimedia journalist Janel Martinez, who sought to give Afro-Latinas the coverage they’ve been missing in the media. Her Twitter page gives a quick summary of what you can expect:

Her bio page gives a more in-depth explanation of her site.

Ain’t I Latina? is an online destination created by an Afro-Latina for Afro-Latinas. Inspired by the lack of representation in mainstream media, as well as Spanish-language media, Janel Martinez, a 20-something journalist and New York native, wanted to create a space where millennial Latinas can celebrate their diversity. In addition to offering celebrity news, career advice, lifestyle coverage and exclusive interviews with today’s hottest Latinas, Ain’t I Latina? offers you, the reader, an opportunity to share your story.

There is a lot to take in on Ain’t I Latina, including the site’s latest interview with Evelyn Lozada and daughter Shaniece Hairston, Afro-Latina musicians and authors to look out for, theatrical portrayals of the Afro-Latina identity, etc. Most important of all, it fosters community and an outlet for women who haven’t seen themselves celebrated on the whole in media. I recommend you give Ain’t I Latina a shot.

Are you a fan of Ain’t I Latina? What do you love about the site? Give your opinions below!

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“Tyrant”: Adam Rayner on Bassam Al-Fayeed in Cigar Aficionado

I’ve talked a lot about Tyrant on this site, as well as on my slice of the Entertainment Weekly Community. One of the biggest points of contention I’ve had is that the main character, Bassam/Barry, is played by a white British actor, Adam Rayner. Tyrant is a show completely about the Middle East and Middle Eastern characters. Seeing how actors of Middle Eastern descent have to face tons of stereotyping and marginalization in Hollywood to get meaningful roles (roles that aren’t terrorists), and how young Bassam is actually played by young actors of Middle Eastern descent despite Rayner playing adult Bassam, I’ve not only called the show out on its casting of the main character, but have personally wondered how Rayner felt about it. Well, he’s spoken about this and more in his interview with Cigar Aficionado.

“My main research was reading about the region…I’m not playing someone who was fully culturally an Arab man—to him, this world has become alien,” he told the magazine. “Still, I was learning about Bedouin and Arab culture, the history and politics, as well as the current political climate, trying to gain an understanding and knowledge that Bassam would have grown up with.”

Howard Gordon, the executive producer of Tyrant (along with other Middle Eastern-based—and contentious—shows 24 and Homeland), said of Rayner, “Obviously it’s a challenge for someone with no experience of the Middle East to play someone from there. Adam has been up to it.”

Let me analyze these points for just a second. These are my thoughts, not the thoughts of Cigar Aficionado. First, let me say the comments in the article are very enlightening. But I do have some stuff to say after watching two seasons of Tyrant.

I’ve always felt that a person of Middle Eastern background should have been awarded this role and a person such as that would kill this role. Why? Because they’d have a lot more tacit knowledge to work with and they wouldn’t have to do the research, as it were, to play another culture and another race. Or, let me look at it from the point of view of a Bassam; why not cast an American of Middle Eastern descent (or a Brit of Middle Eastern descent, or anyone else), someone who is removed from the day-to-day life of the Middle East, but, like Bassam, has a link to their culture and a curiosity to learn more. Either way, whether you go with an actor from the Middle East or an actor of Middle Eastern descent, you have a much more realistic portrayal of Bassam.

However, I’ll give Rayner credit for finding his way into Bassam’s point of view. To me, Rayner’s Bassam hints at something unsavory that seems to be true to the character; Bassam has a large level of self-hate. Not just for his own actions, but for his culture. Sure, he comes from a line of despots. But he can’t separate the actions of his family from the overall culture of his home and the citizens that make up his home. He strikes me just as what he looks like; a Middle Eastern man who passes for white so he can get the benefits of living in America, and who lives in America so long that he removes himself from his home, his former identity, and his former actions. But, with Rayner’s Bassam taking this tone, there are new questions. Is this the tone the creator(s) wanted for Bassam in the first place? Does this tone make him less sympathetic? Would critics like me even see this side of Bassam if he was cast using an actual Middle Eastern actor (because Middle Eastern people come in all shades)? I don’t know. Such is the case with a complicated scenario of Rayner as Bassam.

The only thing I can say is that at least the production and Rayner himself seem to be aware of the issues involved. But, if the production was aware of this to begin with, why go with a non-Middle Eastern actor? An actor, I must also point out, who is someone no one in the U.S. had heard of before?

I bring this up because production teams always like say that they’re looking for “star power.” That argument has been made over and over for choosing white actors over Asian actors, and it was just used again when discussing who could play Rumi. The erroneous thought process is that they want someone with star wattage attached to their name, so they pick a white actor. However, Rayner was not a star here in the U.S.; British folks would have to fill me in on if he was a star in in the U.K. The same can be said for someone like Tom Mison, who I’m sure would be the first to say (and has said in so many words) that he’s not the sole star of Sleepy Hollow despite him having the caché of being a white Briton; Nicole Beharie, who has acted in high caliber films such as 42 and Shame, and has more star wattage because of it, is the star, and therefore the leader (or should have been if there didn’t seem to be a conspiracy to make Sleepy Hollow another iteration of Dr. Who).

The point is this: if a white actor who is looking for his big break can be given his chance by playing a Middle Eastern character, why couldn’t a Middle Eastern actor (or actor of Middle Eastern descent) who is looking for his big break be afforded the same, especially in a role reflective of his ethnicity? Again, there are a lot of questions that could have been nullified if the complications from casting were taking care of from the beginning. Again, such is the case with a complicated scenario of Rayner as Bassam.

Make no mistake; I’m not faulting Rayner or saying he’s a bad actor. In fact, most of the actors who get cast as roles outside of their ethnicity/race aren’t bad actors. It’s just there’s a can of worms Hollywood always has to open when it comes to who gets cast as whom.

All right, now that that’s out of the way, check out some of the other tidbits from the article (which is, in all fairness, a really good article):

Eric Schrier, FX Networks president of original programming, on filming in a war zone: “We try to take big swings. A show set in the Middle East? That’s a big swing…Let’s say this show had its challenges, production-wise, that first season. I mean, they were shooting rockets.”

Gwyneth Horder-Payton, co-executive producer, on the challenges of shooting scenes set in a mosque: “We built the set and hired extras of Arab descent. When Barry [Rayner’s character] walked into the middle of the service, they were upset because they said this would never happen in a mosque—it would never be allowed. Plus, here I am, a woman, in the mosque. Also not allowed. And I’m wearing shoes, because I’m going back and forth outside…Also not allowed. And they were serious, even though it was a set we’d built and not a real mosque.”

On the similarities between Rayner’s character and Syria dictator Bashar al-Assad: “The parallels to Assad are obvious. The old-style dictator father, the son who’s been trained in the West.  Still, it’s important to say that this isn’t a show about one country. That would prevent us from dealing with issues that are more common region-wide.”

On the dethroning of dictators like Saddam Hussein and Muammar Qaddafi: “How do you rule over a democracy when you’ve got a gun to your head? One easy way to solve the problem is to get a gun to the other guy’s head.  It solves the problem—but it’s not democracy…How do you create security for the country without compromising those democratic principles? Democracy requires a lot of preparation, with elections after you’ve educated the people. But how long will that take? And who’s in charge in the meantime?  It’s not as simple as, well, we got rid of Hussein or Qaddafi and now we’ll have democracy.”

On being compared to Abraham Lincoln: “When you’re playing a president or a dictator, it’s a time-honored cliché that a beard bestows authority on a man- or that’s my hope, anyway. People on the show have started calling me Abe Lincoln, which is an interesting comparison.  I’m not quite sure if it’s a compliment or not.”

On the significance of cigars in Tyrant:They’re considered quite a Western symbol, associated with the power and wealth, smoked by the Tony Sopranos of the world.”

On authoritarianism and building democracy: “Because to build the democratic process, first you have to delay the democratic process—and that’s an authoritarian government.”

Read the entirety of the Tyrant interview with Cigar Aficionado (including quotes from Moran Atias, who plays Leila Al-Fayeed) in this month’s issue, on sale now (the full cover is below). Tyrant, in its third season, comes back at 10/9c July 6 on FX.

Adam-Rayner-Cigar-Aficionado-FULL

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Diverse Lit Publisher Rosarium Publishing Creates Indiegogo Campaign

Hollywood has seen the lion’s share of attention when it comes to the fight for diverse stories and characters. But, the world of literature is facing their own diversity movement, and quite a few publishing houses are beginning to provide their own solutions to the lack of diversity in literature. One of those publishing houses is Rosarium Publishing.

Rosarium Publishing is an indie multicultural comic book and novel publisher founded by scifi/fiction writer Bill Campbell. Campbell’s goal with Rosarium Publishing is “to bring true diversity to publishing so that the high-quality books and comics his company produces actually reflect the fascinating, multicultural world we truly live in today.” Genres published by Rosarium Publishing includes crime, satire, children’s, steampunk, science fiction, and comics. “I believe it’s imperative that people are able to tell their own stories,” said Campbell in a statement. “They can build their own tables rather than ask for a place at the table.”

Rosarium Publishing has made a name for themselves in its three years of life, having produced critically-acclaimed titles like Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism and BeyondStories for Chip: A Tribute to Samuel R. Delany, The SEA Is Ours: Tales of Steampunk Southeast Asia, and APB: Artists against Police Brutality and several of its titles, such as crime novel Making Wolf and indie comic book DayBlack have garnered literary awards. These and other titles are read in high school and college classrooms throughout the U.S., and mainstream news outlets and literature publications like Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, The New York Times and others have reviewed and/or featured Rosarium Publishing and its influence in the publishing world.

Rosarium Publishing has launched an Indiegogo campaign to help them produce a minimum of 10 more titles this year. Called “Rosarium Publishing: The Next Level,” the company wants to raise $40,000 to cover the printing and marketing costs. The reason for this campaign is due to the popularity of Rosarium Publishing’s books. To quote the press release:

Rosarium, whose books are now distributed to stores by IPG, has been so successful that demand has now dictated that a switch to offset printing is now necessary to get more of their work to the masses sooner and that is where their new crowdfunding campaign comes in. With the success of the Rosarium Publishing Indiegogo “The Next Level” campaign, they will be able to print thousands of books and continue their mission to further their quest for diversity in publishing with the high quality of work they are known for.

Want to contribute? You can do so right here! Also, if you want to get your hands on some Rosarium Publishing titles, you can buy them at Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, Comixology and PeepGame Comix. For more info on Rosarium Publishing and the titles available, visit rosariumpublishing.com. You can also follow Rosarium Publishing on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.

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#DifferenceMakers: 4 New Racial/Gender Representation Initiatives

The #OscarsSoWhite controversy has shaken up Hollywood in one of the best ways possible. While there’s something that can be said for the lack of focus on other forms of representation in Hollywood (the media has been mostly focusing on the outward racial aspects and not other aspects of representation such as characters with physical or mental disabilities), Hollywood is trying to show that it can change, at least little by little. Four new initiatives tackling gender and racial inclusion have been created since #OscarsSoWhite; these initiatives have a bright future ahead as the pioneers of Hollywood’s new inclusion renaissance.

• We Do It Together: Variety reports that Juliette Binoche, Queen Latifah, and Jessica Chastain have joined together to create We Do It Together. The production company procudes film and television “that boost the empowerment of women.”

“The nonprofit is planning to develop a slate of ‘inspiring’ films by and about women to ensure future opportunities for known and emerging voices within the industry,” wrote Variety. “The first film will be announced in May at the Cannes Film Festival.”

• JJ Abrams’ new Bad Robot diversity quota: Bad Robot founder and film director JJ Abrams told the Hollywood Reporter that he decided, in the midst of #OscarsSoWhite, to create a serious outline of goals to meet when it comes to addressing inclusive casting and hiring practices.

“We’ve been working to improve our internal hiring practices for a while, but the Oscars controversy was a wake-up call to examine our role in expanding internally at Bad Robot and externally with our content and partners,” said Abrams, according to the Guardian. “We’re working to find a rich pool of representative, kick-ass talent and give them the opportunity they deserve and we can all benefit from. It’s good for audiences and it’s good for the bottom line.”

Click to read the latest issue!

• Zoe Kravitz’ collective: Zoe Kravitz has told the Associated Press about how she has had to turn down stereotypical role after stereotypical role, and how she feels a lot of the onus is on the actors themselves when it comes to choosing roles and breaking casting stereotypes. Kravitz has also decided to create a “creative collective,” states Hollywood’s Black Renaissance. Her collective includes “Hollywood filmmakers, actors, writers, and cinematographers and their goal is to meet each week to write a script that reflects the diverse world in which we live.” Kravitz is also going to “write, produce, and direct her own projects.”

Half: TV producer Ryan Murphy has launched Half, an initiative that will start “outreach efforts at colleges and universities,” states Forbes. Murphy “will pair candidates with mentors from his production company.” Murphy’s also creating “a database of names and contact information so other showrunners who want diverse directors can join the movement, as well.”

“I personally can do better,” said Murphy to The Hollywood Reporter. “[Publicist Nanci Ryder] said [at The Hollywood Reporter’s Women in Entertainment breakfast], ‘People in power, you have a position and responsibility to change the industry,’ and I thought, ‘She’s right.'”

What do you think of these initiatives? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

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#DifferenceMakers: Janice Rhoshalle Littlejohn & Barrington Smith-Seetachitt (Screenwriters, “Lovers in their Right Mind”)

The world is swirling. With sites like Interracial Dating Central, Interracial People Meet, Interracial Match, Interracial Cupid, and tons more (some of which you can compare and contrast at this Ask Men article), and tons of online interracial appreciation groups (like this one), it’s clear the interest in interracial dating and relationships is high. But movies aren’t really delving into that as much as they should. Something New is one of the most prominent films about an interracial relationship, but it’s already quite old and it only touches on the bare bones of just one type of interracial relationship. Lovers in Their Right Mind is a new film that’s hoping to help close Hollywood’s gap of interracial dating films.

Lovers in Their Right Mind is a film by Janice Rhoshalle Littlejohn, journalist and co-author of Swirling: How to Date, Mate, and Relate, Mixing Race, Culture, and Creed, and Barrington Smith-Seetachitt, screenwriter of Children of Others. The film is one of the 10 films chosen from the DreamAgo’s 2016 Plume & Pellicule screenwriting atelier held in Sierre, Switzerland. The film is also the only U.S. and English-language submission accepted into the program, joining the ranks of projects chosen from France, Cuba, Spain, Columbia, and the host country Switzerland. The screenplay was also a second round contender in the 2014 Sundance Screenwriters Lab as well as the 2015 Austin Film Festival Screenwriting Competition.

The film focuses on the relationship between a black woman and an Iranian man, and all the learning experiences that come with it.

Set in contemporary Los Angeles, “Lovers in Their Right Mind” follows the story of an African American woman as she weighs the consequences of pursuing an interracial, cross-cultural, mixed-faith romance with an Iranian immigrant. Its narrative aligns with DreamAgo’s goal to “choose scripts that transform, provoke and entertain while dealing with issues vital to us all.”

With increased media attention on diverse storytelling and inclusion in Hollywood, “Lovers in Their Right Mind” answers the call for characters not often featured in cinema. The film’s multicultural narrative is deliciously peppered with the savory delights of black Southern and Persian cuisines, and underscored by a jazz-Middle Eastern fusion soundtrack that evokes both the tradition and modernity of the protagonists’ two worlds as they come together.

Littlejohn and Smith-Seetachitt are spearheading development on the project and serving as producers with actor Navid Negahban (“American Sniper,” “Homeland”) who is also attached.

Are you itching to learn more about Lovers in Their Right Minds? Check out their Twitter and Facebook pages to see pictures, updates and more.

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Want More From JUST ADD COLOR? Read COLORBLOCK Magazine!

JUST ADD COLOR is in the process of growing in 2016, and one of the ways we’re doing that is by creating COLORBLOCK Magazine, a monthly magazine that features more of the content JUST ADD COLOR has already—analyzing how race and culture are perceived in entertainment, and how those messages affect how we see ourselves.

The latest issue of COLORBLOCK Magazine is a recap of the Oscars, which was a mixed bag, to be honest. From the racist jokes to addressing stereotypes in film, to #OscarsSoWhite and more, this issue of COLORBLOCK hits some of the biggest moments from before, during, and after the Oscars.

colorblock-March 2016-ad

Here’s a bit from one of the magazine’s articles, “Lesson Providers and Tragic Figures: How The Revenant Reflects Hollywood’s Objectification of Characters of Color”:

Would you believe that Oscar film The Revenant has something in common with No Escape? Even though the film has been praised for its technical prowess and stellar acting, the Leonardo DiCaprio starrer has been called out on the story still following an old Hollywood trope: having a story involving non-white characters revolve around white leads.

Gyasi Ross wrote for The Huffington Post that the DiCaprio’s lead time in the movie could have been ceded to some of Native actors in the film. Comparing DiCaprio to Marlon Brando, who allowed Sacheen Littlefeather to speak to Native American sentiments at the Oscars, Ross wrote, “it would have been cool if [DiCaprio] surrendered that space for Native people to have some agency.”

Ross goes onto say that while The Revenant successfully strove for historical accuracy, it doubles down on the “white savior” trope that plagues many Hollywood films.

You can read the latest issue by clicking the link in the sidebar as well as clicking right here. You can also read past issues in the archive. If you love what you’ve read, make sure you leave me a comment, either on Twitter @moniqueblognet and @COLORwebmag, Facebook, or at ISSUU and share with your friends! These people did:

I’d love for you to read, share, and support!

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Three Reasons Why People Have a Problem with Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone

This is a story that’s been a big dread of mine to write. Not because the issues are hard for me to understand; far from the contrary. I just didn’t want to watch the trailer for this movie. What movie am I talking about? Nina, the beleaguered movie about Nina Simone starring Zoe Saldana and David Oyelowo.

Nina made tons of folks mad a few years ago, when it was in production, and now it’s making folks mad again now that the film is coming to Digital HD and VOD April 22. First, let’s take a look at the poster and the trailer, and see if you can figure out what might be at fault here.

Ealing Studios/IMDB
Ealing Studios/IMDB

Let’s also take a look at the storyline, which takes a story that has been refuted by Nina Simone’s estate and her daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly:

The story of the late jazz musician and classical pianist Nina Simone including her rise to fame and relationship with her manager Clifton Henderson. (IMDB)

And for a fair comparison, let’s look at the real Nina Simone, both talking and singing:

And here are some actresses discussing their feelings about the film. If you’ll notice, every one of the actresses gives a huge sigh before answering the question, showing how difficult a position it is to take on a film like this that intersects the issues of diversity in film as well as colorism in Hollywood.

Okay, so why are people upset? We can boil it down to three reasons:

1. Hollywood’s colorism

We hear a lot about diversity as a whole, but one of the most open secrets in Hollywood along with a lack of diversity is a focus on colorism. What’s colorism? Let’s use the Racebending. com definition, since it’s the most succinct one I’ve found in a while.

“Colorism is a form of discrimination in which people are accorded differing social and economic treatment based on skin color. Colorism occurs occurs across the world and can occur within an ethnic group or between different ethnic groups. In most entertainment industries—including Hollywood—lighter skin tone is given preferential treatment and [a] darker skin tone is considered less desirable. Oftentimes, heroes are cast with lighter skin and villains are cast with darker skin.”

As the definition states, Hollywood is rife with colorism, particularly when it comes to African American and Latina roles. Colorism affects not only limits the types of roles certain women are given, but it also makes young women who watch film and television feel like their skin tone makes them ugly and a pariah of society.

It’s not lost on quite a few that Saldana, through no fault of her own, fits neatly into Hollywood’s Eurocentric-laden idea of “black beauty.”

Evidence of this can be seen in Saldana’s acting career itself; more often than not, Saldana has played exoticized love interests, whether she’s in her own skin or not (such as her roles in Avatar and Guardians of the Galaxy). Even in a film role like the title role of Columbiana, her character is sexualized to an unnecessary degree.

Damon Young from The Root examines Hollywood’s usage of Saldana’s beauty in his article, “Why People Are Upset That Zoe Saldana Is Playing Nina Simone, Explained”:

“…Saldana has had a very successful run as the primary love interest in blockbuster movies. Much of this success is undoubtedly due to her acting chops, professionalism and versatility. But also, it can’t be denied that Saldana possesses certain physical features that allow her to exist within Hollywood’s general standard of beauty. In fact, she doesn’t just exist within the standard. She might be the standard. And she’s such an attractive choice for these types of roles because she fills two boxes: the diversity box and an unrealistically attractive woman….Nina Simone, however, did not exist within this standard. She possessed features more commonly associated with black women. In fact, much of her work was centered on this. It’s a vital part of her story.”

Of course, Saldana isn’t the one to blame for Hollywood using her beauty as a way to keep colorism in check. Hollywood has to gather itself to deal with the fact that it does discriminate against darker-hued women, and that its practices affect people’s self-esteem. Some examples of colorism’s negative effects:

• “…When you do see a woman of color onscreen, the paper-bag test is still very much alive and kicking. That’s the whole racial aspect of colorism: If you are darker than a paper bag, then you are not sexy, you are not a woman, you shouldn’t be in the realm of anything that men should desire. And in the history of television and even film, I’ve never seen a character like Annalise Keating played by someone who looks like me.” —Viola Davis with The Wrap

• “To be very honest, I had to leave Hollywood because as a young child, it didn’t seem to flourish [in] my mind very well. Coming here from the islands, I didn’t even know that I was dark skinned there wasn’t a color issue in my head. I always thought I was beautiful. It wasn’t until I got in Hollywood that I started understanding there were dark-skinned blacks and light-skinned blacks and there were roles for this character and roles for that character based on a color. I left Hollywood, and in the process of leaving it, it helped me develop myself into a woman.” –The Color Purple‘s Desreta Jackson with The Grio

• “When I was like 5 years old I used to pray to have light skin because I would always hear how pretty that little light skin girl was, or I would hear I was pretty ‘to be dark skinned.’ It wasn’t until I was 13 that I really learned to appreciate my skin color and know that I was beautiful.” -Keke Palmer at the Hollywood Confidential Panel

• The original casting call for Straight Outta Compton was laced with colorism, calling for “fine girls” who are “light-skinned”, while darker-skinned girls were “poor, not in good shape.” The “hottest of the hottest” girls had to have their real hair (the other girls could wear weave; the hair discrimination is yet another level that needs to be discussed at a later time), and could be “black, white, asian, hispanic, mid eastern, or mixed race too.” The unspoken thought was that only truly beautiful girls have their own hair and can be of any race, but, even with the mention of black women in the “hottest of the hottest” section, it’s still implied that to be especially beautiful as a black person, you have to be light-skinned.

So what does this have to do with Saldana playing Nina Simone? Primarily because Saldana had to be darkened up to play Simone while there were many other actresses, actresses with darker skin tones and a more Afrocentric beauty, to play Simone. In short, the film’s cast didn’t need to put Saldana in horrible prosthetics and makeup to get her to that point of mimicking Saldana’s Afrocentric beauty; they could have simply cast someone who actually looked closer to Simone from the beginning. Since we don’t have the clear reasoning as to why Saldana was cast, most have assumed that Hollywood’s preference for casting lighter skin tones had something to do with it. Having Saldana play a woman who was all about promoting the beauty of darker skin and wider features runs counter to Simone’s work. To sum it up, here’s what Simone Kelly said in 2012 to the New York Times about Saldana getting cast as Simone:

“My mother was raised at a time when she was told her nose was too wide, her skin was too dark. Appearance-wise this is not the best choice.”

2. Fear that Saldana and the Nina crew didn’t understand Nina Simone’s basis for her art

As stated above, Simone’s work was all about blackness, in particular exalting dark-skinned, Afrocentric beauty. None of this means that Saldana is somehow not “black enough”. But, what people are saying is that Saldana’s casting blocks other women of color who are better suited to the role, and the colorism at the root of that blockage is what Simone was fighting against with her art.

What has made people even more on edge about Saldana playing Simone is that some feel Saldana doesn’t understand (or want to understand) the issues of race in America. Saldana has been taken to task for her comments about how “there is no such thing as people of color.” Technically, what Saldana was attempting to say is that people should be judged on their own merits, not by the racial constructs set up by society, but her point came across to some as her wanting to be “colorblind.” Saldana’s comments are referenced in this Essence article, “Why Zoe Saldana As Nina Simone Doesn’t Work,” by Josie Pickens:

“My argument against Whites making a film about badass, radical black omen like Nina Simone–and an actress who sometimes identifies as Afro-Latina (but most times claims not to see or understand color) portraying her–is that quite frankly, we cannot afford the luxury of letting another one of our heroes be recast as some gentler, more digestible version of themselves. …The casting of Nina was intentional, as the casting was intentional in the film Gods of Egypt and countless other films attempting to tell Black stories through anti-Black lenses.”

The “Whites” Pickens could have been referring to are the team behind Nina, which is predominately white. Jezebel posted pictures of the crew, and while they didn’t put commentary with the photos, its implied that the crew didn’t know what pitfalls they were falling into because of a probable lack of awareness of black issues, or even the many different types of black beauty.

Singer India Arie said it best in her interview with Business Insider when addressing how Simone looks in the film:

“It made me sad. The way she looked in the movie was ugly. Whether or not Nina Simone was beautiful in your eyes, I thought she was beautiful. But in this movie, she just looked weird. Her skin looked weird, and her nose looked weird. It made me wonder, was that how the filmmakers see how her? Did they not think she was beautiful? Were they like, ‘Yeah, we got it! That’s how she looked.'”

(However, it’s worth noting that the director of the film, Cynthia Mort, has sued the film’s production company, saying that she doesn’t like the film that was ultimately created—a film that was going to focus on Simone’s artistry and activism. Her suit claims, according to The Hollywood Reporter, that the production company acted to “frustrate Mort’s involvement in the film, thereby breaching the Director Agreement.” Such frustrations include edits to the film and a lack of communication of those edits to Mort.)

3. It just looks bad

I don’t think I need to explain this one with a long paragraph. The makeup, the accent, the story, and everything else about it just looks off, to say the absolute least about it. Just take a look at the poster and trailer again and compare it to actual video of Simone to see what I’m writing about.

Okay, the film’s bad. But how much flack does Zoe Saldana deserve?

There’s been some issue as to how much of the blame is on Saldana and how much of it is on the Hollywood filmmaking process itself. There’s two schools of thought; that the actress should know when and when not to take a role and that Hollywood has to remove itself from its Eurocentric way of thinking about race, color, and racial/ethnic representation as a whole. The debate is compounded with the fact that Saldana is Afro-Latina, and as a member of the African diaspora, many feel like she should be given the chance to play a black legend.

As the actresses in the video stated above, Saldana is a fine actress. The critiques about the film aren’t directly about her as her own person, but how Hollywood has kept its colorism ceiling in check when it comes to which black actresses can play which character. But it’s hard to critique the film without some believing that Saldana’s blackness, and the blackness of all light-skinned black people, are in question.

Blackness should never be in question. What is in question is the lack of responsibility involved when it came to making a film that properly represented Simone, her art, and her message, which revolved primarily around colorism and racism. Seeing Saldana in what is effectively blackface (or as Arie called it, “black(er) face”), goes slap in the face of Simone’s message. Even without the colorism angle, there should have been a responsibility to not make a film that would dull down Simone’s legacy to just a story based on the rumor of a romance between her and her manager, a rumor that’s been repeatedly refuted by Simone’s own people.

Again, it can all be boiled down to two points. First, Simone Kelly’s assessment to Time of Saldana and her part in the film:

“It’s unfortunate that Zoe Saldana is being attacked so ficiously when she is someone who is part of a larger picture. It’s clear she brought her best to this project, but unfortunately she’s being attacked when she’s not responsible for any of the writing or the lies.”

And second, Arie’s comments to Business Insider:

Zoe has said that playing Nina Simone is her truth. Does she deserve any of this blame?

I don’t know her and I don’t think she did anything wrong. If I were in her shoes and I admired Nina Simone the way that I hear she does, I would have said yes, too, and I don’t even think I can act. If they asked me to sing Nina Simone, I got that. But I never pursued it because I felt it was not my place. And I don’t know if it was her place to do that.

I think they cast Zoe Saldana because they wanted a big name, but that makes me ask, ‘Is the name Nina Simone not big enough to get people to come to the movie?'”

What do you think of the Saldana-Simone movie controversy? Give your opinions in the comments section!

 

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10 of the Funniest Lines from “Gods of Egypt” Reviews

Gods of Egypt is already Hollywood’s first flop, but it’s more than that. It’s a rallying cry for those who know how important it is for whitewashing to end. (However, quiet as it’s kept, Gods of Egypt is also a rallying cry for those who just like good movies; have you seen the awful special effects?)

When a bad movie comes out, you can expect hilarious, gleefully-written reviews, and the reviews for Gods of Egypt have been no different. Here are just 10 of the funniest ones.

“It tries so hard…and ultimately achieves so little.” —Bilge Ebiri, Vulture

[W]hat raises Gods of Egypt above all other historically botched FX epics is the stupefying schlock of its visual effects, from Ra’s shoddy starship to the digital monsters that take shape lie something out of Video [Apps] for Dummies. Come back, Clash of the Titans, all is forgiven. —Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

“In all honesty, the highlight of this two hour dumpster fire is Horus yelling, “IT’S LETTUCE!” at the top of his lungs because it’s as if the film is recognizing how ridiculous all of this is. “—Chris Sawin, Examiner

“Here is a film about Egyptian gods, where the entire primary cast is white, except for a token appearance by Chadwick Boseman I can only imagine the producers could never have predicted their release date would coincide with Oscar weekend, where the diversity issue has taken Hollywood by storm. That said, a diverse cast could not have saved this train wreck.”—Julian Roman, MovieWeb

“When the first trailer for Gods of Egypt emerged last year, it seemed to have the opposite of its intended effect: It advertised how bad the movie was going to be.”—Peter Suderman, Vox

“The movie most likely to be airburshed onto the side of a van…is so ridiculously outlandish that it couldn’t possibly be tied to anything in reality, so it’s unfortunate that it borrowed a real place as a loose setting.”—Katie Walsh, The Columbus Dispatch

“As one character puts it, “If I ever attempted to explain, your brain would liquefy and run out of your ears.”—Kyle Smith, New York Post

“If Gods of Egypt had been set against a mystical backdrop not based in reality, it might have been easier to forgive the fact that its gods are essentially Iron Man mixed with Power Rangers.”—Terri Schwartz, IGN

“Imagine the worst costume epic imaginable. Imagine no more. It exists.”—Soren Andersen, The Seattle Times

“As the film totters to its predictable finale, the closing moments set up a sequel, a prospect far more terrifying than anything we’ve just seen.”—Anna King, Time Out 

If you saw Gods of Egypt, what did you think? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

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A Response to Deadline's Nellie Andreeva's Offensive "Ethnic Castings" Post

Deadline is dealing with a huge controversy thanks to one of its latest posts.

I was literally taken aback when I got on Twitter last night to find this parasitical article by Deadline’s Nellie Andreeva, with the lacking-tact title “Pilots 2015: The Year of Ethnic Castings-About Time or Too Much of a Good Thing?” (linked using donotlink so it won’t get the clicks).

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