I been triflin’. I haven’t done right by y’all and been posting regularly. I got no excuses. But I can fix it. How? By supersizing these posts and being extr-y droll. So, here we go.
Okay so first before I even begin to answer this question I have to acknowledge a few things that trip this BW up about certain kinds of white ladies (and thus make me more prejudicial about these issues than I should be). I have to do this now because honestly, certain things just about do me in and just make me highly annoyed—to the point that I can’t fully articulate anything else except the fact that I am annoyed. So, let me just put these out there:
1) “Quirky, ironic” white ladies are on my hit list. I don’t like them or find their personalities agreeable. Anybody who would define themselves as “quirky” automatically makes the little angry BW teapot in me start to steam up. Examples in point: Ellen Page in ANYTHING, Drew Barrymore, Carey Mulligan, Kristen Stewart. Just the look of them sets something off in me. It’s something about that deadpan humor and the too quick banter that makes me swelter. I remember the first time I recognized my fury: Miranda July’s Me, You and Everyone we Know. I saw it at Sundance in 2005 and was just SO ANGRY by the end of the movie (not just her but the story as well AND the fact that she pulled some postracial BS by falling in love with a white guy who had biracial children and a black mom who never entered the screen..frustration x 21). She was so quirky. So hip. So cute. Sooo white lady. And I was ready to cut a bitch. It may be totally irrational but dude, I swear, come up to me and act quirky: I will hate you; not heart you.
2) Part of what irks me about #1 is the haircuts and the paleness. And the blasé looks on their faces. Seriously, is life that uninteresting? Is it too hard to just smile without smirking? Is fame really that much of a weight? Give. me. a. damn. break.
Which leads me to the cover. Clearly when I saw this year’s Young Hollywood edition, I was not surprised that there was an absolute lack of color on the cover.
Everyone on the cover was doing something refreshing and different. They were all in some small way doing something that made them special. And, honestly, what are we BW doing that is special and different and refreshing? Zoe “I really don’t like to claim her as my tribe cause I get the sense that she doesn’t want to be claimed” Saldana is playing a blue alien. Gabby Sidibe doesn’t really have anything in the fire post-Precious. Who else? Really, who else? Thus it becomes clear that part of the problem is that while there are a couple of BW actresses out there working, whatever they are doing is not considered as relevant as portraying Joan Jett or an obsessive crazy gal in love with her professor or a 1960s British teenager or the heroine of a period piece that allows her to be the object of famous poetry. Nah, we ain’t doing that (or, to be more precise, we aren’t ALLOWED to be doing that.) And, that’s partly why we’re not on the cover of this magazine.
Now that I’ve said that, let me clarify: 1) again, it’s not for a lack of trying that BW haven’t succeeded with trying to become more relevant and special. Wait, wait, let me back up: So, in Hollywood, casting directors are looking for actors and actresses who can be special but familiar; extraordinary but relatable. Suffice to say, black actresses on the screen have been said to create the opposite effect as far as white audiences go. However, if there were NEVER BW actresses on screen then there would be an outcry (we hope at least) so Hollywood logic appeases the “squeaky wheels”. How? By putting “light skinned, long haired” BW on screen. Technically, they look more like white females so there’s the relatable aspect. But that’s just part of the so-called remedy. The second part comes from the BW themselves. You see, sometimes we actually seem to overcompensate for our colorful difference. We try to be MORE like our white counterparts; we try to be universal. We want to be “actresses”; not black actresses.The great irony of this foolish logic is that their white counterparts are doing their damndest NOT to be universal or normative. Remember: they’re QUIRKY. They’re IRONIC. They’re spit-fire quick with the 50-cent vocabulary and their cute haircuts. Kristen Stewart wants to be considered a hip and edgy actress—not just an actress. And, Ellen Page wants to be the intellectual hipster actress—not just an actress. Hell, Anna Kendrick wants to be a serious actress—not just an actress. But BW? We really want to believe that there is such a thing as “just an actress.” So, we’ve got it a little bit confused.
Ready for more? Well, first, let’s just admit it: one of the many ways that white privilege* functions is that it doesn’t have to think about racialized others. Unless there was someone on the creative team who thought, “let’s be diverse” (which has its own problems), BF don’t really get thought about it. It’s a very “Out of sight out of mind” kind of thinking process. Don’t believe me? Look at this interview with one of the cover actresses, Amanda Seyfried (aside from her performance as Sarah, the really confused, Hendrickson on Big Love and ::lord:: Mamma Mia!, she’s the obsessive crazy lady in the upcoming film Chloe). When Whoopi (God bless Whoopi. Seriously, I miss Rosie on The View but I’m glad Whoopi is there) asks her what she thought about the absence of color on the cover shoot, she responds (go to 2:50):
“I’ve never thought about it.” Very innocent, very ignorant (and I don’t mean that in a perjorative way..well, not necessarily), very honest admission. And you know what? She’s right! She doesn’t have to think about it. Not just because she’s an actress who has to make room for herself but because the lack of blackness, Latinoness or Asianness doesn’t affect her damn worldview. D id you hear what she said? There were lots of girls with different hair colors?! See, I hope she was joking. Because if she was serious (and she said it rather seriously) then…well, nevermind. The point is that in her (even joking) assertion that somehow difference is established through hair color (and white ladies, I know that there’s some serious high drama between the blondes and the brunettes but please, let’s not try to equate that with cultural specificity of difference in racialized bodies. You will not win that fight. Nope.)
Let me just also put this out there for free: To have just one from each tribe would also be annoying. But it would still at the very least suggest that it’s not just quirky ironic white ladies who have a future in Hollywood. I fear that this cover actually speaks volumes about BW’s futures in this industry.
So, now, why didn’t BW grace this cover? Clearly, because our hair color isn’t different enough.
Edited to add this wonderfulness: See, Zoe Saldana went and said this foolishness and now I just want to vanquish her and banish her to Na’vi.
“I feel like we can spend a lot of time bashing our beautiful country, but we don’t give it enough credit,” Zoe told Access at the Cinema Society and HBO screening of HBO’s “How To Make It In America” in New York City.
WHAAAT the hell in the name of chickens, ducks and geese kinda answer is that? Wait a minute. I’m not quite sure I understand her response as it relates to the specific question, “why did you fail to make the cut for the Vanity Fair cover?” Y’all my blood pressure is rising. Oh but if to prove to you that she wasn’t bothered by the snub at all, she continues:
“Our pace might be a little slow and it might not be on par to how we, as American civilians, would like it to be, but it is still an amazing country,” Zoe continued. “So, when I look at magazines like Vanity Fair and Vogue, I know that it’s just a matter of time, the same way Obama took his time and he got to office and became President… it’s just a matter of time until magazines, the media, our art, our culture, our colloquial lifestyle, tags along to our today reality.”
Okay, I took her off my BW roll. She makes me mad. Now, to be fair (if only to appease my nerves and try not to sound TOO polemical), I can understand the business strategy behind this. Remember Hollywood logic? Well, one thing that it pulls from society-at-large is that anybody who speaks about inequity from a position of marginalization gets to be overlooked because they’re “whiny”. The victim never wins in Hollywood logic. Oh, there may be some short-term appeasement, but long term? Rarely is there a significant win. So, Saldana may essentially be saying, “I’m not a whiner. I want to be another blue alien in a film that appropriates Dances with Wolves but with the twist that the white man transforms into a full fledged, authentic native.” That’s totally possible. But it still angers me. Because how are things supposed to change if no one gets angry? What will change people’s opinions? Overcompensating toward a hyper-universality CERTAINLY won’t.
I rest my case.
Link to Saldana’s talk here.
*white privilege: for more detail on how it works, here’s a really amazing piece by Peggy Mcintosh.