As most of you know, Zoe Saldana has been cast to play Nina Simone in an upcoming movie about Nina’s life, and her struggles as a talented Black singer, songwriter, pianist and civil rights activist. See when Nina was gaining popularity in the mid 50′s, all the way through to the late 60′s, it was not very common to see Black women like her embraced by the media. She was dark-skinned and wore her hair natural and kinky. Basically, she was nothing like Dorothy Dandridge from a physical standpoint. Because she was such an incredible pioneer, many in the Black community want to see her story portrayed by an actress who can closely resemble her physical features, because in the story of Nina’s life, her appearance is of CRITICAL importance in telling the story properly. But instead, Hollywood went out and cast the physical antithesis of Simone, by giving the part to Zoe Saldana – a woman who MIGHT have been better off being cast as Dorothy Dandridge.
So now damn near every Black person I know is MAD AS HELL. They are MAD AS HELL that this movie is being made WITHOUT a lead with a better resemblance to Nina, such as a Viola Davis, India Arie or Lauryn Hill. They are MAD AS HELL that Zoe even ACCEPTED the role. They are MAD AS HELL that Hollywood is butchering another one of our classic and irreverent stories. And just when you thought we couldn’t get ANY MADDER, people saw THIS:
And the way folks reacted, they might as well have been looking at THIS:
And while everybody was standing up, sitting down, doing backflips and wanting to organize a Million Man March on Hollywood with lead pipes, I found myself getting MAD AS HELL too. All the posturing, negative blogs, vicious tweets and overall disgust filled me with RAGE because of one simple fact: As much as Black folks RUN OUR DAMN MOUTHS, WE NEVER SPEAK WITH OUR DAMN WALLETS.
Earlier this year, George Lucas released a film called Red Tails and I wrote THIS post on this site where I stated that Red Tails financial failure would directly result in Hollywood taking OUR absence at the box office, as our silent referendum on what we want to see on screen. Here’s a DIRECT QUOTE that I wrote in that article from Monday, January 23rd 2012:
When Executive producer [and Star Wars LEGEND] George Lucas received ridiculous pushback from every major film studio who BALKED at the idea of financing and marketing a film with “an all-black cast and no major white roles” they essentially CHALLENGED the Black community to prove them wrong – and if we DON’T, we have NO RIGHT to complain when biopic of Sojourner Truth is shelved for Soul Plane 2.
My blog was met with snide ass remarks and grandiose statements about how you all REFUSE to support this film “just for the sake of support”, and Red Tails went out and lost $10 million dollars. In the end I was off in one small detail – instead of shelving the Sojourner Truth biopic, they would just decide to cast her with Ciara. And that brings us to where we are today with Nina and Zoe.
The point I will STRESS again to ALL my fellow Black people is that the ONLY substantive way to make your voice matter in HOLLYWOOD is through your SPENDING HABITS. When Red Tails LOSES $10 Mil and Big Momma’s House 3 grosses $51 MIl, how the F*^K can we as a community complain when we get MORE grown negroes in dresses, than scripts of substance handled with care and thought? If you’re MAD AS HELL about this Zoe Saldana BS, but you haven’t done a DAMN thing to support Black film, LIKE MOST OF US DON’T, then you shouldn’t say a DAMN THING right now. I don’t give a FLYING F*^K how offended this movie makes you, because you are nothing more than an unregistered voter, bitching about the job the President’s doing – you PROVED you don’t matter.
The only thing that matters in Hollywood is the numbers, and we CONTINUE to ignore OUR own quality programming choices, while Love & Hip Hop Atlanta & Basketball Wives has our communities COMPLETE attention. One of the most DISGUSTING misnomers regarding this entire situation is the ideology that if India Arie was cast as the lead, we would ALL be rushing down to the theatre to make SURE this movie is a hit – PLEASE MISS ME WITH THAT BS. Our collective community’s track record in supporting films such as these is TERRIBLE. Not only do we RARELY support, but even if we do, we UNDER SUPPORT. Think Like A Man made $87 Mil, and do not get it confused for ONE second – the majority of that was US. We DO have the power, we just don’t WIELD it – but we’ll be the first to stand on line and RUN OUR DAMN MOUTHS about how disappointed we are.
Let me be clear on my stance on this issue: I wish the casting for this movie was done with more consideration and thought, but you won’t see me signing any petitions, standing on any picket lines or throwing tomatoes at Zoe Saldana’s Prius. The massive failure that was Red Tails, followed by the massive successes that is EVERYTHING Black & ratchet, helped me realize that OUR community will simply never get IT. Until we shun and support what’s good for us in Hollywood, we will NEVER truly have the autonomy we want.
This Is Your Conscience