Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Can a Black Person do Blackface?

There is a lot of controversy over the casting of Zoe Saldana as ground breaking black singer Nina Simone.

Simone sang very directly about the issues she struck for being dark-skinned and having natural hair.
By contrast Saldana will apparently have her skin darkened with make-up, a rumored nose prosthetic, and wear an afro wig to play the part.

One one hand I can see the problems with casting an actress that needs to wear semi-blackface.  On the other hand I feel just as uneasy with commentators calling Saldana "ethnical ambiguous" as if having a lighter complexion makes her somehow not black enough, and deserving of having her performance boycotted.

Does Saldana look an less like Simone than Daniel Day Lewis/Abraham Lincoln or Nicole Kidman/Virginia Woolf? Or for that matter Sidney Poitier as (light skinned) Justice Thurgood Marshal or Will Smith as Muhammad Ali?  Is it only females who must be cast exactly to type, or is it mostly females who suffer under racially biased beauty norms and so need to see a Nina who is really as dark as Nina.

But then I see that make up job and false nose and... well.  No, that's not good. And Simone's daughter is not happy with the choice.

I don't know....

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