Take It Back: Huff Post Black Voices promoting Black girl “beef”

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One would think that there are more than enough instances of “bad girl” promotion and instigated “beef” between Black girls and their real or phantom “haters.” Just do a media audit, surely you’ll find an excess of lyrics and images blasting messages that insist on competition, superiority, gossip, and violence amongst girls. From reality TV to music (rap or a tune from your favorite pop divas), to videos and film. Yet, apparently staff at Huffington Post Black Voices  (a curated NEWS platform) felt the need to add their voice to the negativity and pit girls against one another when they posted a very baiting headline on their Facebook page regarding the new film adaptation of the musical, Annie, starring Quvenzhane Wallis.

"How Quvenzhane snatched the role of 'Annie' from Willow Smith?”

“How Quvenzhane snatched the role of ‘Annie’ from Willow Smith?”

 

“How Quvenzhane snatched the role of ‘Annie’ from Willow Smith?”

Really?!?

There’s no telling what prompted “Black Voices” to use such divisive, antagonistic phrasing as a headline. One can only deduce the reasoning is sensationalism, especially when the actual article, published in Playbill and written by Karu F. Daniels, makes no reference to any competition between the two girl stars. In fact, there is a very minute mention of Willow, simply saying she was originally cast as Annie. It also mentions her parents remain producers.

A moment of shining celebration for the history-making, Academy-Award nominee Quvenzhane Wallis was otherwise ceded to the mindless/heartless decision that could have a detrimental impact on the very tone in which our girls consume AND are portrayed in media. The post acquired more than 50 shares and stirred conversation on social media.

Several commenters, myself included, requested Black Voices retract the title and find more affirming phrasing.

I thought it practical that when brought to their attention, an editor or someone on staff there who is sensitive to the influence media has on our girls, their interactions and identity,  would realize how important it is to correct the wording. I even crafted a few recommendations as a  guide: “Quvenzhane Wallis Glows as America’s First Black Annie” “Willow Smith opens lane for fellow girl actors…” “Black Girls rock the big screen; make history…”

We’re still waiting for HuffPost Black Voices  to move in the right direction on this. How long that will be is anyone’s guess as the post has sat for more than 5 days and as of Monday, November 17 remains.

Why make this into a big deal? In a space and time when young girls are bombarded with messages that glorify them into “mean girl” behavior and the internet is saturated with fight videos where girls get a digital audience for taunting and provoking their peers, girls deserve responsible media to share their stories.

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At the same time, as we so often have to all but conduct an anthropological dig for intentional language that affirms our girls, I did want to include here what the director says about Quvenzhane in the original Playbill piece:

“The people in the press have been saying, ‘Wow, there’s an African-American Annie, and why [would] you make such a change?’ and my response to that is, ‘This is an 11-year-old girl who has to shoulder the entire movie with her music, with her singing, with her acting. How many times in history do we have an 11-year-old girl who has been nominated for an Oscar? So we were extremely lucky that she was available and that she existed and that we didn’t have to find someone. ‘The Beasts of the Southern Wild’ found her for us, and we were really lucky for that.”

Perhaps those of us who work closely with girls are more connected to the impact media messages have on their development. This is why we encourage media to truly reflect on the way it narrates the reality of our girls and be mindful of how their messages are consumed.

What do you think, should Huffington Black Voices retract the headline? Should we be concerned about this? If so, how do we hold media accountable for influencing positive interactions among girls?

Thankfully, Essence magazine got it right!


Credit: Columbia Pictures Twitter

Credit: Columbia Pictures Twitter

 

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Red Tails…a little off base

Last weekend I headed to the movies, along with throngs of other Black folks, in support of Red Tails, the cinematic Hollywood portrayal of the Tuskegee Airmen which is by all measures a blockbuster.

The George Lucas produced film depicts the potent racist struggle Black pilots had to navigate in order to join the U.S. Air Force, notwithstanding the fight they fought just to defend this country in World War II. This story of the Tuskegee Airmen, like much of our little-known and devalued history, deserves to be told. Watching the film (steered by a Black director, writer, and an all-Black cast of leading actors) I couldn’t contain my pride.

We are all sick and tired of seeing stereotypes of Black men played out in media; from the nightly news to cooning sitcoms to big screen flashes of men in dresses. It is a daily fight to resist what we know is NOT the norm of brothas. We know Black men are hard workers who commit to their responsibilities, affectionate and respectful of the women in their lives, proud of their accomplishment, not to mention intelligent and articulate. So for me, seeing that visualized on the big screen as a major production was a glorious moment in time.

I am proud that I saw Red Tails. Proud that my husband, children and I shared the experience as a family. And even still proud that my choice to go out and see it during opening weekend was included in the chorus demanding more positive, full-bodied films about Black life.

Yet, midway through the film I did lean over to my husband and whisper my concern of the absolute absence of Black women on the screen?!!? Now I cautiously pointed this out.  But not before I checked myself and my filters. I mean this was, after all, a film about the experience of the Tuskegee AirMEN. So, no I did not go into the theatre expecting to see women in major roles…I honestly would not have minded if there were no women in the film (well it would bother me just a teeny bit).

However, it is because of the fact that there was only one woman given a major role in this film; a film about one of the most historical contributions Black Men have made in this country, that I am most aggravated. That one woman was Daniela Ruah. A White woman.

This has stumped me. Still I know my person; that I have been viewed as being a little subversive when it comes to Black women and our plight in media. I accept that I am intensely aware of societal “norms” and how those norms are guided by patriarchy and racism. Conversely I questioned every possible filter to find why this bothered me so much, and IF it should.

I must say, all the soul-searching in the world won’t shake my disappointment. Disappointed for a few reasons. The most glaring reason is that there is not a Black man on this earth who can say he has not been nurtured, loved, encouraged, chastised,  or influence by a praying Black woman. Hold my mule right now if I’m exaggerating…

Didn’t think so. Before a Black man even understands the dynamics of an intimate relationship or attraction to women, he is familiar with the love o a Black woman. This is why, for the life of me, I cannot grasp how the audience comes to know the influence of the father of Easy’s character and Black Jesus, but never that of a mother, grandmother, Big Ma, sis, fiance or wife back home…

Beyond befuddled. Especially when considering the real-life stories of Tuskegee Airmen boasts solid marriages with Black women…many were married during their time of duty.

Now let’s factor in the enormous attention this film got after George Lucas, the formidable Hollywood  director (Star Wars Trilogy) who happens to be white, revealed how many rejections he received from studio heads to produce and distribute this film. He was quite literally the great white hope for Red Tails- the Hollywood version.

That speaks volumes to how we had to get this right…this was our one shot. This sets the bar…at what ever level we believe we qualify for. Whatever is in this film will be considered the formula for movie execs when considering Black films. That formula will be devoid of an intimate and sanguine relationship between a Black man and woman. Conversely it will have Black men pining over the foreign (read exotic) love interest of a lighter hue.

Just on the other side of perturbed.

On the brighter side, I wasn’t so miffed that I would discourage other people from seeing  Red Tails. However I do see this as a valid point of discourse about 1.) the image mainstream media is pushing regarding Black male/female relationships; and 2.) the historical shared experience we have had breaking down barriers in America and 3.) last but not least is the consistent symbolic annihilation of Black women by media which in turn erases us from the history books.

Am I off-base?

Please join the discussion during #GirlsMediaChat on Twitter, 9p CST Thursday, Jan 26 (TONIGHT)

Get the real history of Tuskegee Airmen:

Follow the Tuskegee Airmen dedicated Tumblr started by National Museum of African American History and Culture 

Listen to living legends share their stories on StoryCorps

Check out Red Tails Reborn, a PBS documentary