Can Hollywood Give Viola Davis A Little Help?
The time has come for Hollywood to embrace a black female doctor or lawyer, and not a maid.
The views expressed in this Op-Ed do not reflect that of Loop 21.
I'm sure it stings a bit losing the Best Actress award, but if you had to lose to someone, there's no shame in coming in behind Meryl Streep. I am just as happy that Octavia Spencer won an Academy Award for a performance in a movie that I will never watch as I was for Monique winning an Academy Award for a performance in a movie that I will never watch.
Once upon a time, Halle Berry was supposedly looking at playing Elaine Brown, the Black Panther who wrote "A Taste of Power." Anyone want to guess why that flick never got green lit and Halle is doing crap going straight to DVD now?
[ALSO READ: 5 Roles We'd Love To See Viola Davis Star In Next]
I want to see black women being able to play leaders of entire countries like Streep, instead of their hired help. Why settle for sistas always having to play subservient roles like this? You think Denzel or Samuel L. would play a sassy butler in 2012? I've been asked, "How can you criticize a book you didn't read and a movie you didn't watch?" The answer, is I can't, but then I'm not criticizing the work, I'm criticizing the part Davis and Spencer played. Not the performance. The role itself.
What I know about 'The Help' is there is a black woman who says Kathryn Stockett stole her life's story and made a gazillion bucks from it. What I know about 'The Help' is not all books and not all movies are made for all people. I'm not picketing any bookstores selling the book or theaters showing the movie. By all means, enjoy them both. However, I don't see any reason to say I have to support an artist when they are engaged in a project I'm not interested in. I remember when Halle won her Oscar for Monster's Ball and even Angela Basset, dogged her out for that role. Maybe that's someone's favorite flick, but I've yet to meet anyone who really likes Monster's Ball. Haven't black folks reached the stage where we don't have to shrug our shoulders and accept whatever old, white and male Hollywood serves up as their preferred version of entertainment? What's wrong with demanding and expecting movies that make us feel good about images depicted on-screen?
I would love to see Viola Davis in a contemporary adult love story, paired with someone like Idris Elba. There is a market for films pitched to black audiences. Tyler Perry has proven this to be true. Those kind of films don't get produced by Hollywood. But black women as maids or morbidly obese illiterates brutalized by their psychotic mammas? Comin' right up!
You get what you’re willing to put up with. I’m looking for some portrayals of black women and men that don’t revolve around telling little White girls how kind, smart and important they are. Sue me for my unreasonably high standards. Hattie McDaniel won a Best Supporting Actress award for playing a maid in 1939. Seventy-three years later and I’m supposed to pump my fist for another sister playing a domestic? I get it that black women have played servants, maids, domestics and all that good stuff. They have those roles down pat. Can’t we move on to playing something else, yet? If Sisters in Outer Space are too far-fetched, how about at least a doctor or lawyer? Can an executive in Hollywood concede that’s not too wild an idea?
I don’t write scripts, but I do know there are stories to tell and movies to be made about Fannie Lou Hamer and Coretta Scott King and Kathleen Cleaver and Angela Davis and Shirley Chisholm and other sistas who ain’t wiping no little white kid’s snotty nose.
There are a plethora of stories to be told about black females leading countries, freeing slaves, fighting for their civil rights and just to be accepted as women. I’m 56 years old now and I’m getting pretty damn tired waiting around for a decent movie about black women who were the backbone of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements. When are those stories going to get around to being told?
Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer need something more than the recognition of an Oscar. They need the validation of roles that allow them to stretch and demonstrate their talents as actresses. They deserve better and we do too.
Just how good is Davis anyway?
Until she begins to receive the opportunities and roles Meryl Streep gets to showcase her skills, we may never know.