Re-writing History: The Cycle of Silencing Blackness in Film
Storytelling is a lot of things. It’s an art. It’s science. It’s history. It’s finance.
Being able to write, show, shoot and speak one’s story is important. It creates a legacy that cannot be burned. It lives forever, to be dissected and disseminated for generations to come.
Black people have used folklore since the dawn of time to share our roots. We use song, dance and other forms of expression to tell people who we are at our core — but to share it with the world at large is an uphill battle.
We are no longer afforded the privilege of sharing our stories and our point of view with the masses without it being scrutinized and deemed segregationist and racist.
So imagine the insult to injury that’s felt when seeing on Twitter that Disney is going to make one of their White superhero movies about a man who wanted to make his daughter a princess, and did just that by traveling to Africa, claiming “no man’s land” as his own, and declaring her to be princess of said land.
This movie managed to get written, pitched and picked up by one of the most powerful and richest storytellers in the world. One that has literally defined what a fairytale is.
What is incredulous is that when the project based on Little League phenom Mo’Ne Davis was announced — that likely would have fallen along the lines of “feel-good/David over Goliath” type of films, the response (and vitriol) was swift. Annie was remade with a young black girl, and the commentary was vicious. Ava DuVernay told the story of Selma ,and the pushback on not featuring White allies was loud and unrelenting.
Exodus, a movie about biblical times, took some grand liberties and made people of colour the thieves and slaves while elevating White actors to Gods. Now we have a movie being made about the “first African Princess” like there wasn’t royalty before this man collected Air Miles and made himself “daddy-of-the-year” to his daughter.
It’s these kinds of reinforced negative stereotypes and prejudices that leak into every other aspect of life. It’s not a far stretch that when people of color are only able to portray criminals, that people equate one with the other. People assume our skin tone makes our default nature to be dark, devious not worthy of life.
Heaven forbid a Black actor wants to play an international super spy. Or be a comic superhero. Or just a lead actor. Movie studios would rather make sequels to terrible movies and make Fifty Shades of Grey a thing than to have what might be classified as a Black movie on their hands.
This is why we push for our stories to be told in our own way. In our own voices. This is why we tell school boards to teach our histories. This is why it falls to us as a community to deconstruct the centuries of falsehood spread about Blackness.
Should this movie get made in the way it’s being presented currently, it will be another moment of White privilege and supremacy taking an eraser to our existence.
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