All Articles Tagged "Hollywood"
The latest episode of Hollywood’s ongoing whitewashing saga comes in the form of the upcoming movie, Ghost in the Shell. Based on a wildly popular Japanese manga series that spawned three films, a TV series and video games, the upcoming live-action adaptation of Ghost in the Shell stars Scarlett Johansson. She plays a character named the Major, a law enforcement officer known as Motoko Kusanagi in the source material. Though the film won’t hit theaters until 2017, it’s already making news because of its blatant erasure of cultural and racial identity. A character conceived and written as Japanese, who lives and works in an environment distinctly reflective of a technologically booming Japanese economy does not automatically make one think of Johansson, her talents aside.
This, on top of rumors from independent sources who, according to ScreenRant, claim that Paramount and DreamWorks “commissioned visual effects tests that would’ve altered Scarlett Johansson in post-production to ‘shift her ethnicity’ and make the Caucasian actress appear more Asian in the film.” Paramount, however, asserts that they did not and will not conduct such tests.
If that weren’t enough, writer/director Max Landis uploaded a self-described “profession-splaining” video on YouTube stating that the ownness of this epic fail lies not on the studio, the film industry, the director or ScarJo, but on the fact that there are no internationally recognized A-list female Asian celebrities. The system, he insists, is the reason why Johansson is the best thing that could have happened to this film; otherwise, it would not see the light of day.
There’s so much to unpack in this story. Let’s start here:
How about we stop promoting and encouraging the same lame, tired excuses? If there’s one thing we all know to be true about Hollywood, it’s that studios, directors, agencies, casting directors, etc. break talent, both on screen and behind the scenes. That’s a part of their job. It’s a tremendous amount of power and influence, none of which is 100 percent guaranteed by the way, no matter what certain outdated or biased number crunchers assert to uphold the belief that White is standard, universal and the ideal against which everything else is measured. This is not an attack on Johansson or a suggestion that studios greenlight multimillion-dollar projects with inexperienced, just-started-acting-yesterday leads (although non-professional actors sparked movements like Italian neorealism – and with a lot less money), but was it really that difficult to find an Asian actress to play the lead role in Ghost in the Shell? If an Asian actress wasn’t even considered to begin with, why not? More importantly, how do we change the thinking and the practices that uphold whitewashing instead of simply blaming “the system”?
The system, by the way, is not some ether-adjacent, independent entity that movers and shakers in Hollywood are completely immune to, as Landis seems to suggest in his video. He also acknowledges that the film industry at large operates out of fear. That is precisely the problem. For a place that funds imagination and pours millions into stories conceived by creative minds – some in Hollywood lack exactly that – imagination. In the case of Ghost in the Shell, it seems that the studio could not imagine an Asian actress playing an Asian role. But if casting a known White actress is so safe, why is there a Care 2 petition nearly 95,000 signatures deep asking DreamWorks to reconsider casting Johansson? Why is all the talk surrounding this film about its whitewashing? If White is so safe, why did Gods of Egypt tank at the box office? Why were people up in arms about the casting of Emma Stone in Aloha, another flop at the box office?
Virtually every film that is made is a risk. But Hollywood is in the risk-taking business. And while I personally would not consider hiring a non-A-list, non-White actress to play the lead in Ghost in the Shell a bold act, imagine the discussion we would be having if the studio took that “risk.” By playing it old-school safe, the studios behind this film upheld a system (there goes that “s” word again) that would erase cultural and racial identity, all while, if the rumors are true, attempting to give a White actress Asian features. This is a huge part of the reason why the words “access,” “opportunity” and “inclusion” hover in the dense L.A. smog and circulate in every entertainment-related report.
It’s also ironic that Paramount is adapting Ghost in the Shell, but stripping it of its intrinsic identity. Adaptation is so common in the realm of entertainment. A great deal of the films and some television shows out there are adapted from another source, be it a book, a short story, a film or show from another country. This happens so often because once something is a proven hit or has a so-called built-in audience, studios equate that with money. And while things naturally change during the adaptation process, it’s clear that some of the changes being made to Ghost in the Shell are unwanted and unnecessary. So if this film goes the way of Gods of Egypt, we’ll all know why.
When the poster and trailer for the new, Terrence J-led film, The Perfect Match, hit the internet, there was a bit of a controversy as to why all of the actors and even entertainers who made cameos were light complected. So when we had the chance to sit down and chat with Terrence J, who stars in and executive produces the film, we had to ask him about it. See what he has to say about colorism, how men and women handle heartbreak differently, and how the movie is about men learning to understand the value of a woman. Check out the video above.
Hollywood has a thing for combining well-known entities, historical figures, and popular genres into movie mashups like Alien vs. Predator, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and the recent parody, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Makes you wonder whether executives and studios are randomly picking a bunch of words and names out of a hat or using a Netflix algorithm to create the films that they’ll pour millions of dollars into and expect moviegoers to support. But support they will because mashups above all else prove that there’s an audience for all kinds of content. (So there’s really no excuse the next time Hollywood denies a Black film for fear it’s too niche, not marketable, etc.)
For kicks and giggles, here are some movie mashups featuring modern Black films and beloved classics of yesteryear. Don’t be surprised if you see one of these crazy concepts in a theater near you (or on demand)!
Captain America Creed Avengers
Pretty straightforward, here. Lots of ass-kicking, plenty of superheroes. There’s room for all kinds of factions, alliances and in-fighting. Michael B. Jordan will have his shirt off for at least two-thirds of the movie. Most importantly, Captain America Creed Avengers can produce prequels and sequels, which equals Hollywood gold. Booyah, cha-ching.
Feeling bogged down by the past? Take a lesson from these celebrities who rebranded their way to Hollywood success.
In Tinseltown, your reputation is everything. So when the buzz got bad for these Hollywood stars, they simply decided to change the conversation. They went from Hollywood bad boys and girls to some of the most respected celebrities on the red carpet. And some of these 180s were so good that we completely forgot about their not-so-clean reputations from way back when.
These famous celebrities who rebranded themselves remind us that it’s never too late to turn things around. If these stars can go from prison to popularity overnight, certainly we can make moves and change up our own image.
What’s your favorite celebrity comeback story? Or do you have your own inspirational story of image rehab to share? Leave it all in the comments so we can spread some of the inspiration around!
Planning a trip to the Hollywood Walk of Fame sometime soon? Even though there are nearly 3,000 stars moving up and down that long walk, there are a lot of deserving celebrities who have been left out for a long time while newer, more popular celebrities have been receiving such honors sooner than later. But just around the time we were all wondering if these celebrities were ever going to get their own star, they were finally immortalized on Hollywood Blvd.
So the next time you make a trip to that other H-Town, be sure to be on the lookout for these stars who were recently added to the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
“Happy” was Pharrell’s latest hit to blow the charts away. But he was making hits long before the minions were dancing along to his tune. Did you know that one of Pharrell’s first hits was “Rumpshaker” way back in 1992? Talk about a Hollywood star that’s overdue!
So, Janet Hubert is still talking…
More specifically, Hubert has done an interview with the LA Times elaborating more on her disdain for the Smiths as well as talk of a boycott.
The interview is very insightful; and way too long to copy and paste here, So I encourage you to read the whole thing. But for the sake of brevity, I just want to focus on her responses to the criticisms that her original call-out of the Smiths was rooted in bitterness.
“People have said you’re bitter for bringing up “old stuff.” How do you respond?
Every day of my life, I’ve had to deal with “old stuff.” Every time I try to move forward, somebody brings up “Fresh Prince.” Every time I walk into a room or make a phone call, somebody brings up “Fresh Prince.” I brought that story up simply to say, “You didn’t stand up 25 or whatever years ago to get more money for your cast” — and I asked him as a fellow actor, not as the person who owned the show. I had no idea. I brought it up to say that if you don’t stand up all the time, you can’t pick and choose when you decide to stand up.
If you Google me, you’ll see I’ve worked with the [National Coalition on Black Civic Participation’s] Black Women’s Roundtable from school to school, community center to community center, church to church. I’ve always been a warrior.
I have dealt with the ramifications of [rumors about being difficult on the “Fresh Prince” set] and I’m tired. You’re asking my fellow actors to step out and put their lives in jeopardy, and hang themselves the way you hung me. No, bro. I’m not going to let you do that. Especially when you put your woman out there to do it.
What then do you have to say regarding the broader issue of diversity in Hollywood, as it pertains to award shows?
Why do people need awards? Don’t you know your value and your worth? I don’t need anybody’s award or acceptance. We have a bigger problem. There needs to be huge changes in the system, but it’s not our system. Let’s make our own system. But I don’t want to hear those two. When you don’t stand up for the people who helped you get your start and now you’re asking people to stand up with you, it’s ironic to me. And it’s suspect.
If I understand correctly, you’re saying diversity is an issue, but black Hollywood has its own problems?
I think the black community has a lot to work on internally with what they deem successful. Did you know NeNe Leakes made it on Broadway before Janet Hubert? Something’s wrong with the whole system of bad behavior being rewarded. I think in the black community, ratchet has became the new black, ghetto has become the new black.”
This is not just about the Oscars. And truthfully, it doesn’t sound like it is just about The Smiths either.
For all intents and purposes, it is clear that Hubert feels a bit slighted here by all of Hollywood. Some may call it bitterness. I could definitely see that.
But if we are being honest, we can also see where she is coming from. And that is important too.
Because it is a narrative that speaks to how we tend to treat and relate to each other. In particular, how we treat those of us who have not been chosen as “exceptional” by the very institutions, which do not respect us all.
Even without White folks being present; (which is a oxymoron because thanks to White supremacy, the White gaze is omnipresent), Black folks will still make decisions about each other based upon what White folks think.
That’s what I gathered from her first video in which she called out Will Smith for not standing with her during contract negotiations. And that is also what I gather from Hubert when I read this portion of the aforementioned interview:
“So you’re not saying diversity in Hollywood isn’t an issue?
We’re all complaining about diversity in Hollywood, but we’ve got to address the colorism within the black community of Hollywood first. I’m called “dark-skinned Aunt Viv.” [Reid] is called “light-skinned Aunt Viv.” The whole ridiculousness of black Hollywood — there is no black Hollywood. It’s every man for himself. We’ve got to address that first before we can start attacking someone else’s awards that were never designed for us.
The Oscars were never designed for us. There are actors who have never gotten an Oscar and have done amazing work. If you are waiting for an award of a little … gold statue and that’s supposed to validate you, then you’re not in this business for the right reasons. We do the work. It’s about the work. It’s about taking the pages of a script and bringing them to life. It ain’t that deep. We get paid a lot of money to do very little work.”
Hubert might be bitter. How else can you explain her saying “it ain’t that deep. We get paid a lot of money to do very little work” after a lifetime of calling out folks for not taking the issues that Black folks go through in Hollywood seriously?
Still, there is no denying that she has suffered greatly for being the difficult one in an industry, which has been less than welcoming to Black folks. And while everyone was keeping their heads down low and doing all of the things that Hollywood told them to do and be, Hubert had something to say (and seeing how she is now, we can imagine that she had something to say about all of it).
And when she stood up, she found herself standing alone – and ostracized for it. And not just by White folks but by a bunch of us too, who felt she and her causes were too much of a risk and a liability to their own careers to be on that “old radical stuff.”
Generally, I agree with the Smiths’ personal pledge to not only boycott the Oscars but to bring resources back to the community. Regardless of what the motivation, the outcome of said action has the potential to bring about a lot of reform, which could help a lot of Black folks in Hollywood make inroads – even Hubert’s bitter behind.
But I also believe that Hubert has a right to feel some type of way about years of being passed over and disregarded in favor of folks who might be less trained but could say “yessir” more.
And while we are calling out White folks in Hollywood for overlooking us, we need to pay attention to the ways in which we have been complacent in our own oppression.
In this digital age, it’s easy to express collective outrage over a particular subject or event. Such was the case when the poster for Gods of Egypt was released. As the title suggests, the movie takes place in Egypt. Yet, the primary actors and actresses are White.
The people spoke up about their confusion and disgust of the blatant and unnecessary Whitewashing.
Their voices were so loud that both Lionsgate and the film’s director Alex Proyas apologized for the lack of diversity in their casting choices.
Proyas said, “The process of casting a movie has many complicated variables, but it is clear that our casting choices should have been more diverse.”
Then the studio reiterated the statement.
“We recognize that it is our responsibility to help ensure that casting decisions reflect the diversity and culture of the time periods portrayed. In this instance we failed to live up to our own standards of sensitivity and diversity, for which we sincerely apologize.”
The apology means very little considering the studio is not planning on changing anything,
Director Ava DuVernay stepped forward to say as much.
This kind of apology never happens – for something that happens all the time. An unusual occurrence worth noting. https://t.co/xRTEy7woWs
— Ava DuVernay (@AVAETC) November 28, 2015
Then she celebrated the films that are starring actors of color.
GODS OF EGYPT makes me value Abrams' STAR WARS choices more. Makes me cheer more for Coogler's CREED. We all deserve icons in our own image.
— Ava DuVernay (@AVAETC) November 28, 2015
What do you think about the apologies? Does it mean anything to you?
This week, The Hollywood Reporter released their annual actor’s roundtable issue. The roundtable interview featured Will Smith, Benicio del Toro, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Caine, Joel Edgerton and Mark Ruffalo, who were all asked a series of questions surrounding their profession. When asked if prejudice had ever affected their careers, Will Smith had this to say:
My wife and I were just having this conversation, and we were going to the dictionary for “prejudice” versus “racism.” Everybody is prejudiced. Everybody has their life experiences that make them prefer one thing over another — it makes them prefer blond hair over a brunette; if you see somebody with dark skin walking down the street, you have a different reaction than you have [with] someone who is 5-foot-1 and white. But there is a connotation with racism of superiority: You feel that your race generally is superior. And I have to say, I live with constant prejudice, but racism is actually rare — someone who thinks their race is superior. I don’t want to work for them. I don’t want to work at that company. And the times I have come in contact with it, you get away from those people.
Will Smith is right: racism is rare…if you are one of the biggest entertainers in the world who has millions of dollars in the bank and can create the roles and opportunities you want. Smith has the type of clout that allows him the choice to move in and out of circles that don’t serve his needs. He has the type of money (and pull at the box office) that makes smart Hollywood people with racist views know when to shut their mouths. He and his family are visible on a worldwide scale in such a way that they may not experience very many moments of blatant hate due to what they look like. Indeed, racism is absolutely very rare for the Will Smiths of the world.
There are definitely moments when racism rears its heads for Black people in Hollywood, like the time a boutique employee assumed Oprah couldn’t afford a purse the store carried so she wouldn’t let her see it. But moments like those are few and far between because big money and fame tend to silence hate when you’re in a high position of power in Hollywood. Because of his status and bank balance, Will Smith does not have to deal with the pressures of being the average Black man in Hollywood or America as a whole. Statistically, if Smith had never become an A-list star and he was just a working-class man from West Philadelphia, he or one of his sons might be in jail. This is because systemic racism is deeply ingrained within our society, and it is hellbent on keeping Black people down.
His statement was earnest but cloaked in both naiveté and ignorance, and it’s important to bear in mind that Will Smith has been rich and A-list famous for far longer than he was a poor kid from West Philly. While he was busy looking up the distinct differences between the definitions of prejudice and racism, racist and prejudice acts were disproportionately occurring against other POC in entertainment and the working class. For Smith to make a statement in a well-known publication that denies the constant nature of racism is wholly irresponsible and shows of his privilege. When bigots hear people like Smith say that racism is rare (even if just in Hollywood), it provides them ammunition, or better yet, justification to do nothing when racist acts occur. It also allows them to dismiss the underlining cause behind the lack of diversity onscreen and behind the camera.
It is great that we as Black people can see someone ascend to the heights of success that Will Smith has attained, but it is dangerous that while high on his perch, he should dare make such a lofty statement with such long-reaching effects.
If you’ve ever asked a Black man between the ages of 25-40 who their celebrity crushes are, Meagan Good’s name will come up a lot. Quite a lot. And perhaps that’s a part of the problem.
In a recent interview with the LA Sentinel, the actress talked about the journey to be taken seriously as an actress.
She mentioned that Viola Davis calling her name during her Emmy acceptance speech was a huge moment for her.
I cried. It meant so much to me to be acknowledged by someone like Viola who I have so much respect for. We all face challenges in this business especially as black women. It’s been a really long crawl for me to transition from being a child actress to an adult actress; in addition to being in that sex kitten role in my early 20s and fighting to be taken more seriously. It’s been a really long journey and to hear her say my name really blessed me. To listen to her journey and to know what she’s gone through to be acknowledged for the great actress that she is…it’s all of our struggles to get out of the box that people always try to put us in.
It’s an incredible time for women and minorities in TV and film. There’s been a massive shift that we’ve all been patiently waiting for. I’m a big believer in not complaining about the things that are wrong. Instead I place my energy into being on the front line of change, having a positive attitude and fighting to see things shift. To be in Hollywood right now and have these opportunities as the shift is coming is incredible.
To that point, Good said that she relies on God to help her determine which roles will be right for her career.
I pray and read my bible every single day, I stay close to God because He’s what matters the most; everything else is secondary. My career can never give me what God can give me. When Deception initially came to me, I was afraid to do TV because it’s a huge time commitment and you’ll potentially be playing the same character for several years. And for at least six months of the year you’re away from your family in a different state or even a different country.
I had all of these stipulations about what the situation had to be in order for me to do television. When the opportunity for me to star in Deception presented itself, it was everything I said it had to be, so I knew it was God. When it ended, I was very thankful because it created so many other opportunities for me in the process. Deception opened the door for Minority Report as well as my role in Anchor Man 2: The Legend Continues. God wanted me to have those different roles to be able to build a platform where I could be more affective as a Christian.
Deception allowed people to see me in a really different light. At the time, I had just gotten married and being away from my family I had a lot of time to grow personally and professionally. So I wasn’t disappointed when the show got canceled because I knew God had something else lined up. Similarly with Minority Report, I asked God for certain things within the role and it was everything I said it needed to be. It’s a testament to not settling. I would rather not work than to do something that I’m not passionate about.
I’m so excited about Minority Report. This show is definitely the hardest I’ve ever worked but it’s been an incredible experience. I trust God so much that even if my decisions don’t make sense to other people, I know that God knows what He’s doing.
Good’s comments are interesting to me. Before this interview, I would have thought she preferred the sex kitten roles. It always seemed to me that she was so anxious to break away from the child actress label that she went for the sexy route. Hell, even when she wasn’t in a movie, Good’s red carpet choices were sexy. We all remember the dress she wore to the BET Awards, pictured above. And she was presenting a gospel award.
This whole discussion reminds me of an episode of “Tia and Tamera” where Tamera told Tia that she was tired of being typecast as the innocent, sweet girl. Tia just looked at her and laughed saying, well maybe you should stop going to auditions wearing Shirley Temple curls.
Hollywood, and society at large, is shallow, always attempting to put people in one box or another. I’m sure this applies even more so to Black women who are just now being offered roles that are more complex and whole.
It’ll be interesting to see if Good ever breaks out of this “sex kitten” pigeon hole.
You can read her full interview with the LA Sentinel, here.
For decades, Whites actors and actresses have been cast to play people of color in Hollywood, making whitewashing a very nasty habit in Tinsel Town. But these Black actors managed to turned the table and were selected to star in traditionally White roles.
Michael B. Jordan
Comic book fans everywhere were in an uproar when Michael B. Jordan was selected to play Johnny Storm in the reboot of The Fantastic Four. But Chris Evans, who first played the role a decade earlier, gave Jordan his stamp of approval in hopes to appease loyal fans. The film tanked anyway at the box office and studio executives hope the sequel, which had already been announced, can salvage the franchise.