Mammies, jezebels, and sapphires

page_1144A friend wrote me about my post on Hollywood and black screenwriters, which got me thinking about Hollywood and how I really should have finished that statement I had made in response to reading about how one Hollywood executive didn’t “want to see a movie about a black woman saving a town full of white people.”

Hollywood executives don’t seem to have issues with black women saving white folks as long as the black women are playing mammies. Mammies! “Most portrayals of Mammy depict her as an “obese African American woman, of dark complexion, with extremely large breasts and buttocks . . . .asexual, maternal and deeply religious woman whose main task was caring for the master’s children and running his household.” – Marilyn Yarbrough with Crystal Bennett, 2000

There I said it. Queen Latifah played a mammy in the Secret Lives of Bees. Though her character lived in her own pink house, before she became she started raising bees for honey, she worked as a nanny. The movie also had a sapphire played by Alicia Keys.  The only thing the movie was missing was a jezebel; however, the movie did manage to have not one, but two dimwitted black women. It’s like watching a modern day minstrel show but without white actors in blackface.

Now, from Ken Rance’s description of his screenplay,  New in Town, the female character is upwardly mobile (white collar) and just happened to start dating a blue collar worker. Sounds more like a date movie than a movie about a woman trying to save a town. But that’s just me. Perhaps that executive just wanted an excuse to not make the movie with a black female lead.

As for the movie New in Town, I don’t plan on seeing the movie, but I probably wouldn’t have liked it even if it had been black casted. I have issues with movies where white collar black females are paired with blue collar men.

Too bad Ken Rance wasn’t a screenwriter for tv. Screenwriters for tv have more influence when it comes to casting.

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