I read a very good article at Slate.com about the lack of diversity in the Hollywood writing room. The article talks about how Hollywood is progressing when it comes to hiring actors of color in front of the screen. But apparently when it comes to the writers room it’s a different story.
On screen, things are looking up for people of color in the television industry. Thank the “Shonda Effect,” a term inspired by Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes’ commitment to casting people of color in lead roles in all of her hit shows. Hollywood has taken note of Rhimes’ ascendance, as well as her outspoken insistence on diversity in her work. The success of Scandal in particular—when it premiered in 2012, it was the first network drama with a black woman as its lead in nearly four decades—seems to have prompted a call for more stories centered around people of color. It’s safe to say that if it weren’t for Rhimes and her eclectic casts (and writers’ rooms), we would never have gotten so many shows rich with people of color on screen and off.
But the view behind the scenes is less encouraging. Setting aside the impressively diverse staffs of those few Rhimes and Rhimes-adjacent series, writers’ rooms, like the one Gray was in on Dog With a Blog, are still overwhelmingly white and male, as are the high-powered positions of showrunner and executive producer. A Writers’ Guild of America report released earlier this year noted that staff employment for people of color actually decreased between the 2011–12 season and 2013–14 season, from a peak of 15.6 percent to 13.7 percent. The number of executive producers of color also decreased in those seasons, from 7.8 percent to 5.5 percent. While the 2014–15 season may have seen those numbers increase thanks to the addition of a few shows with diverse casts, such sharp declines demonstrate how tenuous progress in Hollywood can be.
The article also mentions the struggles that different black writers have experienced in Hollywood, the different writing diversity programs available and the advantages of having writers of color on shows featuring a large number of minority actors and actresses.
The 1992 film Sister Act is getting a remake. Whoopi Gooldberg starred in the original Sister Act and Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit.
I guess Hollywood really is out of ideas. Why are movies that were originally released during the 1990’s getting remade? Sister Act isn’t the only movie getting a remake. The Craft which was released in 1996 is also getting a remake. The original starred Fairuza Balk, Robin Tunney, Rachel True and Neve Campbell.
The “Sister Act” remake is just one in a stream of remakes that Hollywood has in the works. Last month, we learned that the 1996 cult-classic “The Craft,” would get a modern makeover, and of course there is “Blade Runner,” “Gremlins,” “Police Academy,” “It” and not one, but two “Ghostbusters,” reboots. (At least one of those movies will include an all female cast, which is you know, something different).
Gremlins and Ghostbusters? Did creativity go out the window in Hollywood? Seems like Hollywood was always coming up with new ideas during the 80’s and 90’s. Nowadays it’s like pick a movie from the 80’s or 90’s, rework the original story and bam you have a 80’s or 90’s classic remade for the 21st century. I guess in the next year or so we will hear about remakes for Pulp Fiction, The Matrix and The Silence of the Lambs 😦
Read an excellent article at The Root by Kirsten West Savali titled Why Do All the Superheroes Have To Be White and All The Thugs Black? She talks about the casting of actor Michael B. Jordan who was cast as Johnny Storm (The Human Torch) in the upcoming Marvel film Fantastic Four. Michael B. Jordan starred in the critically acclaimed film Fruitvale Station based on the real life story of Oscar Grant who was fatally shot by a BART police officer. I first laid eyes on him in HBO’s The Wire.
Michael’s casting as Johnny Storm has caused controversy amongst Marvel fans because Johnny Storm is white. Some white folks don’t take too kindly to their white superhero characters being portrayed by black actors.
It seems as if some white people have had a deep investment in the “white superhero” since the creation of blond-haired, blue-eyed Jesus, and now that noxious narcissism has spilled over into pushback against Marvel’s Fantastic Four.
Michael B. Jordan, who rose to fame portraying 22-year-old Oscar Grant in 2013’s Fruitvale Station, has been tapped to play Johnny Storm (“the Human Torch”) in the popular film franchise. Since the news broke, racist trolls, mostly white men, have come out of the woodwork in comment sections and on social media, decrying the lack of “authenticity” of a black Storm. He must remain blond-haired and blue-eyed, or else. Because, clearly, no little white boy feverishly reading his comic books under the covers with a flashlight dreams of one day being a powerful black man, right?
Ms. Savali also goes on to discuss how the media has portrayed blacks in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore. But what really caught my eye was when she mentioned how CNN actually had an article about the one of the 2 black bikers in the Waco Shootout.
This dogged determination to negatively stereotype black people—first in Ferguson, Mo., then in Baltimore—has become craftier in recent weeks. In the Waco, Texas, “Wild West” shootout between rival biker gangs, esteemed outlets such as CNN went out of their way to profile one African-American biker out of 170 men arrested, the vast majority of them white.
You mean to tell me that out of all the bikers who were arrested at the Waco Shootout CNN could only talk about one of the 2 black bikers? Really? They might as well have written an article about the other black biker.
An ex-vice detective who embraced the culture of a reputed outlaw biker gang.
A 62-year-old who posts images of his ailing mother with her pooch in one Facebook post and raunchy sex jokes in the next.
A man who poses alongside his son, middle finger to the air, then lauds his work with special needs children and extols the blessing of healthy grandchildren.
Much like the black-and-white goatee he has been rocking since at least 2013, Marty Lewis represents a dichotomy.
Lewis is one of the 170 bikers arrested and charged with engaging in organized criminal activity after a brawl and shootout at a Waco, Texas, restaurant left nine bikers dead. He remained in the McLennan County Jail on Wednesday with many of his biker brethren, unable to post the $1 million bail set by a judge.
Yes he was an ex vice cop. So what. Why did CNN focus only on Mr. Lewis? What about the other bikers/thugs who were arrested? Not one white biker was interesting enough for CNN do write about?
Ms. Savali coninues in her column about how Hollywood is steadfast in making every character in Hollywood white even when the movie is based on a person of color.
Typically, Hollywood executives will find a way to make a character white—accuracy be damned. We’ve seen it with Angelina Jolie as Mariane Pearl in A Mighty Heart, Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra and the whitewashing of the Exodus cast, because who cares about geography when there is a prime opportunity to paint black characters as the thugs of Mesopotamia.
I blogged about the whitewashing of the movie 21 in 2008. The main characters in that real life story were Asian Americans yet Hollywood as usual cast white actors in the lead role. Of course the reasoning was to bring in more folks to the movie theaters cause who wants to see Asian Americans in leading roles? Do people who complain about their favorite white superheroes being portrayed by black actors ever complain about Hollywood whitewashing? I doubt it. You will see plenty of comments about how Hollywood is all about making money. As Ms. Savali says “accuracy be damned.”
Actress Chelsea Harris wrote a very good article about how Hollywood is slowly accepting black actresses wearing their natural hair instead of weaves. Ms. Harris talks about her experiences in Hollywood when it comes to her hair.
It’s no secret that television is more diverse than ever, with more roles written exclusively for non-Caucasian actors and more actors of color cast in traditionally white roles. In tandem with the so-called pendulum of ethnic casting, I’ve witnessed a more subtle (though also long overdue) change: the acceptance of natural hair on actresses of color.
It wasn’t always this way. Hollywood taught me to hate my tiny, kinky corkscrew curls long before I started working there. I grew up in the South during a time when natural hair was considered “nappy,” and my mother would religiously take me to the salon every six weeks to get my kinky new growth smoothed out. I genuinely didn’t know any other way. I’d never seen a sophisticated lady with natural hair before. I wanted to look like Tyra Banks, Gabrielle Union, and Tia and Tamera Mowry, who all had long, straight, luxurious locks.
When I moved to Los Angeles at age 15, I was lucky to become a series regular on the Nickelodeon show Just Jordan. At the time, my hair was shoulder length, pressed, and my own. Producers decided my character needed the classic long hair extensions and, to a certain extent, they were right. My character was a model, and an African-American model in 2006 wouldn’t have had any look but that. Even at my auditions, everyone’s hair looked the same: silky-straight and Europe-grown.
I remember watching an episode of How Get Away With Murder when Viola Davis took off her wig. That was a very powerful move to take place on television.
Check out Chelsea’s article here at Buzz Feed.
A picture of the cast of Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf has been released.
I first saw the picture in the current issue of Essence Magazine. The film is one of those once in a blue moon releases that features black actresses in starring roles. The cast includes Kerry Washington, Anika Noni Rose, Whoopi Goldberg, Thandie Newton, Janet Jackson, Loretta Devine, Phylicia Rashad, Kimberly Elise and Tessa Thompson.
Tyler Perry wrote, produced and directed the movie. And that’s where the controversy begins. When it was first announced that this movie would be in Tyler Perry’s hands some folks weren’t happy. Some black folks have a problem with Tyler’s films so they’re expecting the worse with For Colored Girls. Lionsgate, which is releasing the film has changed the release date from January 2011 to November 2010. Looks like Lionsgate is thinking about awards season.
You can check out the article here. Vogue.com has the edited version of Halle’s interview online. You will have to buy the magazine to read the entire interview.
Actresses over 40 years old will dominate magazine covers for the month of September. 43-year-old Halle Berry (she turns 44 on Saturday) will grace the cover of Vogue, 41-year-old Jennifer Anniston will grace the cover of Harper’s Bazaar and 42-year-old Julia Roberts will grace the cover of Elle.
NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) – When the September issues of fashion magazines — typically their biggest of the year, ad-wise — hit newsstands this month, the three most prestigious ones will feature actresses in their 40s on the cover.
Vogue has booked Halle Berry, who turns 44 on Saturday; Harper’s Bazaar will have 41-year-old Jennifer Aniston, promoting “The Switch”; and Elle has landed 42-year-old Julia Roberts, promoting her new film, “Eat Pray Love.”
Putting these actresses on the cover of arguably the most important issue of the year sends a message that though we live in a youth-obsessed culture, there’s still something to be said for the enduring appeal of women who have been in the public eye for nearly 20 years.
The article goes on to state the reasons why these women are more relatable than their 30 and under counterparts.
“They’re cool, fashionable, interesting, compelling — they have something to say,” Brown said. “I love that they’ve grown into their style. One of the things about getting older is you do grow into your sense of self. You don’t look victim-y anymore.”
Lesley Jane Seymour, editor of More magazine, which is targeted to women in their 40s and older, echoed that sentiment.
“They’re the ones with real style, real staying power, real beauty,” said Seymour, who previously edited Marie Claire. “As the American population continues to grow older, everyone can relate better to a woman with a little wear on her tires.”
Plus, she added, “Who is there with any kind of real style or longevity in their 30s or 20s right now? Britney Spears? Kim Kardashian? These are flashes in the pan. Many are shallow reality stars like Snooki. Style icon? Um, talk to me in a year. Frankly, it’s here today, gone tomorrow. Lindsay Lohan? What’s to look up to?”
Can someone tell me when the 15 minutes will be up for Kim Kardashian and Snooki? I’m so tired of hearing about them.
Check out the entire article here.
I was checking out Racialicious and saw this post about a Fade In Magazine article, Minority Report: Liberal Hollywood’s Dirty Little Secret. We all know about so called liberal Hollywood. After reading this article, it all comes to light as to why television and film is pretty much dominated by white males and why quality scripted television shows with a predominantly black cast have pretty much disappeared from network television. People of color are still on television, but we’re pretty much relegated to supporting characters with a few lines thrown in or we’re just there looking like we’re a part of the furniture. And let’s not forget the whitewashing that goes on in film.
Check out some of the comments from folks who work in Hollywood:
Screenwriter “Hollywood’s not liberal. That is such an oxymoron; such a joke. There are so many things… I don’t even know where to begin, because it’s so pinned up, because you have to control it. One of the things that Hollywood, along with society, has successfully done is blame the victim. You’re the victim of racism, but they blame you if you say anything. You will never be able to get behind a computer again in your life.
“Hollywood is anything but liberal. I call them liberal bigots. Hollywood is filled with liberal bigots, and they use the thing of being liberal as a reason for being bigoted, for if they’d listen to themselves talk, and listen to their friends talk, they would find that they tell way too many black jokes, ethnic jokes.”
Screenwriter “I wrote a very celebrated movie. I busted my ass, worked hard. I would meet with the director from nine o’clock in the morning – to talk, not to write – until about twelve or one o’clock in the morning. Now, it took that long, because he was on the phone, all of the time, chitchatting with his friends. It should have been a shorter meeting. Then I would write until two or three o’clock in the morning. I finish the script and do all of this work, and then him and another white guy lie and say they wrote it! And white Hollywood believed them over me. I couldn’t fight it, because if I tried to fight it, if I were to scream racism, I’m done. He did something on the set that pushed me to the point as a man where I could have kicked his ass. Then what would have happened is the owners would have been on me: ‘Violent black writer loses his temper and beats up white director.’ Even though all of Hollywood knows that this guy is a jerk.
“Then I had to go through the whole shame of going to meetings where people were asking me, ‘So did you really write this? Can we see samples of other stuff you did?’ Even though this guy has never written anything that they can point to and go, ‘Oh, well, he’s written this.’ Since then, he hasn’t written anything, but because he was white… He said in the arbitration letter, ‘I didn’t want anybody to know my efforts were being done because I didn’t want to undermine Mr. [name withheld].’ Can you believe that? I literally cried when I read the arbitration letter. So he played the affirmative action card, [claiming] that I was an affirmative action writer. There are whites in this town who still to this day believe that this white man [wrote the script].”
I wonder who this mystery screenwriter is? I would be pissed off if some idiot took credit for my script.
Screenwriter “I went to a meeting at Warner Bros., with a producer and a director and an exec. I’m sitting there, and I’m a black writer going to write about this black guy. I won’t say what he did, because that’d give away who it was. So before the meeting started, the three white guys started telling towelhead jokes: ‘This towelhead this, this towelhead that.’ And I’m sitting there listening to them tell these towelhead jokes. The Warner Bros. exec started it, and then the producer and this director chimed in on it. I couldn’t believe this was taking place. I didn’t say a word; you know I’m not going to say an N-word joke or tell a towelhead joke because I’m next. So I’m listening to this. Then, afterwards, they then start talking about this black project, which I had no interest in pitching, because I thought, ‘You’re some of the most insincere sons of bitches I ever met in my life’ – motherfuckers is the better word. I had another life before I became a writer, and I’d never heard any shit like this before. I probably gave them one of the most insincere pitches I ever gave in my life because I didn’t want to be a part of [anything with] these three assholes. I couldn’t believe they were doing it. It was totally unnecessary.”
Producer “I remember when I produced my very first movie. I was sitting in a room with a very famous director and his development staff. I was the only female in the room, and I kept making suggestions to cut different scenes, [like] one too many funerals. And I was completely ignored. Cut to this very famous director. He would say the same exact thing that I had said, not even a minute after I said it. And everyone at the meeting would be like, ‘Oh, yes. Good idea. That’s what we should do!’ It was like I never said it. I was invisible. I don’t know if that was sexism, but it sure felt like it. My opinion didn’t matter. Why was I talking?
“So there are those instances, and then there are other scenarios where I’ve had many projects, in particular dramas, that either told black history or featured black actors. It’s virtually impossible to get them made unless they’re comedies. So sexism and racism exist, and Hollywood is hypocritical. I don’t know if it will ever change, sadly. How many female directors do you see out there? How many female producers? There’re a few, but not very many. You see what they do to actresses after a certain age, and what they do to any project that stars an actress. Those films are very hard to get made. The only instance where things have changed with respect to black films is if and when they find a way to make money off of them. Then all they want is that particular kind of film.
“A lot of times I don’t think that the upper echelon of Hollywood are leaders but followers, because they always follow what makes money, and that’s due to the corporatization of the business. What makes money is typically these franchises and testosterone-filled movies based on games. Only when they see something profit do they think, ‘Oh, we should make more movies like that.’ So the reality is that people came out for Obama. If they came out for films, good films instead of just shit films, or the films that have the most marketing, then maybe these other films would have a chance. But they don’t. They don’t come out for movies that feature women, they don’t come out and support or champion films that are directed or produced by women. So until such a time that there’s a revolution, like there just was, then I don’t really see it changing.”
Executive “The television industry is much more homogenous than the film industry. And someone needs to talk about it. Look at who’s coming up in the rank and file. There’s no one, when it comes to executives and when it comes to writers. Why’s Shonda Rhimes such a big story? Because she’s one of two thousand writers in the Guild that are working, that are showrunner level. I love the way agents pitch black writers in their cover letters… They’re always ‘urban writers,’ even if they grew up in suburbia. It’s so insulting.”
Director “Nobody has sort of blatantly been racist to me in the room. I’m a big African-American male who’s known to have a volatile sort of disposition, so people don’t really tend to do that shit to me in the room because I’ll punch a motherfucker out. People have said shit to me that I consider racist – not really racist, but you know the way they value the picture… ‘Black films have no foreign value, they’re only good for this amount.’
“You try to get done what you can, but what you sort of have to remember is that even people like Will Smith or Denzel Washington fought tremendously hard to get to where they’re at. You’ve got to remember, there’s only one of them, and there’s millions of us, so they do what they can. Like The Secret Life of Bees. They were instrumentally involved in that picture getting made. But name another movie this year where you have four black women in it. There ain’t even any other pictures made with four black men in it. Well, Miracle at St. Anna. OK? That’s not the way it works. They make whatever becomes hot. The problem is getting someone to take a chance. Back when they did Boyz n the Hood, they kept wanting to make that type of picture. Now that Tyler Perry is doing these other types of pictures that are garnering money, they only make that type of picture. It’s the same as the old sort of argument. Is Hollywood racist? Absolutely. Can I point to any one specific thing? No. It’s societal. It’s so ingrained in the fabric of it that you can’t really put your finger on it. Do they limit the budgets of African-American pictures? Absolutely. You almost start at a disadvantage.”
I was reading this article on the subway last week and all I could do was shake my head in disgust. I feel sorry for women and folks of color who have to put up with this nonsense. And you thought things were bad in the corporate world for regular folks. I remember reading an interview by a black actress a few years ago who stated that Hollywood seems to be the only place where folks who do the hiring when it comes to casting tv shows and movies can actually get away with saying we’re not hiring any blacks, latinos or asians.
Anyway this is just a snippet of the quotes in that article. Check out this link to read the entire article and you might have to buy the magazine to read it in it’s entirety since at the bottom of the article it states that to read more of the article subscribe here. You can buy Fade In Magazine at Barnes & Noble and Borders Bookstore. Look for actor Daniel Craig on the cover of this issue.
As usual liberal Hollywood is at it again. Last year I blogged about how they whitewashed the film 21. This film was based on a true story in which Asian Americans were the real life leading characters but liberal Hollywood decided to cast white actors in the leading roles instead. Well this time it’s happening to a film that’s directed by an Indian American. According to this article there’s a new film coming out titled The Last Airbender which is directed by M. Night Shyamalan. This film is the live action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Columnist Kim Voynar gives a quick rundown of the story from her column, Yellow-facing and White-washing: The Racial Issues Raised by the Casting of The Last Airbender:
Avatar: The Last Airbender, the television series, is heavily Asian-themed. For those who aren’t into Avatar, here’s a quick rundown of the basic story: In the Avatar world, civilization is divided into four separate groups: Earth, Water, Air and Fire, with each nation’s social structure built around its dominant element. Each nation has “benders” who can manipulate their tribe element martial-arts style, and then there is one Avatar each generation who has the ability to bend all four elements, but who has to learn to bend the elements that are not his by birthright (with the element opposite the Avatar’s birthright being the most challenging to learn). There are a lot of Eastern spiritual elements (particulary Hindu) interwoven into the story, including the ability of the Avatar to call on the knowledge of all past Avatars, which resides within him, the opening of chakras, and concepts around reincarnation (really, come to think of it, I’m surprised the religious right hasn’t been all over this show for its “non-Christian” elements).
Despite the fact that this story is heavily Asian themed liberal Hollywood has decided to cast the four leading characters with white actors. The fourth actor has dropped out and replaced by Indian actor Dev Patel from Slumdog Millionaire. The four original white actors weren’t exactly household names so the casting folks and producers can’t give the lame excuse of they have to hire well known white actors to open a film. Some Asian Americans and hard core Avatar fans are fuming over the casting of this film and I don’t blame them. You mean to tell me liberal Hollywood can’t find an Asian American actor or actress anywhere to cast for the leading roles in this film?
The columnist also mentions this:
I was talking all this over with an Asian-American friend the other day who posited that perhaps Hollywood doesn’t take the concerns Asian-Americans raise about the white-washing of Asian roles seriously because Asians are stereotypically perceived by many white Americans as being submissive, polite and complacent (“Oh sure, they’ll complain on their blogs about it, but no one reads them anyhow except other Asian-Americans … they’ll get over if we toss Bai Ling in there somewhere … have the screenwriter add an evil, sex-crazed hooker into the story.”). She might have a point.
Maybe it’s about time Asian Americans started speaking up.
Hollywood’s a tough business with an eagle eye on the box office bottom line, and the attitude toward race in casting decisions isn’t likely to change until Asian-Americans band together to show Hollywood shirts the financial impact their united weight can bear by boycotting films they feel white-wash Asian parts, and supporting those that do cast Asian actors in lead roles.
It’s 2009, folks. We have an African-American man in the highest elected office of our country. Can’t we have an adaptation of an Asian-themed series with actual Asian actors playing the lead roles?
You can also check out It’s not a post-racial Hollywood at Daily Herald.com which also talks about this film’s casting.
A year or so ago there was much fanfare over the new Disney film The Princess and The Frog: An American Fairy Tale. This Disney film would become the first to ever have a black princess.
When Disney announced it was casting its first black princess for its latest animation film, the African-American heroine was hailed as a positive role model for little girls and an ambitious marketing ploy, not to mention an attempt to ward off the allegations of racism that have lurked since the heyday of Walt Disney Productions in the 1940s and 1950s.
But now the film studio finds itself fending off a chorus of accusations of racial stereotyping in its forthcoming big-budget cartoon, The Princess and The Frog: An American Fairy Tale, which marks a return to hand-drawn animation.
A musical set in 1920s New Orleans, the film was supposed to feature Maddy, a black chambermaid working for a spoilt, white Southern debutante. Maddy was to be helped by a voodoo priestess fairy godmother to win the heart of a white prince, after he rescued her from the clutches of a voodoo magician.
But there were issues about this film from some in the black community. Some black folks took issue with her name. Her name was originally Maddy. Some folks thought it was too close to the name Mammy. Huh, you say? Yeah I know. As the article states:
Disney’s original storyboard is believed to have been torn up after criticism that the lead character was a clichéd subservient role with echoes of slavery, and whose name sounded too much like “Mammy” – a unwelcome reminder of America’s Deep South before the civil rights movement swept away segregation.
The heroine has been recast as Tiana, a 19-year-old in a country that has never had a monarchy. She is now slated to live “happily ever after” with a handsome fellow who is not black – with leaks suggesting that he will be of Middle Eastern heritage and called Naveen. The race of the villain in the cartoon is reported to have also been revised.
The film studio began making changes a year ago, first to its title, The Frog Princess, which some had interpreted as a slur. Amendments to the plot followed.
I saw nothing wrong with the name Maddy. For some it’s short for Madison or Madeline. Oh well. So the name has been changed to Tiana. Wait a minute. You mean no one has complained that Tiana sounds too much like Tijuana? The movie title has changed too. It was originally titled The Frog Princess. Some were offended by that title. Well now according to The Internet Movie Database and Wikipedia the movie is called The Princess & The Frog.
I remember reading about this movie when word got out that Disney was doing a movie about its first black princess. But the comments from some black folks were unbelievable. Comments about the name of the main character, the main character being a chambermaid (the movie takes place during the 1920’s, not 2007) and the fact that her prince wasn’t black (god forbid a black woman fall in love with a man who ain’t black, despite the fact that there are more interracial marriages between black men and white women than vice versa). Anyway I’m glad to see that they’re continuing with the film despite the complaints. After all this Disney might not create another film starring black folks, animated or non-animated, since we are some hard to please folks.
Check out this previous article about the movie from 2007, Princess Maddy repairs Disney’s racist reputation.