As much as I’d like to make today’s post an extension of last week’s racist Halloween costume checklist by including entries such as, “Is this costume one of Oprah’s favorite things?” I think it’s best to say a word or two about the upcoming Nina Simone biopic.
Late last week, images of Zoe Saldana as Simone began circulating the internet. And they were even more cringe worthy than my pessimist self had been expecting. Saldana’s face looked as if the makeup artist had been practicing some sort of patchy blackface in anticipation of (racist-ass) Halloween or working under the incorrect assumption that Saldana was playing Al Jolson’s great-great-grand niece in a horror flick. I don’t know. What is clear, though, is that the pictures have given no one who cares any sort of “relief.” In fact, the pictures are now serving as the current target of our collective vitriol.
From what I can gather, the film-watching public who cares about this flick has unequivocally side-eyed, smh’d, and thrown every kind of shade at the decision to have Saldana play Simone. The only thing that might make folks more upset is if somebody’s mama was the current director and Tyler Perry had been chosen to replace her. After all, before Saldana, Mary J. Blige had been linked to the project. Now, it seems that we are so offended by Saldana that we’d gladly forget Blige’s little crispy chickeeen jingle if somehow she could take over the role of one of the illest racewomen ever.
Yet giving Saldana the role of Simone and considering Blige initially seems to point to the larger issue of the dearth of black actresses with enough pull to get butts in seats. It seems that that short list has gotten even shorter. Bassett is too old by Hollywood standards; Berry too light; Latifah too [redacted]. Kerry Washington has teamed up with Shonda Rhimes to scandalize television viewers. Who’s left? I can’t think of anyone. And unless it’s the aforementioned Mr. Perry, I don’t see anyone in Hollywood willing to take a chance on a black actress with neither following nor crossover career to star in a film about a singer who was not necessarily loved by the masses.
The question then becomes whether or not to see the film. Do you begrudgingly give Hollywood your dollars and hope they do better next time or stay away from the theaters, taking the risk that the next black biopic–because those are the only “serious” black movies Hollywood wants to make–gets delayed and/or shelved?
I’m not sure the answer is clear, but I do know that unless we start #shoopingforjesus now, Saldana might go from Nina to Whitney. (Sorry, Brandy.)