Friday, October 3, 2008

Is Black Actress An Oxymoron? When Will Black Women Get Fed Up With Being Marginalized In Love and Life?

Just remember if you see a drowning person be careful how you try to assist them lest they drag you undertow.

I was watching yesterday's Oprah episode which featured the cast of the movie adaptation of the book, "The Secret Life of Bees". Ok that was a long sentence. I tend to be somewhat cerebral and am therefore wordy. Work with me people! 

My heart swelled with pride at all the visions of loveliness on Oprah's couch. Oh and the talented Dakota Fanning was there too, but really it was the various shades of brown and the body shapes that had me moved. The hips, the lips, the breasts, the smiles, the teeth. I bet they smelled good too! Everybody wants to buy what we are usually endowed with naturally! It's not that these women are more special than so many others. It's just that these women are not represented as the norm, but the exception

So this may come as a bit of surprise but the better qualities of Black women are coveted and often appropriated by others for their benefit, while the source of all that deliciousness is often vilified or marginalized. What am I talking about you may ask?

Well, I had eagerly anticipated Chris Rock's latest comedy special feeling assured that I was going to LOL. Instead I wanted to wash my mouth out with soap as if I had let loose some litany of foulness myself instead of him. 

He attacked Black women as being domineering, greedy, castrating and unloving. He also talked way too much about his sexual proclivities as representation of all men and how women had better meet those standards or be left behind. I know he's married and we don't know what goes on behind closed doors, but his wife seems like a lovely woman to me. She ran a non-profit that assisted low income and formerly homeless back into the job market. 

So who is he talking about and what is his problem? Those rumors of marital discord are obviously true and he seemed to confirm it.  He alluded to being likely to be just as unhappy if he leaves his wife to start a new relationship with another woman. Either way - who cares? He's got plenty of money to take a 'time out' in the rubber room or clear up that chemical imbalance. I don't listen to or purchase songs that denigrate Black women and now it looks like I'll be tuning him out as well. 

And just for the record Chris - there are plenty of Black women who find white men very appealing! Or any man who considers us desirable and is of sound mind and body. You'd think if Black women were so horrid why would Black men care who we choose to be with so long as it's not them. That's part of the lie they want to continue to perpetrate, but more of us are catching on. 

I felt soooooo violated by his unfunny comedy routine and was thinking he would be best served by psychoanalysis not by trashing an entire group of women. You can't always look outwards and point fingers at what other people are doing (to you) without first checking yoself before you wreck yoself. Black women - heck ALL WOMEN - would do well to draw a line in the sand from men who clearly have unresolved internal issues and go grab a full life without them. 

It is telling that out of the four adult leads only one is known primarily as an actor. Queen Latifah started her career as an MC and now is an film executive producer amongst other endeavors in music and acting. "Set It Off" is still one of my favorite movies to this day. Alicia Keys, well you know who she is. Amazing! Jennifer Hudson went from American Idol cast-off where Simon Cowell (in)famously dissed her, to Oscar winner with her first acting role. 

You know Simon's attitude was so indicative of the narrow view held by some white men in positions of power who green light projects, offer music contracts, etc. They just don't get it. I bet you he still thinks she got 'lucky' or her success was an anomaly. Harrumph! 

Sophie Okonedo killed it in the Steven Frears movie "Dirty Pretty Things". That's also where I began my cinematic love affair with Chiwetel Ejiofor but he's been working non-stop since. I can list Serenity, Inside Man, Talk to Me, Children of Men and American Gangster just off the top of my head. Sophie's worked on a BBC/HBO drama (with him starring as her husband), Aeon Flux, Hotel Rwanda and now this. Have I missed anything? 

So many women in the entertainment industry have a variety of talent. It's just that much more challenging to get work when you are "Acting while Black and Female". They're about the go the route of the Begali tiger or the Do-Do Bird. Multi-career pursuit isn't just something to be done for fun money: it's going to help pay the rent period.  It's all about choices I know, but can't we follow our bliss? 

I haven't touched on the screenwriters, producers and directors and other behind the scene personnel. Where are they? The numbers are not remotely proportionate to others getting work in Hollywood. I wish Oprah had director Gina Prince By the Wood up there on the couch with the actresses too. I know she has some stories to tell!

Think about that the next time you slap down your $8-$12 for a film. Just like everything else that is out of balance and unfair, those that consume the products and prop up an industry have tremendous influence over what can get done IF it is demanded.  Black women especially need to be prudent buyers, look at alternate revenues or change course to get the lives we deserve. I'm not talking about driving a Benz, living in a McMansion or traveling to the Riviera. I'm talking about being safe, having a comfortable standard of living, a happy personal life and career that you feel contributes something to the world.

And it should not go unnoticed the Economic "Bailout" at $700B has suddenly become the Economic "Rescue" plan at $830B. Now if only Black women were so vigilantly protected that would be something, huh? 



Conservative Black Woman said...

Great post Faith. We will be waiting an eternity for Hollywood to give black women roles that aren't gross marginalizations of our womanhood and personhood. I'm sure there are excellent screenplay writers who have had wonderful projects rejected by the liberal hollywood machine. I think that things will change for us when blacks with power and money in hollywood take up that mantel. What does it profit hollywood to pander to us when we support them for marginalizing us?

Unknown said...

first time on your blog.. dope post.

What bothers me is that NO ONE introduces Jennifer Hudson as "beautiful"..
the sister is gorgeous...!

i mean she got skills, don't get me wrong.. but she is pretty too.

Faith at Acts of Faith Blog said...

Welcome CBW and BO!

Please feel free to stop by again.

I think the times are a-changing and as we start to expect more we will demand of ourselves and from others making whatever necessary changes to achieve that goal.

And yes JHud is very attractive! Oprah told her new(est) fiance to take good care of her.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

Last year an agent told me and the black female writer/director I was working with (as a producer) that black women had no value (in the market place). We were not happy. Halle can't be in every movie.

It is really tough out there for actresses period but for black actresses in film? Horrible.

Faith at Acts of Faith Blog said...

Hey NYC/Ragazza:

Yeah and that just pisses me off. Black people make up one third the movie going audience. So I'm gonna bring it back to us Black women. We don't demand anything for our participation. As the price of a ticket has increased I am very selective about what I'm going to spend $11 on. I used to see 2 movies per week - of course tickets were cheaper but there were more movies that had Black actresses starring and co-starring in them as well. You know Whitney Houston had a successful movie career. I still can't believe that. Whoopi Goldberg was once the highest paid actress in Hollywood period. A Black woman wrote the screenplay for Rain Man. I mean it's not like we're not there contributing. Tyler Perry filled a void initially but he's trying to block his writers from joining WGA. I also wonder why Robert De Nero has not stuck his neck out so to speak and done more since he has his romantic preferences. Has any of his current/ former gf or wives ever brought it up? I know I would have. This is turning into a post - because I have more to say about this. I wasn't sure if wanted to go there but these things need to be addressed.

Welcome said...

"I think that things will change for us when blacks with power and money in hollywood take up that mantel. What does it profit hollywood to pander to us when we support them for marginalizing us?"

I don't really think it will change too much. I even made a post about this at my blog Black Women Making Movies. Unless more bw become studio heads and execs it's not going to really change. It didn't really change when ww became execs. We ran our own industry (mostly bm)if you watch many of those movies bm could be as dark midnight, but the girl usually was light. I remember seeing race movies for the first time excited we had our own industry only to see some of the same crap that we complain Hollywood of doing when it came to colorism.

We can't expect anyone to tell our stories, but us or at least others who have our best interest at heart.

Faith at Acts of Faith Blog said...

Cool_Splash1: Hey thanks for responding to this post. It's been fun revisiting something I wrote 9 months ago!! Wow on so many personal levels reading this only reinforces for me how my disordered thinking was upended and breaking out of that false "black community" contract started longer than I had realized. Relief! I agree that we need to take the reigns and do our own projects. It's why I've been brushing up on my Photoshop, Flash, & Final Cut Pro skills amongst other things. We can build it. We have the technology. By the way I just saw Away We Go and I'm going to write a post about it and how it's really a black woman empowerment film in disguise. I will also check out your blog. Next time you leave a comment in one of my newer posts feel free to leave your link for my readers and lurkers!