People are complaining a lot about the biopics that have been hitting Hollywood on the small screen lately. Whether it was Aaliyah’s biopic, which was produced by Wendy Williams, or Whitney Houston’s which was directed by Angela Bassett, people have had a lot to say. And not everything has been positive. The main issue seems to be the families of these icons not respecting the way their loved one is being cast.
After all, most of the films are touching on certain, not all, parts of the person’s life. They also seem to put more of a light on the romantic portion of their lives and not what we may remember them as – that down to earth, sultry R&B singer or the greatest voice of our time.
Most recently, the big hoopla is with Zoe Saldana playing Nina Simone in the upcoming biopic of the Jazz legends life. I’m not sure if Zoe playing her is my biggest concern. Rather, it’s the depiction of so many great lives and legacies gone array by people getting permissions that they shouldn’t have. According to many sources, Aaliyah’s family wasn’t pleased at all with her story being brought to the small screen.
With all that Whitney Houston was and still is, I felt the portrayal of her in that TV movie was horrible. It showed a fraction of her life – the fraction where Bobby Brown came in – and that seemed to be it. With all the lives this woman touched through her music and her ability to have you rocked with goosebumps with her beautiful voice and all we got was two hours of her and Bobby Brown’s love life?
So, the topic isn’t “Should Zoe Saldana have been chosen to play Nina Simone?” but rather, “Who is giving Hollywood permission to tread on the legacies of these people only showing a fraction of what they were and what they left behind?”
Of course, I also felt that there were other women that could’ve played Nina Simone, but it was in no way to be offensive to Zoe, because I love Zoe Saldana. The problem is – Hollywood always goes for the “mainstream” pretty face. By that, I mean, they go for the look of a person who may otherwise not have fit the role on all sides – the voice, the vibe, the feel – of the artist and person being portrayed.
Halle Berry slayed the role of Dorothy Dandridge because in actuality, she fit not only her look, but the sensuality and poise that Dorothy herself displayed. Take Carmen Jones the movie. If you don’t see how Halle fit the role perfectly, then take a closer look.
Was a woman of color who was more befitting when it came to the solid acting, the poise, and the delivery to give the Jazz great a voice beyond the grave, not enough because of their darker skin? The fact that they even had to darken Zoe’s skin says something about the way entertainment in their own way tells us how we should “see” each other. Though subliminal, the message is clear.
That is the issue that is at hand. Do we as African-American women need to stop bashing each other and labeling each other as “too light” or “too dark”? Absolutely. Who came up with that anyway? Well, it’s all historical. But should Hollywood continue to distort the images that we appreciate by telling us through our art, what beauty should be defined as? No. Hell no.
Take it back to LL Cool J’s “Doin’ It” and you’ll see exactly what I mean. So no, I’m NOT as an African American woman bashing Zoe Saldana’s acting or her looks. I speak for those bashing the entertainment industry that continues to push aside the many faces of beauty that we have, just to fit into a paradigm of beauty that they created.