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When White Actresses Act Black: Should Blacks Care?

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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.

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About Heloise

  • Miss Heloise – This stuff is called “acting” because people are pretending to be what they’re not. Should us heteros be offended when a homosexual actor plays a straight man? When a gentile plays as a Jew?

    Being black seems to be of only marginal relevance to Mariane Pearl. We’re not talking about a story of a victim of Jim Crow struggling against George Wallace. She’s French and married a Jew. And I’d bet money that Ms Jolie will not be playing the part in blackface, or playing comic stereotypes like Amos and Andy.

    More than looking for more “black” roles, it would probably behoove to emphasize more the idea of characters for whom race is not so central. You’re making your real progress when you see black folk in roles where they’re not pretending to be white, but where the race of the character just isn’t that important. Denzel Washington in Training Day comes to mind.

  • sean Paul Mahoney

    Heloise, this was a great article!
    My niece and nephew are biracial and I often worry if they ever see themselves when they go to the movies.
    Sure, we finally have Latinos, African-Americans, and Asians on television but when it comes to the movies, it’s still pretty white. Unless it’s a black comedian in a dress, people of color rarely show up on the silver screen. It’s pretty sad.
    As for Jolie goes, I’m pretty sure this movie will be another bellyflop. I’m hard pressed to remember the last decent film she did. A Mighty Heart is compelling source material but I skeptical when it comes to Angelina.

  • Al you need to reread my article. I do not agree with the controversy really. First of all no one else was going to get the role but Angelina.

    Second she is in blackface. Jewish producers perfected it. Actually when gays play straight it does bother me, hate to say it. But I do believe in blind casting nonetheless.

    Finally, race is always central. Why? Because whiteness sells and blackness does not. You can take that to the bank Al.

    Thanks for your comment


  • Hey Heloise – great post. The issue of race didn’t really cross my mind either because I’d read that Marianne Pearl really wanted her to play it so that kind of ended the discussion before it began.

    However, I’d disagree on the “whiteness sells and blackness doesnt” argument. There are number of black actors with an international following and black culture forms a significant part of what nonAmericans see as “American culture”.

    You might have an argument if you’re talking about Tyler Perry-esque cinema but not generally speaking, not anymore. Do the powers that be in Hollywood know this? An article in Newsweek on Will Smith seemed to suggest that they might be waking up to it. of course Smith has been working on his brand outside the States pretty religiously on his own so that’s one factor.

  • This is a very interesting article, highlighting an important debate.

    I, too, totally missed the racial aspect of the role having read the publicity about the part being set aside for Jolie – this was not so much an opportunity missed as an opportunity that never existed; plus, the publicity shots I saw showed that, in costume, she really looks like the subject. I’m in several minds about the whole thing… this could be progress OR a backward step; but you’ve highlighted an interesting cultural angle which will be interesting to follow.

  • buhbling

    First and foremost, this is the story of the brave life and death of the reporter Daniel Pearl who was kidnapped and brutally murdered by a militant Islamic fundamentalist group. It was written by his widow Mariane Pearl to honor him and their love, and to set forth a deeper message. The fact that Mariane happens to be of Afro-Cuban and Dutch ancestry, and was raised in France is not the central theme of the story.

    Secondly, rather than playing the racial or religious hatred card, Mariane Pearl was determined not to be broken and wrote her book to show the terrorists that, “That strength is to keep on living, to keep on valuing life. So now it’s up to me to create something of my life.”

    Thirdly, the fact that Mariane herself wanted Angelina Jolie to play her shows that Angelina’s race or color was irrelevant compared to the bigger message Mariane wanted to convey, “Dialogue is the ultimate act of courage, far more courageous than killing someone.”

    Finally, you should try reading her memoirs, or just do some basic research for background, and wait to see the movie first, to better judge whether the movie casting did her story justice (which Mariane herself seems to happily support), then perhaps you would refrain from such derisive rant about blackface and race being the central issue. I am neither black nor white and prefer to focus on the more relevant and profound message at hand.

  • Dear B,

    Big stars, big bucks, big exposure…I don’t need to read anything (I DO read a lot) to know what sells.

    Now, where’s the largess of Mariane? My article is about what blacks are saying, not whether or not the movie works with Angelina in it. I have been to the French Rivera and Cannes and the Cap, where the stars stay, IT is the richest place on earth. Lots of social(izing)conscious-raising going on there you say?…oh boy.


  • “Finally, race is always central. Why? Because whiteness sells and blackness does not. You can take that to the bank Al.”

    Chris Tucker took $25 million to the bank instead Heloise (for Rush Hour 3) so someone clearly thinks “blackness” sells.

    “I thought that it was a good thing to have a really white woman play a black woman.”

    Define a “really white woman” please. Jolie’s mother was part Native American (Iroquois). She was also part French-Canadian, something that probably helped with the accent.

  • Please don’t bring up Chris Tucker. WHen I was dating a white guy his brother put a Chris Tucker video on. I had never even heard of him. My tastes are too high brow for that. But I was like horrified and thought he was trying to ridicule me because I was black. I did not know that whites really like this guy or it was okay.

    My saying “really white woman” is poetic license. One my best white female friends was one-fourth American Indian, and had long snow white hair and very fair. She wanted to be black! People don’t see the Indian most of the time in whites. But yes it is there. Do they put that on their apps? I DON”T THINK SO>>>>

    Chris plays the fool. I don’t call that blackness at its best. Don’t confuse Borat-style with blackness or culture. It is not the same thing. Malcolm X, now that was a movie about blackness. Was it successful, not really.


  • Chris Redwood

    I do think Angelina is beautiful, but black? Give me a break. She does not look black even on her worst day.

    What the hell does that mean?

  • PS: Chris Tucker ended that relationship because they told their mother I was black, and called me the N-word behind my back. Even though I look white in some pics, and people sometimes take a double take when they would see us together making sure I was whatever…black is still black even if you are racially mixed. Don’t matter, take it from the expert…me.


  • Chris,

    What’s up? Where’s your sense of humor? Geez you guys take everything soooo seriously. DOn’t scrutinize my style and my substance.


  • I never really thought much about this issue, probably because (a) i’m white and (b) i avoid pop culture as much as possible. but i did find the following comment you made problematic:

    “She does not look black even on her worst day.”

    I will say this: as a part-Greek woman, I found it nice to see my culture depicted in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. But never did I see it as an accurate reflection of my people! It is just one family.

    And yes, it is nice to see someone who looks like you on the screen (nappy Greek hair and wide hips and bleaching that mustache, sister!) but still… I don’t expect or desire to see “myself” in popular culture depictions. Why the hell would anyone want that?

  • Here’s a short quote from Racialicious:

    Halle Berry to star in movie based on white woman’s life
    by Carmen Van Kerckhove

    “Color-blind” casting somehow always seems to benefit white actors. Think of the new CBS sitcom The Class, for example. Although it’s set in the rather diverse city of Philadelphia, the show features an all-white cast. Just like Friends did. The producer David Crane responded to critics by saying this: “When we wrote the script, we wrote it color-blind…and then we auditioned. For six months we saw just a huge range and diversity of actors and at the end of the day these were absolutely the eight actors who were absolutely right for the parts.”

    Heloise says: Notice she says it always seems to benefit “WHITE actors”. I guess it is called “color-blind casting” but you get my meaning. I was in a hurry. It should be color-blind casting.

    Don’t forget about when TV or movies are set in places that abound with black people or brown people and you can count on one finger how many appear in it!!!

    Anyway, someone white agrees with me: blacks DO not usually benefit from this type of casting.


  • Here’s her site. She is white and Chinese. But that makes her white, since she is not half black.

  • Tucker was just an example and trust me not all whites think he’s funny. Even the ones that do probably don’t think he’s $25m worth of funny.

    What about Denzel? Jamie Foxx? Will Smith? Black sells.

    It may be different for black actresses but there are few good female parts for black or white women.

  • Sarah

    She does not look black even on her worst day.

    I think I know what you’re trying to say, but this came out horribly wrong.

  • ally scott

    I could not finish reading the article. Your comment “(Jolie) is beautiful…but does not look black…even on her worst day” hit me in the stomach. I am an African American woman without any knowledge of my ancestrial background past my grandparents. Although it is obvious looking at me that I am the American melting pot….it has never entered my brain that I am beautiful second to my white sisters. Black women come in all shades, hair texture, lip size, etc. My mother used to tell me that a Black woman never knows what her child is going to look like. Do we need a history lesson?

  • ALLY, PLEASE WATCH TODAY’s OPRAH show! It is most timely to this topic.

    Black people DO not see themselves as beautiful…period. I was actually saying what I said to underscore what I already know. That blacks have racist views against other blacks. And blackness is NOT the standard of beauty in this country.

    You may be the exception, especially if you are light skinned. Dark skinned black kids hate themselves. If you think not then you are living in a dream world.

    Watch or record today’s Oprah.


  • Nanc;y

    This part was handed to Angelina by her “partner” Brad Pitt who had the rights to the movie. She is a good actress, so that is how that goes. She was probably the best one for the role, so why look further? The commercials for the move looked like Angelina did a good job. I do not think it should be about race, the best man wins. The American Idol shows that all races can win, but if we had already known that Jordan was the best, it would not have been a contest to find the best, we would have already known. Brad knew she was the best, Angelina got the part hands down. That is show bz.

  • Here’s the trailer (new)

    And Here’s the truth: She does not wear black face or tanner, just checked that out in the trailer and online.

    There are like a million hits when you google this thing. It’s burning up the airwaves. I was not aware that it was THAT HOT.

    Sorry if I offended anyone with my frankness. I too am part French, and we are frank.


  • elcee

    I agree with what you mostly said, Heloise. But I must agree with Ally Scott, when she felt uncomfortable with the quote “but does not look black…even on her worst day.” You did make it sound as though black women are less attractive than white women, and your clarification only makes it sound as though Ally is ignorant about what black women think of themselves.
    I am a dark skinned Southeast Asian and understand the problem of the whiteness of the media. I know that many black and Asian women feel that they’re not attractive when they’re the only minorities in a mostly white environment and are bombarded by images of skinny, white girls. You are right–people must realize the problem first because most are blind to it and think that everything is colorblind. But we need to educate people in a constructive way and be inclusive, even if others are not inclusive. How else are things going to change when we’re so angry all of the time?

  • PS: I was right it is also called “blind” casting. So no problem there. I don’t see why people don’t like my worst day comment. I thought it was funny.


  • elcee, according to the dominant culture in America, black is NOT beautiful. End of story. She sounded unaware of this. She is probably also light-skinned, and thin-skinned.


  • buhbling

    Dear H,

    You responded:

    “Big stars, big bucks, big exposure…”

    “Now, where’s the largess of Mariane? My article is about what blacks are saying, not whether or not the movie works with Angelina in it. I have been to the French Rivera and Cannes and the Cap, where the stars stay, IT is the richest place on earth. Lots of social(izing)conscious-raising going on there you say?…oh boy.”

    If you are implying that somehow you are more privied to Mariane Pearl’s true agenda (or any those involved in making the film), then I find it rather arrogant and presumptuous. I too have been to all the places you cited and several other places which are actually statistically much wealthier, but I certainly would not generalize that all stars or journalists/writers like Mariane are philistines. I don’t pretend to know her or those involved in the movie at all to defend their rightousness, yet I wouldn’t rush to pass judgment on them.

    I may be naïve in thinking that there are still a few out there with some humanity left, with some dignigty and genuine intentions. But, just because some could also gain fame and fortune from a venture that advances their cause or just merely what intrigues them, it doesn’t necessary mean that they are all tantamount to avaricious-egocentric-pigs. Such banal allegations and cynicism seem to be ubiquitous these days.

    Regarding the point about “what the blacks are saying,” I don’t have the means to decipher whether it is the view of the few, or of the popular mass. Either way, “to each his own”…

    p.s. By the way, the French Rivera including Cannes and the Cap are actually not the richest places on earth, but that’s besides the point…

  • Dear B, google any parts of this conversation and you will see it has reached CRITICAL MASS online.

    Parts of Cote d’Azur are home to the richest of the rich. That’s the latest I heard, and years ago too.

    Am I arrogant and presumptious? Yes, hell yes I am both of those things.

    thanks for reminding me 🙂


  • Alec

    RE: She is white and Chinese. But that makes her white, since she is not half black.

    You’re joking here, right? I mean no one could seriously say that a person with Chinese ancestry is white. Is this some comical inversion of the old “one drop rule?”

    Apart from this, I found your post interesting because it indicates how confused America’s perceptions of race still are, and how obsessions over race defeat common sense.

    The plain fact is that Angelina Jolie was cast as Marianne Pearl because she is a bankable movie star and her husband, Brad Pitt is a producer on the film. None of your suggestions for actors to play the role (Jasmine Guy or Traci Ross) are movie stars. It is also interesting to note that you don’t suggest any Cuban or Latina actresses for the role. Certainly, black shouldn’t just mean black American, should it? But the sad fact is that a lot of black Americans only want to champion a small batch of “usual suspects,” a narrow range of black actors that they know from American mainstream films and TV.

    For example, an interesting candidate for this role might have been British actress Sophie Okonedo, who was wonderful in such films as “Dirty Pretty Things” and “Hotel Rwanda,” and not half bad in the action film “Aeon Flux.” She is closer in age to Pearl than is Jolie, and is also mixed race, if that kind of thing is important.

    By the way, it is also interesting to note that Ann Curry (white, Japanese, American Indian), Marianne Pearl (Afro-Cuban, Dutch), and Angelina Jolie (French, Native American, English, etc) are all mixed race, but to try to limit them as either simplistically “bi-racial” (which really has no meaning) or white or black is not just wrong, it’s insulting.

    This kinda reminds me of the complaints by Mexican Americans that Puerto Rican Jennifer Lopez was not an acceptable candidate to play Selena, as opposed to someone like Mexican actress Bibi Gaytan. Even though some of these complaints had a tinge of racism (for some, Lopez was too “black” to play Mexican), the movie producers obviously were going for someone who was known to American audiences, not trying to satisfy some phony racial purity test.

  • jess0

    I think Jolie’s race is fairly insignificant considering the themes of A Mighty Heart. Of course I haven’t seen the film yet but understand that people of different faiths and cultures were brought together at the time of Daniel Pearls death and again for the film. There is beauty in that.

    I really enjoyed your artical and think one about Angelina’s American and global appeal would be worth the read.

  • Who called them biracial? I did not. Biracial I thought always referred to black and white only.

    A Eurasian is certainly white. Northern Indians or those whose language is traceable to European languages, can’t think of it now, are also “caucasian.” But the Brits are quick to call Indians the N-word.

    Anyone, including me, in my darn family could play the woman. I wore my hair like that for years and years. I have an old ID photo that looks just like her.

    The thing is I really think some of the best movies I’ve ever seen have total unknowns. I am really not into superstars. I actually prefer movies with unknown people in them. I think they are the best IMO.

    I wrote a review about The Namesake and the woman in there Zuleka Robinson (I think that’s her name) is now in a series called “New Amsterdam” She is racially mixed, an actress but not a star. She could have played the role. Does not have to be Cuban really.

    But all that being said, I like movies with unknowns frankly. But it’s the Jolies that sell tickets especially at ten and twelve dollars each.

    I also prefer the artsy movie set, love foreign films, my first choice. So that’s why I would have loved to see an unknown or non stars in this movie, my preference.

    Northern Japanese are considered white. China is the root race for Caucasians, AmerIndians, Mexicans and Indians, DNA-wise. So it is a case of the root returning to the the progeny. She is certainly NOT black and that makes her white. That is the box she should check.

    I have a sister who’s black, married a biracial man and their kids all have blonde hair and blue eyes and married whites. But they are black, and not biracial. Race is so complex, more than people know. The role of the biracial is that a person cannot change from one race to another when they reincarnate without going through a mixed race life first. That’s my conclusion.

    But I found that Anglo Saxons think that anyone who is not strictly Anglo is not white. So where does that leave Mediterraneans? I go by the Anthropological definitions of race.


  • Miss Heloise- I wasn’t necessarily taking it that you were buying this faux controversy over Jolie. Totally groovy.

    A couple of others have beaten me to the punch on this, but holy crap girl, where do you get “whiteness sells and blackness does not.”? If I can just answer that point briefly: Michael Jackson, Eddie Murphy, 50 Cent.

    You seem to have continuing issues about some idea of black not being perceived as beautiful, or something. To the end, then, of praising and appreciating the beauty of God’s creation as He expresses it through black American women, please scope out these humble tributes:
    Macy Gray’s Beautiful Nappy Headed Photo Gallery
    Nina Simone’s Black Swan Photo Gallery

  • Trik

    I was a little taken back by this whole thing. After all, regardless of you naming who could play the best Mariane Pearl (namely Jasmine Guy and Traci Ross); because though they may be more “black” than Angelina, they do not possess the international drawing power needed to promote a film like this, much less lead it, regardless of who owns the rights. As well, if you were going with who could play her the best based upon specific racial and ethnic and visual terms, no one would fit it more than Mariane, herself. But she does not offer the same bankability or acting ability as Angelina. Not to mention the fact that in the end, the only person the portrayal has to be responsible to is Mariane, who fully supports the casting of Angelina. And as far as your comment about the expendability of black actresses in Hollywood depending on the money they can bring in, it is a universal rule, not just a specific racial case. Though you speak on bi-racial issues, you have your blinders on to other races. You sell short first that quality roles for women in general are lacking, and you do not address the fact that there are many successful black and bi-racial actors in Hollywood who are more than expendible, just as there are numerous whites who are seen as less than expendible in the movie industry. Take Maya Rudolph of Saturday Night Live fame as an example. She is bi-racial, but represents both races in numberous skits on the show, floating back and forth, despite the fact that she does not look quite black or quite white. At what point do you say that one portrayal is “right” and which one is “wrong” for her as a racially identified and identifiable individual? Though I know not all these views are yours, that some are those of the bloggers and what not, but it is their shortsightedness on this issue that overshadows greatly that of the initial issue.

  • Sheila

    Let me just say that after reading both the article and the comments, some of you obviously don’t know all the facts here. First of all, Ms. Jolie DID NOT wear any make-up to darken her skin nor did she get a tan. The director, Michael Winterbottom, has already gone on records saying as much. What you perceive to be a darkening of her skin is called “LIGHTING”. This movie was shot in mostly natural lighting. They DID NOT use kliegs or any other type of artificial light if it could be avoided. That’s part of Winterbottom’s signature as a director. He does not like for the scenes to look staged, so the lighthing and sound are kept to a bare minimum.

    Secondly, and most importantly, is the fact that Mariane Pearl asked Ms. Jolie to play her in the movie. They are friends. Mrs. Pearl obviously does not define herself by the color of her skin and it is no one’s business but her own. Mrs. Pearl is NOT an American and she is not caught up in this whole black/white issue the way we are. Obviously because her skin is not lilly white America gets caught up in her being “black” but in doing so you’re asking Mrs. Pearl to deny all the other parts of her heritage. It’s very similar to Tiger Woods’ assertion that he is “Caublasian”.

    My third point speaks to the issue of there not being very many good movie roles for women of color. I suggest you take a closer and harder look at movies. There aren’t very many good roles for women period, regardless of skin color. If you don’t have a problem with Halle Berry, who you define as Black based on the color of her skin, playing a white woman, then why object to Ms. Jolie playing a bi-racial woman who DOES NOT favor one part of her ethnicity over the others. Frankly, it is NOT our call to make. It is Mariane Pearl’s. If she is comfortable with Ms. Jolie playing her in the movie, then I, as a black woman, have no right to object on her behalf.

    Last, let me just say that you are incorrect in labelling Ms. Jolie as a “white” woman. Unless the term “bi-racial” is limited to only a mixture of African blood with other races, then technically Ms. Jolie herself is “bi-racial”. She is 1/4 Iroqois Indian on her mother’s side. Now that you know this I’m sure you’re next objection will be to a person of Native American descent playing a black person.

    It’s sad that in this day and age people think they have the right to tell someone like Mariane Pearl, who has suffered an unspeakable tragedy in her life, that we have the right to define her ethnicity for her and her feelings on the matter are moot. I suggest you give both Mrs. Pearl and Ms. Jolie a break. All this situation really boils down to is one girlfriend doing a favor for another. Mrs. Pearl has stated that if Ms. Jolie, a friend who knows and loves her, had not been willing to play the role then she’s not sure she would’ve consented to the film being made. Clearly she knows herself and her life better than we do. Her movie portrayer was her decision alone, not ours.

  • M. L. Iravedra

    Actually, I have always perceived in Jolie’s facial features a certain Je’ne-se-quois that suggests some black ancestry, which is not something to be so surprised about, specially when taking into account that the good ol’US of A is the world’s paradigm of racial multiplicity, melting-pot and all.

    Now, when does an apparently white woman become black ? What degree of blood mixing must have occurred to be considered of a particular race? Is a black woman with 1/8 of “european” blood considered “white” or “black”? How about viceversa?

    What is good for the gander should also be good for the geese.

    Why is a semite caucasian carthaginian like Hannibal usually portrayed as a black man? Why are Jews mostly portrayed as europeans, when they are clearly semitic? Why are “mexicans” and “puertoricans” always portrayed as “browns”, when in fact they belong to all sort of racial groups, from the nordic blondes to asian, american and african extremes..?

    Why are Jesus Christ and Mary almost always portrayed as blonde and nordiesque, when they were semites? Why are arabs almost always portrayed by black actors, when arabs are in fact “caucasian” semites?

    I have lost count of how many times american actors of english ancestry, who happen to be dark skinned, have been used to portray hispanic characters that should have been played by fair-skinned “caucasians”.

    Yep, they are still at it, playing the old stereotype game. But it goes beyond racial stereotyping, there’s also a manipulation for cultural stereotypes.

    Recently, I happened to watch a pirate documentary in the History Channel, where the cut-throats were portrayed like well dressed,reasonably clean british gentlemen, while their “brownish” victims looked like half-shaven refugees from slums. Yep, I guess we all know how “clean-cut” and “pure-blooded” pirates used to be…

  • Lily

    There is no hysteria out there in the black community except the one that you are trying to create. You would have had more credibility if you had done the piece on Jolie’s American and Global appeal, you probably would not have gotten this many hits, so you chose to appeal to the baser instinct of race.

    I am a black woman who have no problem whatsoever with Jolie playing the role of Marianne Pearl with her consent.

    It is funny when black people talk about actresses, the usual suspects are always mentioned like Halle Berry and co, but she is not really a good actress and do not have the depth to have pulled off such a role, more importantly, marianne felt that Jolie knew her well enough to be able to express the essence of the woman she is much more than any other actress. If you cast a bi-racial American actress, what of her Chinese heritage, Cuban or European self.

    I am always amused how people like you want race to matter when it suits you, but you conveniently forget that all black do not have the same world view and do not share the same history. I do not see any uproar when black American actors and actresses take the roles of Africans even though they do not have the same background. In Hotel Ruwanda, Don Cheadle played the role of an African, Sophie Okenedo, I will give a pass because she is half Nigerian and half Jewish.

    The point I am trying to make is when you go down this slippery slope of acting roles being based only on colour, where will it lead?

    I am a black woman whose world view is much closer to Jolie than Halle. Jolie and Marianne have so much in common, and their attitude and beiefs, they see themselves more as citizens of the world than black or white.

    And lastly, Jolie gets discriminated against as well when it comes to getting some roles because directors and producers think she looks too ethnic to play waspy roles. Eric Roth, the screen writer for the Good Shephered had to send her a bouquet of flowers after the movie was finished, because he was against Jolie being cast as a WASP.

  • BJ

    Happy Birthday to Brad & Angelina’s baby Shiloh yesterday! She ate her birthday cake in Cannes. Here’s something fun about Shiloh… an astrology reading on video that predicts who her future husband will be and when she’ll get married.

    I predict that the bad boyfriend at 18 will be Michael Joseph Consuelos (Kelly Ripa’s son), and that the good husband at age 28 will be Michael Joseph Jackson, Jr. (Michael Jackson’s son). I figure by that time Mike Jr. will have had enough therapy that he will make a good husband. Both of these guys are ten years older than Shiloh. (When you watch the video, this will make more sense.) What does everyone else think?

  • D.Bheemeswar

    It dose not matter. all in the game.

  • Marie

    Heloise, you come across as some one is not only an elitist, but also someone who looks down on darker shades of black. No wonder then you were quick to write about race. Angelina Jolie probably feels more compassion towards black people than you do. When she adopted, she did not look for a light skinned black child, and she has been on record saying that her daughter, Zahara is maginficent to her.

    There is no controversy about Jolie portraying Marianne, don’t try to create one.

    Marianne is not an African American. When the search for Danny was going on, I never heard reports of a BLACK WOMAN searching for her husband, I did not see BLACKS out in force supporting her in her search, I never heard about her being AFRICAN AMERICAN.

    Black people should start putting their money where their mouth is. Opprah or any of the rich black people could have bought the rights to her book, they did not. It is time we stopped expecting things to be handed to us. Brad Pitt was moved enough about the story of Marianne to buy the rights, where were the black community, busy making sub-standard movies that pepertuate certain black stereotype.

    This is not the story of a black life, and to reduce Marianne’s life to just that 1/4 of black in her is insulting. She does not have the sensebilities of An African American, don’t give her one just for the purpose of giving Tracy Ross or Jasmine Guy- none of whom by the way has the life experiences that Jolie have to do justice to this role.

  • Connie

    Gee, maybe they look for the best actress for the part. Why should blacks play bi-racial people any more than whites? I don’t get it.

  • Morgan

    Number 1 power player/actor in Hollywood today – Will Smith.

    The whole race thing was started by the “poor Aniston, Angelina stole her man and her role” crowd (like Aniston is even capable of playing this part) as yet another reason to be anti Jolie. It is a ridiculous distraction from the story, the role and the actress’ ability to play the part.

  • Samson

    I am not surprised that the monster known as Jolie-Pitt made this kind of mistake. The Pitt is too blind and led by his little member to make any kind of intelligent decision when Fat Lips is lurking around. I wish she would move on to the status of has been. She never should have been, but now she’s aging poorly and still lacking the talent given to a flea.

  • Hi,
    That was a very good dialogue. If the role was for a black woman who had a “bad” character, would the Angelina’s of hollywood be as anxious to play the part? I think not.


  • First:
    We ALL get why Jolie got the part. I said it in the article…she’s sleeping with the boss. Also, Mariane wanted her to play her. Who doesn’t want someone glamorous to play them?

    Jolie is a movie star, we get that too. I don’t happen to like movie stars, but great acting. That’s what turns me on, not big names with big hair attached to it.

    Sheila, we or rather I DID clarify that Jolie did not wear a tan nor makeup. I saw that yesterday. And if you look at the trailer, she looks like her normal color.

    Stop saying people are part black. Forget that. If you are freakin living as white and have a tiny drop of Indian blood in you so what? You are white.

    IndoEuropean language roots decided who is caucasian and who is not. When I was in grad school I thought that the skeletons I was analyzing all had the landmarks that would make them white and not Native Amer. But no one would have believed me. Guess what? Now they are saying (the experts) that the Indians were white from Europe and not Chinese!

    There are aboriginal origins for all races. When I was in the Punjab (northern India) they would not let me sit with the Westerners because the Indians just knew I was Indian. Well, I ain’t.

    Dark skinned, Dravidian origin language, mostly southern Indians are NOT Aryan and not white. All the rest are considered not anglo, but caucasian, there’s a difference.

    ALL Races have the range from snow white to coal black. I saw a few Indians (not all) who were blacker than any black person I’ve ever seen anywhere. But they are not black people.

    As for the French. I lived there too. Are they color blind? Hell no. They are mostly racist towards North Africans (who are not black–some may be) because of their numbers!!! When I was in Paris, I was mistaken for French. They liked me, compared me to Josephine Baker, loved me because I was very attractive and spoke okay French (at the time).

    It’s a numbers game people. Mexicans can be white or black just as well.


  • Marie:
    There is no controversy about Jolie portraying Marianne, don’t try to create one.

    Marianne is not an African American. When the search for Danny was going on, I never heard reports of a BLACK WOMAN searching for her husband, I did not see BLACKS out in force supporting her in her search, I never heard about her being AFRICAN AMERICAN.

    Black people should start putting their money where their mouth is. Opprah or any of the rich black people could have bought the rights to her book, they did not. It is time we stopped expecting things to be handed to us. Brad Pitt was moved enough about the story of Marianne to buy the rights, where were the black community, busy making sub-standard movies that pepertuate certain black stereotype.

    Heloise: Marie, are you plaigarising me here? I said all that and more already in the article. People read a line and then get hot fingers.

    I said that black people just need to buy their own damn book rights. Not even the generals were out looking for him in a place as dangerous as Iraq. Only those well-armed could look for that man…hellooo.

    YES THERE IS A controversy about it. Heloise did not create it. Again, Google any parts of this and like a over 100,000 hits come up!!!

    Marie, you are talking to yourself. I have spoken.

    Yes, I am elitist. My ex husband was an ordinary looking black man. I wanted my kids to be black. But guess what they came out with soft, wavy, light brown hair, fair skin, and both have green eyes. That’s how much white genes he and I both have.

    I am not light, I am olive skinned.

    Finally being black, as a culture, is universal. We have genes therefore behaviors in common. One thing is that curly pony tail she wears on her head. That is SO very black. That’s black, no doubt about it. That’s why people swore Cleopatra was black. She wore her hair the same way, only at the nape of her neck.

    The woman is black, not African American, not American. Hell, she ain’t even French, she’s a national or an immigrant, bet money on that.

    The woman is a black woman and she looks like one with that ponytail on top of her head. I wore one just like it for years. Don’t see white women wearing it do ya? NO.


  • DON’T confuse black entertainers OR commercialism (i.e. Will, Chris, and the others)with black actors of solid stuff. Lawrence Fishburn is an actor, Harry Belafonte is an entertainer. The British brought drama to a high art. AMericans have torn it down to its tiniest component of entertainment.

    In case you are wondering compare what jazz artists make to what people like 50 cent make or made. No comparison.

    Will is trying to get serious. It was HE WHO bought the movie rights to “Pursuit of Happyness” and that’s why he and his family starred in it.

    Only a buffon, clown, rapper, nasty hip hopper will make that kind of multi-million dollar loot. This is why Spike Lee does commercial stuff and serious stuff. He wants to pay the bills.

    Get it?


  • Lily wrote: The point I am trying to make is when you go down this slippery slope of acting roles being based only on colour, where will it lead?

    Just who are you talking to Lily? I like non actors, non famous people. I mentioned names but think that an unknown should have played this role.

    Look what happened when Hillary Swank (an unknown at the time) won an Oscar for her role as a boy! That was acting. That is what I like to see. And she has turned out many good roles since then.

    Everybody knows Halle Berry can’t act. I wouldn’t let her in my movie unless it was silent.


  • Nancy

    When/if my life story is ever filmed (?!) I want to be played by Queen Latifah. Except that everyone will then say, “she (QL) is ‘way too beautiful/talented to play that role convincingly!”

    I disagree that black doesn’t sell. I’ve always gone to see ANYTHING featuring James Earl Jones, Morgan Freeman, Denzel W., Whoopee Goldberg, or Queen Latifah. Recently, when I went to see “Stompin'”, the audience was mostly white. When I went to see Bone Collector, the audience was mostly white – & I know I at least was not there to see Jolie.

    I think at long last perhaps some outstanding actors are becoming draws regardless of race. It’s past time for it. Unfortunately, the ‘suits’ who have the last word about who gets filmed & who gets pushed are still very much in the good old white big-money hollywood clique, especially where risking their money is concerned. We’ve come a long way from Hattie McDaniels to Hallie Berry, but we still have a looooong way to go.

    That said, I still have to admit Queen Latifah is way too pretty to play me.

  • sean Paul Mahoney

    Thank you, Heloise for speaking the truth about Halle Berry. She’s awful. Angela Bassett can act her under the table any day of the week.And she’s a nicer person.

  • To Heloise-

    Just because you saw an episode of Oprah where some black people said they hated themselves does not mean you can use that as representation for the whole race. I admit African-Americans have always had issues with color, but that is only ‘some’. Most of us our proud and happy with our sun-kissed skin. Dont be so simple-minded as to think one example speaks for us all, that would say very little of you.

    Back to the topic- I dont have a genuine problem with Angelina playing a bi-racial woman. If they can make it believable (which has yet to be seen) then go for it. Unfortuantely some talented bi-racial woman out there missed the role of a lifetime…

  • Dear S. Leslie,

    You probably have not been reading all my articles and know that I teach black and mexican kids in an urban school. I recommended that Oprah because I SEE IT everyday.

    I have the hardest time with the girls who are darker in skin, look more black, usually overweight, otherwise not the “Ideal” and then there is the hair issue.

    They hate themselves and often project it onto others. I talk what I know. THat show really was representative of what most black teens feel about themselves. THat they resent authority figures, does not help. Both black and white teachers agree that Mexicans are easier to teach, are better students, (maybe they are afraid of authority) and do better on tests than the black kids. This was shocking to me when I see kids whose English is not as good as the blacks yet they score higher on the tests.

    I am talking WHAT I know. I have the scores in front of me. That is all part of self hatred. THen the parents. OMG, they attack the teachers. Then tell you they care and believe in education. Anyway I digress and could go on about it. But believe me, black kids are extremely difficult to teach.

    My kids love being black. So, I agree with you it is not representative. THey both married black people from Mississippi–both have beautiful spouses (one was a model) the other looks like Barack. And of course my kids, don’t look black, but are also beautiful. People swear that they are bi racial, and they are not.


    PS That’s why I mentioned Oprah show.

  • Nancy

    I have to agree, I think Jolie “The Lip” is talentless. And she looks disfigured, not sexy. When I first saw her I wondered what was wrong with her mouth. Frankly, Pitt isn’t much better. If he hadn’t been in “Interview With The Vampire” with Tom Cruise (another no-talent, IMO), he would have made no sound as he hit the water & sank.

  • Gray Hunter

    I like to watch anything with Angelina in it. That’s all that needs be said.

    P.S. – Oprah should be banned. Quit watching that self-righteous pontificator.

  • Melissa

    every one visit this website the answer is here. LookSmart’s FindArticles – Why are Black actresses having such a hard time in Hollywood? Racism and the film industry’s limited vision contribute to the scarcity of roles for Black women Ebony, June, 1991, by Robin Givens

    it crushes my dreams of becoming an successful actress and taken seriously in hollywood like so many other black actresses who wants to be an actress

  • Good comments. In my original article I said “Brad Pitt was the worse actor in Hollywood” but that did not make the cut. So I am saying it now. Tom is not much better. Jolie does look ethnic with those lips…:)

    I think because she is so damned skinny it makes her lips look that much bigger and out of all proportion to her body. Finally, that’s really why I said she would never look black: black women have figures and some meat on them. Black men love it, but not white society.


  • Heloise-

    No I have not read your other posts but thank you for your comments. Its unfortunate to hear that the black children in your class feel that way about themselves and their color. That issue is one that most blacks grow up with and it has proven very hard to debunk. Imagine being a child and watching images of beautiful princesses on TV that look the exact opposite of you. Its very difficult and I hope you give those black children some type of sympathy.

    But it still sounds like you’re including ALL black people and children in this self-hatred problem. Where I come from there is more pride of the melanin in our skin than hate. I admit growing up even I wanted to be more light-skinned like the popular girls. But now I prefer laying in the sun to tan my skin to a darker brown.

    I’m speaking what I know as well. I have met blacks that wish they were white and its heart-breaking. But that is hardly the majority of us.

    Simonique Leslie

    p.s. Sounds like you raised your kids right. 😀

  • Van

    “Northern Japanese are considered white. China is the root race for Caucasians, AmerIndians, Mexicans and Indians, DNA-wise. So it is a case of the root returning to the the progeny. She is certainly NOT black and that makes her white. That is the box she should check.”

    Ms. Heloise, what science book are you reading? I would surely love to know the algorithms you are using to arrive at an individual’s race. Only in America would a person have such a messed up view of race and ethnicity. So much reductionism and simple-mindedness…….

  • Van,

    In the face of Mexicans checking off the “white box” if they are of white origins (i.e. Spanish mix), especially when one parent IS white, and people being surprised at this, then we know people don’t really understand racial distinction.

    One cannot confuse ethnic group with racial group. Yes, a Chinese-American who is half white and half Chinese may be Eurasian, but then so are Indians. And since they trace their language to IndoEuropean roots, ergo they are Caucasian.

    Language, according to anthropologists, has always been the source of racial ID. It is stretching it to say a Chinese woman who is half white, is white, but hell, she sure AIN’T black! And if raised white culturally, there is no other choice. If this person chooses to beat the minority drum then that is her perogative.

    So DNA-wise a person who is half Chinese-White, should absolutely check off the white box. Especially if they do not have ANY traceable black/African roots.

    I go by DNA mix, not by textbooks. Are there black Chinese? Yes, The Simpson’s wife the BabyPhat phenom model is half black/half Chinese. But she could have chose to NOT live as black if she wanted to. But in this country she would be black. But in Europe, if she spoke French, she could easily be NOT black.

    Race is complex, no doubt. And one racial group excels beyond other groups they are no longer considered minority.

    Japanese, northern, are White according to biological anthropologists, not me.


  • UPDATE: I just read her book “A Mighty Heart” and she admits that they are a “Mixed couple” in France. And that people look at them differently. WHen they met he was with a tall, blond, blue eyed, white woman. But he married her. People thought they were Algerian (she and her brother). The attraction: both journalists.

    We are much alike really. She even hangs clothes on the line which is so typical of Cubans. I still do it even though I don’t have to. I have two trees in my back yard and would have it no other way.

    The book is really all about her trying to find Daniel. I can see it as a movie because most of it can be focussed just on her waiting and looking while living in Bombay and other places in southeast Asia.

    I have spent time in many of the same cities they were in. The woman is black racially. Culturally closer to an oreo, also like myself. Raciallly she is much like Jasmine Guy, whom I happened to mention. Why? Jasmine is part Jewish, and so is Mariane.

    She and Daniel look like twins really. Things like this often happen to twin souls. They were having a Cleopatra and Mark Anthony life. Too bad I know how much that hurts.

    Her dad called her, “his mulatto”. Like I said in my piece, the woman is black just like me. Should I get someone like Angelina to play me in a movie. Of course, who else?


  • Anon

    Even on her worst day? For real?

  • Shlogodd

    Whenever hollywood makes a film about anything it has to incorporate they’re people. I watched the film Munich why was as Israeli played by an Australian who put on the worst Israeli accent of all time (there are plenty of great Israeli actors) and why was the film in English, a language that these people did not speak to each other in.

    Hollywood has to feed itself it’s own industry. The people that run it just take care of each other giving them-self’s awards and parts. I think Brad and Angelina are both below average actors but they have allot of power in the corporate structure and that’s what it comes down too.

    I want to see and hear stories in their native natural tongues. That’s why I don’t buy into the Hollywood crap. Instead of getting upset just go out and see films that respect you as an audience member. A great African-American film has just been rereleased, it’s called “killer of sheep”. It doesn’t have any over the top clowns like Chris Tucker in it (I’m proud to say I’ve never seen any of the Rush Hour films).

    Support people who respect you.

  • Great comment. I just watched “Munich” for the first time last week. IT was a good film. Was it the star that was Australian? I think so.

    You also made my point that Hollywood rewards its own. Today, Jolie and Pearl had a co-interview with Charlie Rose.

    I can’t get over how much like my mother (half Cuban) Mariane looks.

    I will look for the movie you mention too.


  • morgan

    angelina jolie doesn’t look black even on her worst day? That’s not offensive. Why does it have to be a a bad day for her to look black? Please don’t project personal race issues.

  • Race is the epitome of personal Morgan. Besides, I have a sense of humor that is rather sublime. It was an old saying and I thought that I would just apply it to the race/looks issue. Part of being black, my man, is that we are NOT perceived as being beautiful..Hence the “black is beautiful” slogan.

    That’s how deep the majority has projected what whiteness means. Okay. Take no offence Heloise is stating or restating the obvious. I don’t mind being a strawman.


  • dlf

    I’m not all against actors or actresses who get to play the role of a black or white character in movies. What matters is that we get to be entertained by them. Entertainment in the first place is regardless of race.