“I loves Porgy…but who is this young lady?”

Posted: 2012/09/16 in Entertainment/Culture, Movies/Film, Society/Culture

Here we go again, Hollywood…*sigh*

Zoe Saldana is set to play Nina Simone in the forthcoming biopic for Ms. Simone .

Ummmm…no, no, no, Hollywood!

This selection justifiably raises some eyebrows. While Zoe is a terrific actress, getting her to play Nina is not right. So much of Nina’s identity as a strong, outspoken and controversial artist stems from  her upbringing as a dark-skinned “plain (yet unconventionally beautiful) featured” woman in America’s turbulent Jim-Crow through Civil Rights eras (an image that evokes the human bondage that preceded those years). This was a time when her image was striking and defiant for the era (her dark skin, pre-popularity “Afro” hairstyle, (at times) African garb, and head-wraps).

Nina was a very proud dark-skinned woman who didn’t smile much (in the subordinate “aww shucks” way that a woman of color was expected to “back in the day”)…and Simone didn’t suffer fools well (even in her later years). There wasn’t much to smile about in those times. The rare smile from Simone was noticeably a minor victory for the (mostly) white journalist who interviewed her (and they were never able to conceal their utter joy  (relief) at seeing her as a “human being” that was capable of non-confrontational emotion). It was wonderfully subversive to have them seeking her approval in many ways.

Nina Simone held a freshly polished and buffered  mirror to America’s ugly past and (what was at the time) America’s present. It was born of a pissed-off, oppressed, and highly intelligent woman maligned and eventually (through hard work AND legendary stubbornness) highly respected for her personal appearance and demeanor.That look and those features went hand-in hand-with her personality. It was a package deal (and when you get down to it, “cause and effect as well”).  Her image and outspoken character, was as radical as the Sex Pistols (yet she was light-years beyond them in eloquence and musical “chops”) in her own way.

I believe this casting choice is such an image departure in the telling of her story, it effectively “whitewashes” Nina. I think it whitewashes her to such an extent , that (I think) it would have deeply bothered Nina. I could imagine her saying (because I am supremely imaginative (and humble, lol) )  in that  husky/academic voice of hers:

“[She] is a very BEAUTIFUL, young, (and gifted) woman of color…but I fear her appearance is more “acceptable” (in America) than mine is/was…and the essence of who and what I am will be lost in this translation… that appearance (her appearance) is not in line with an effective (or even) rational retelling of my journey and career…was Angelina Jolie too busy to play this version of “Nina”?

hmmmm. It makes me wonder: “Was Angelina too busy?”


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