Friday, May 6, 2016

Critic's Notebook: On Kanye's 'Blue' Eyes, Lupita's Alien Lives and Allowing Black Artists to Be Free

Photo from the Hollywood Reporter

Good article about the policing of black artists' roles and fashion choices in The Hollywood Reporter. I too read the Vulture article mentioned and had a similar reaction (as I've often thought before). Read an excerpt below:

Kanye West stirred controversy by wearing light contacts to the Met Ball on Monday night, but we should stop policing black artists' aesthetic and artistic choices.

Judgement of black artists' aesthetic and career choices was also a theme in an April 27 Vulture article that took issue with the recent use of black actors to play CGI-cloaked aliens or to voice animated animals. Kyle Buchanan writes, rather paternalistically, that seeing black bodies is good for the culture. "Idris, Lupita, Paula, and Zoe have faces that matter. Let us see them," he concludes.

But what if they don’t want to be seen? What if they want to focus on their equally beautiful voices, as both Idris Elba and Lupita Nyong’o were able to do in the The Jungle Book? And why are these actors’ real brown faces more important or authentic than the nuance of their real voices? 

What's best for the culture is for these brilliant actors to stretch out their talents and practice their craft in any way they damn well desire. Nyong’o has taken to defending her choices recently. On NPR program All Things Considered, she was asked by host Neda Ulaby (not a black woman) if her recent voice and motion capture work was due to the lack of starring roles for women of color. N’yongo said no. "I think subconsciously I was excited by work that was not about my body. It wasn’t about my skin or my body or its economy, whether we’re talking about slavery or we’re talking about fashion," she said, referring to the red carpet and magazine fame that came from playing a raped slave in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave. "12 Years a Slave is a lot about the economy of Patsey’s body. And then also the exposure the film gave me was a lot about my body."

She went on to elaborate on this stance yesterday in a beautiful essay in Lenny Letter, that seems to directly address the Vulture article: “I love the idea of people of color participating in mythical, magical stories, whether that’s as hero, villain, sage, or sorceress. Or all of the above!" Nyong'o wrote. "I think sometimes a singular catharsis can be found in genre storytelling — as I found when playing a thousand-year-old woman (Maz Kanata in Star Wars: The Force Awakens) and a wolf mother (Raksha in The Jungle Book). I’m able to be more engaged in roles such as those than I would be in playing 'the wife' when she is written with no motivation or singularity.”

Read the rest at:

Photo and text from The Hollywood Reporter

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