More Of The Same

Bellas and fellas, so much has been said about the sad state of black talent in Hollywood, but I started to feel faint prickles of hope again, now that Obama’s president and this year two African American actresses are vying for Oscars. But every time I feel like Hollywood has taken two steps forward in terms of diversity, I then discover that it’s more like two steps back.

Case in point, this article from The Root which just might give you a headache if you’re sensitive to these issues, like I am. Oh, and thanks to my amiga Nichelle of 55 Secret Street, Anovelista, and Revenge of the Curves for sharing this story with me, headache inducing as it was.

Nick Charles tells the background story of New In Town, a ghastly-looking and terribly reviewed
rom-com starring frequent star of ghastly-looking, terribly-reviewed rom-coms, Renee Zellweger. Jezebel shone a light on the reviews, which, if you love to read nasty movie reviews, are like comedy gold.

But The Root reveals, this was meant to be a different sort of chick flick.

“…With this romantic comedy, which opens today and stars Zellweger and Harry Connick Jr., the lead was supposed to be a black actress and the writer had someone in mind from the very beginning. “I initially wanted Angela Bassett,” says Kenneth Rance, the screenwriter. “I’m a big fan of her work. And Gabrielle Union was initially cast.”

Wait a minute. Are you KIDDING me?


New In Town was intended to be an entirely different movie, with a much less obvious plot. A plot rarely seen in Hollywood. And yes, because of fear? Myopia? Prejudice? a role that could have been played by a supremely talented actress of color, went to an actress who, as the San Francisco Chronicle says, “takes an otherwise passable mainstream comedy and all but ruins it with her lack of effort. The script may not have been “Cinderella Man” or “Cold Mountain,” but audience members are still going to pay the same $10.50 ticket price to see her perform. The least she could do is not deliver her lines as if she were reading them from cue cards.”

Ugh.

Meanwhile, Angela Bassett continues to work. She recently raked in some box office bucks in Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns, and as BIG’s mom in Notorious. She plays a recurring role on ER, and in this recent LA Times piece, it appears that she’s loving life. She has no reason to be mad about this. But I’m kinda mad on her behalf. I’m mad as a black woman who likes to go to the movies, and would love to see more black actresses get their moments to shine as more than just the sassy friend. I’m mad that Hollywood always does the predictable thing, shafting talented actors and actresses and expecting moviegoers to pony up cash for more of the same.

What say you?

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Comments

  1. Thanks for the shout out Bella!

    And, yeah, that article still gives me a headache. I really wish that somebody (ANYBODY!) had fought for Angela Bassett to take that role. I see Diane Lane doing all kinds of things like “Under the Tuscan Sun” and “Unfaithful” and I always think that I would love to see Angela in films like that.

  2. We have to support movies with black women. After Something New “underperformed” that basically killed New In Town starring Gabriele Union. A black female exec at a studio told me “black romantic comedies are dead”.

    So unless folks only want to see Tyler Perry movies or period dramas we have to get out there the first weekend.

    Hollywood is brutal for actresses over 30 period. For black actress it’s even worse.

    Ms. Bassett might have dodged a bullet on this movie though. It was not a good one and I passed on the original script because it was sexist and not funny.

  3. I saw “New in Town” (only because I’m a big fan of both Renee and HCJ) and I actually don’t think it would’ve worked with a minority actress — a lot of the humor would have been racially charged and I could just see them trying to turn the lead into a stereotypical “black woman with an attitude.” That said, I would love to see HCJ get it one with a chocolate sistah :)

  4. nyc/caribbean ragazza is on the money. We have to step up and support our girls that first weekend if we can! Money talks.

  5. I know that money is a big part of it (no business, no show) but I think that there needs to be more questioning and fighting on the part of black filmmakers too.

  6. A romantic comedy with a black leading actress that (hopefully) does not rely on stereotypes for comedy? I would’ve possibly went to see it.
    But Renee’s do-over of “Sweet Home Alabama” (same director), I will not go see.

  7. I’ve pretty much given up on Hollywood. Blockbuster movies are usually formulaic crap that fail to inspire. I prefer independent films. Instead of waiting on Hollywood to recognize the obvious talent of African Americans, we need to create our own opportunities and write, direct, produce quality films. Emphasis on quality!

  8. Maybe they read the script and realized it would be a flop. WE have to start supporting Black movies (ie, NOT BOOTLEGGING THEM and not buying the bootleg versions), period. The movie looks like it wasn’t very good.

  9. I would actually watch the film if Angela was in it. From the commercials I wasn’t interested in it at all. I love watching Angela on ER though because he skin is AMAZING! Its like she doesn’t age. She has the most perfect, glowing, firm, golden skin I have ever seen. They do really good make-up on brown skinned women on that show. Neela has great skin too.

  10. My husband, cousin-in-law and I were just talking about this a few weeks ago. What has happened? In the late ’90s early 2000s Black romantic comedies were flowing and they were great! We had LoveJones (the best!), Love&Basketball, The Brothers, The Best Man, The Wood, Brownsugar, Breakin’ all the Rules..heck, we even had Two Can Play that Game. Now, it seems that the only mainstream representation we get is through Tyler Perry. I’m not knocking him, but we certainly have other talented and creative people that can make different types of movies. It is so weird how we (not us, but Hollywood) have moved backwards in this regard. I want to know what the underlying reason is–seriously?! I’m mean, when it comes down to making $ that is usually the drive for everything. “Black” movies make $, so I’m actually surprised they haven’t been exploited like the music industry has. But then again, we’re speaking about positive movies that would show our humanity as on par with everyone esles…….

  11. Black movies dont make the $$ the “mainstream” ones do. They tend to play in less theatres and do less $$ per screen and their runs are usually shorter (since they play in fewer theatres). That is my unofficial observation. I get real picky about spending $25 for a movie night and then the movie isn’t that great. :( I feel cheated.

  12. I was going to write about this on my blog but the film is a major flop (womp womp) so I didn’t even bother.

    Believe it or not, this has happened before. Directors and screenwriters want black women and the producers and studios shut it down.

    But in all fairness it is hard to get black people to PAY to see anything that is not riddled with stereotypes and coonishness.

    I always use the example of Booty Call and Rosewood. They both opened around the same time, within one week of each other. Booty Call went on to be a huge grosser and become a black film “classic” while Rosewood barely made a dent in the box office. Both films were heavily marketed and opened in over 2,000 theaters.

    So I can understand why producers would rather go with Zellwegger because white women are much more likely to support ANYTHING another white woman does. Would black women have gone to see “New In Town” if Angela’s love interest were not Blair Underwood or Morris Chestnutt? Or would they have just bootlegged it?

  13. Natural Hair Product Researcher says:

    We can be as angry as we want to be, but what we really need to do is pool our money and create our own stuff. I mean, say what you want about Tyler Perry (cause I say it whenever his movies comes out)he is creating his own stuff. Now, if we can get him to spend ten more minutes on his scripts…

    Further, stereotypes are no-brainer money makers for Hollywood. Black women: angry with attitude; Black men: non threading or hoods; Asian men: martial artists; blonde white women: dumb or fake Marilyn types; Asian women: shrewd, cold dragon ladies, get my point?

    I’ll bet you can all name at least ten movies with these silly stereotypes.

  14. Has anyone considered that Angela Bassett didn’t want it?

    She has two children, she’s doing ER and given the fact that Notorious came out recently they probably filmed at the same time at some point.

    I don’t know what the deal is with Gabrielle Union. *shrug*

  15. Let me say first that I love the new look of Afrobella!! I know I’m probably about a week late on the change but me likey :)

    There were tons, well maybe not tons, of great movies in the 90s about black love/culture and the overall experience. I secretly reminisce about the 90s and the good times! It seems that the hot thing in the movies/tv is exploration of interracial love in some way or form or simply just regurgitating the classic stereotypes. More often times than not, the interracial interaction involves a black man with someone other than a black woman. Because of this interest(I wonder whose…) many black male actors are workin’ overtime and black actresses not so much….and as a result not much black romance on the big screens.

    Is it just me or is this at least one of the trends of this decade?

    Black romance is dead while interracial romance takes the front seat?

    Angela and HCJ would have been spicy…but I’m not sure about the Sweet home Alabama feel either….I’m going to see the film this weekend and try to imagine Angela in the role..hmmm

  16. flygyrl72 says:

    Man, Bella! This is a personal post to me! I agree with nyc/caribbean & bebroma & some others on here, I’m here in La-la & I see it go down everyday. We, as Black people (not all of us, but you know what I mean), always wanna go out & see the dumb ass “Big Mama House 7″ & “Norbit”, but never go to see stuff like “Miracle at St. Anna” or “Rosewood” or “Talk To Me”. “Eve’s Bayou”?! Hello? I can go on & on… It’s ridiculous. Then, we’re mad when we don’t get jack but “White Chicks Pt. 4″. We have to step it up. We definitely have the spending dollars & financial weight to get it done, but we have to actively go out that first weekend & support genuine Black artistic efforts so that these studio execs see that they can bring in profit too. Cause mostly, for them, it’s about the moolah. And, for the most part, Black movies with real substance (taking place outside of the “hood”) haven’t done all that well financially at the box office. And that’s what these studios look at before greenlighting a project. The stories/scripts are there, it’s just that no one can get the funding so that the real substantial scripts can see the light of day.

    I’m waiting to see how well Lee Daniels’ “Push” does, I can’t wait to see it, LOVED the book, really interested in seeing this cast bring it to life on the big screen….

    Also, just cause I want to add this, I was INFURIATED by the fact that they cast Angelina Jolie’s narrow behind to portray Daniel Pearl’s wife in that one movie, his wife is BLACK in real life, albeit, mixed heritage, but not WHITE, & all they did was give her a curly perm…LOL…F.O. Hollywood.

    It’s on us, you guys, we have to support more of what we really want to see in the movies. Projects that portray ALL the different aspects of Black people’s lives in America. Not all of us are from the hood (not that there’s anything wrong with that). We “Huxtables”, whether to the manor born or self-made, wanna see more diverse portrayals on the big screen too. And all of us bellas of color deserve to see more diversity on the big screen, it can only benefit us all.

  17. Happy Bob Marley Day Bella!!! Love the new layout! Make sure yah “jammin’ later!

  18. well, i agree with most here…i think blacks are open to see everything but i think on the other hand whites aren’t they are the ones that prefer sterotypes of blacks over the truth. i noticed this in my experience with talking about movies with whites especially white males. i think age plays a part in this also. i think we need to support our own and i think things in hollywood have never really changed it is not that cool to be brown but it is to be mixed

  19. “So I can understand why producers would rather go with Zellwegger because white women are much more likely to support ANYTHING another white woman does.”

    I think that’s a loaded statement. Due to sheer numbers white people can pick and choose what movies to see an not worry about whether they get more representation or not.

    I also think it’s stupid to support ANYTHING just b/c of race. A crappy movie is just that, crap. I don’t care who is opposite the actress.

  20. I agree with the sentiment. I mean Zellweger could be in a million and one hit movies. Gabby and Angela don’t get that opportunity.

    But a couple of points:

    1. Black misrepresentation in Hollywood is NOT unique to just us. What about the other minorities? Look at Bend It Like Beckham…a British movie which became a hit in the States, the white girl Keira Knightley entered Hollywood immediately, whereas Parminder Nagra, the Indian girl, hasn’t (even though her ER stint has been successful).

    2. We need to stop waiting for the white filmmakers to cast us. How about black filmmakers stepping up on their own standards and make more movies like Akeelah and The Bee or Push (based on the Sapphire novel)? Tyler Perry opening his own production company is a positive step. More black directors, writers, producers, etc need to create better acting opportunities for black actors and actresses. Scale down on the number of stereotypical comedies like Norbitt or Soul Plane.

    Obama’s election is not gonna change long held prejudices of white people. America has one of the most racist, shameful histories of any nation on earth. The mentality has become almost intrinsic with it, alongside big egos, hunger for power, greed, capitalism and the need to invade countries.

  21. I also agree with a majority of the sentiments expressed. The key is for more of our black actors and actresses to pool their resources and start their own studios.

    This would definitely create the opportunities that are not always afforded to them.

    What I hate to see is our Black oscar winners with not a single major role after having achieved such an accomplishment.

    Look a Halle, Cuba, and Jamie Foxx. I have yet to see them in any major films since their win.

    Our black actors need to come together and create their OWN opportunities for success.

  22. Interesting comments, all. I would also like to know what happened between the screenwriter’s wanting to cast a black actress and ending up with Renee Zellweger.

    I also agree, to a point, with everyone who has said we need to vote with our dollars and see good black film in order to sustain and increase its presence. At the same time, for heaven’s sake, Hollywood needs to take a gamble on its audience’s ability to digest something more complex than Renee Zellweger in another rom com (or Tyler Perry’s latest shenanigan, bless his soul, but I cannot watch his movies).

    We need to push, with our dollars and with our voices too, for more diverse casts and complex plot lines. Black film is so relevant right now — we’re at a turning point in our experience as a people, for heaven’s sake. Also relevant is film about interracial friendships, relationships, and the genuine co-existence of people of different backgrounds in the world today.

    So yes, we need to see these movies when they come out and we also need to find a way to let studios know what we want. Maybe they’ll listen and maybe they won’t, but the responsibility for the dearth of good roles for black actors is *at least* half Hollywood’s.

  23. I absolutely agree with Mandown. Perhaps, it is because my husband is half Filipino and I’m African-American, but I not only have noticed the lack of black faces appearing in Hollywood movies, but also faces of other shades too…unless it is a period piece. Just yesterday my husband and I saw a preview on TV for the movie “He’s Just Not That Into You” and maybe it was me, but I did NOT see one person of color shown among the list of characters.

  24. What really hurts blackactresses is the fact that they are no longer alowed to play the love intreast of black men.

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