Cannes has just wrapped up another premiere season on the Cote d'Azur and everyone knows by now that Angelina Jolie portrays Mariane Pearl in A Mighty Heart, a movie based on the book by the same name written by Mariane Pearl about her life with her husband, slain journalist Daniel Pearl.
I watched Ann Curry's recent interview with Jolie on Today. Most of the interview was about Jolie's role in A Mighty Heart. That's not news, because Brad and Angelina were two trains on the same track destined to collide in Hollywood heaven. Thus the fact that she is white probably never entered into the equation for Mariane (who wanted Jolie to play the part based on their friendship), Jolie (who seems to love black people), or Brad (who already owned the movie rights).
But after the fact, there now appears to be some uproar among some black women and actresses, especially, asking themselves and asking out loud: "Why has the part of a bi-racial woman gone to a white woman in this day and age?" Just browse a little history — blackface is a Hollywood hallmark.
How did this come to my attention in the first place? Originally, I was planning to do an article about Angelina's American and global appeal. In the process of doing a Google-god consult about her, I happened to come across multiple blogs by black women discussing the Jolie role as Mariane came up in my search. Hmmm, I thought, here's some flack about black. Thus I changed the focus of my article to this controversy instead.
I actually liked the idea when first presented. I thought that it was a good thing to have a really white woman play a black woman. It seemed like a good segue into blind casting. I have always believed, stupidly, in “blind casting”, obviously a pipe dream. At the same time that Jolie is playing Mariane, Halle Berry is playing a white teacher in a new movie. Halle is biracial as everyone knows. However, Angelina is not biracial. So for this role she got herself tanned, donned a wig (bad/nappy, according to the blogs) and faked a French accent and voila, instant Mariane Pearl.
I do think Angelina is beautiful, but black? Give me a break. She does not look black even on her worst day. Then I thought about Jasmine Guy. If she were younger she would be perfect. She's biracial and she speaks French fluently. Traci Ross would also have fit the bill. She is the right age and is also biracial. The list is really endless.
I think this stink is interesting for two reasons: one, that the Jolie-Pitts have adopted a black child from Africa, and two, when I watched the interview, racial alarm bells did not go off in my head immediately. Why? Not sure, because I knew Mariane Pearl was racially mixed like myself with Afro-Cuban blood. She is also part Dutch. She was married to Daniel Pearl, a Jewish journalist from America.
When I first heard that Angelia was going to play the role and saw the photos, I did not know the background — Brad already owned the rights and they were doing this movie together. But now that I have had a chance to digest it, and see that others are not liking it, I wondered what the fuss was all about. There are quite a few essays, comments, and blogs on this subject. Similar questions arose when Elizabeth Taylor played Cleopatra, whom many believed was black or swarthy.
My conclusion: black women are expendible in Hollywood, except when their image is needed to make money.
So why the black outcry when a white plays a black? It is business as usual after all. Just look at the stars, the really big stars, whose parents were also in show biz, or who own studios. For blacks, Mexicans, Chinese, and other brown-skinned people, the bete noir is bitterness. We should be optimistic instead. We have the power to change the status quo. The problem: misdirected mega-money blacks possess. And, among other things, it is not being translated into box office roles.
So, I think the problem lies not in Angelina playing the role of a black woman, a bi-racial woman. The problem is that there are so few good roles for women of color that we can ill afford to let even one get away. But that point may be moot. Why? Because this role was never in play in the first place.
That's also one more reason for blacks with clout, money, and power to build and continue building studios and buying the rights to movies. Someone (read: us) must allow blacks and browns to show themselves, not as one-dimensional or thugs, but as real people with real hearts, minds, and most of all, soul.Powered by Sidelines