Thursday, 18 March 2010

Thinking differently

I am not going to comment any further on the Howard Stern comment on Gabourey Sidibe than saying - "he is one to talk about appearance."
All he really did was give 'Precious' a lot more credence as a film. We do laugh at people who are physically different. We are all basically twats - some of us more than others.
However it does bring up an interesting point on black actresses in Hollywood. We all know how difficult good roles are for them to get. If they get a juicy role in a film, that happens to be considered a 'black' film, then the audience is automatically limited. In other aspects they are usually supporting players or in an independent film.
If you look at the lead actresses nominated for Oscar, the picture becomes clear:
1954 - Dorothy Dandridge in 'Carmen Jones'
1972 - Diana Ross in 'Lady Sings the Blues'
1972 - Cicely Tyson in 'Sounder'
1974 - Diahann Carroll in 'Claudine'
1985 - Whoopie Goldberg in 'The Color Purple'
1993 - Angela Bassett in 'What's Love Got To Do with It'
2001 - Halle Berry in Monsters Ball *
2009 - Gabourey Sidibe in 'Precious'
That is 2% of nominees since the beginning of Oscar time (* indicates winner).

Supporting actress is a little different:
1939 - Hattie McDaniel in 'Gone with the Wind' *
1948 - Ethel Waters in 'Pinky'
1959 - Juanita Moore in 'Imitation of Life'
1967 - Beah Richards in 'Guess Who's Coming to Dinner'
1983 - Alfre Woodard in 'Cross Creek'
1985 - Oprah Winfrey in 'The Color Purple'
1985 - Margaret Avery in 'The Color Purple'
1990 - Whoopie Goldberg in 'Ghost' *
1996 - Marianne Jean-Baptiste in 'Secrets and Lies'
2002 - Queen Latifah in 'Chicago'
2004 - Sophie Okonedo in ' Hotel Rwanda'
2006 - Jennifer Husdon in 'Dreamgirls' *
2007 - Ruby Dee in 'American Gangster'
2008 - Viola Davis in 'Doubt'
2008 - Taraji P. Henson in 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button'
2009 - Mo'Nique in 'Precious' *
That is a little less than 4.5% of nominees in this category (* indicates winner).
Whoopie is the only black actress to receive two nominations so there are more milestones to go.
So yes, Gabourey is going to have a hard time, but things are getting better. What troubles me is that so many people have written her off as a one hit wonder without seeing any more of her work. We will be able to judge on August 16th (Madonna's Birthday!) when her showtime series 'The Big C' premiers.
But it seems we are all ready to kill her career before it has even began based on how she looks. When did we become so f*cking cynical?
Perhaps if we thought better of the film industry, they would come around. I mean things are getting better. 43% of black actresses nominated in the supporting category were from this past decade (the lead category still needs to catch up with the 1970's - sadly).
Why do we look at someone and, judging by their appearance, dismiss them? Shouldn't we try and see everyone as equal to begin with? Isn't that the point of 'Precious' in the first place?

I think there is a place for her in Hollywood. She is something fresh, new and intelligent and that is something the film industry needs much more of. All it will take is a few screenwriters to think a little bit out side of the box in terms of what image they give their characters for and casting directors to think a little bit out side of the box in terms of filling roles.

At the end of the day, the legacy all actresses leave behind is one of two things. Their image, or the quality of their work. Sometimes, if they are incredibly lucky, it will be both.

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