We need to talk about online haters butchering our vital culture moments
These heightened times have transformed the climate of cultural exchange into a pressure cooker that carries the threatening whistle of combustion if the heat builds up to a tempo that can’t be civilly contained.
Social media platforms notoriously present opportunities to defiantly state strong opinions with either the approval or disapproval of engagers, who are on standby, armed with the tools for “dragging” or threads of graphic memes, depicting the general consensus of active issues that are never resolved.
This is due to how we inherently respond to antagonistic headlines that are formulated to unleash chaos rather than encourage the appropriate dissection or even celebration of cultural relevancy.
Lena Waithe remains soaked by douses of hot water after her interview with The New York Times was swiftly converted into the delectable item for scavengers who don’t have to actually read articles before providing their scorching summations.
There has been a brewing controversy over one of the rising stars of Showtime’s The Chi, Jason Mitchell. The embattled actor was on the fast track to stardom, before his abrupt derailment by disturbing accusations of sexual misconduct by actress Tiffany Boone, who was permitted an early exit from her contract. Season two showrunner Ayanna Floyd Davis, also confirmed the stunning allegations of harassment that posed a risk to the cast.
Mitchell was eventually dismissed from the hit show, but the firing came too late, and Davis was brutally honest about the mishandling of what could be categorized as a hostile working environment.
“Ultimately, everyone was well aware of Jason’s behavior and his multiple HR cases, including Lena, the creator and an executive producer of the show, who is very involved at the studio and network level.”
The damning statement exposed Waithe’s amateurish approach when it came to appropriately catering to the overall protection of her cast and crew, by ensuring that troublemakers disrupting the flow are promptly dealt with accordingly.
As part of the press tour to initiate damage control, Waithe wisely phoned into urban staple, The Breakfast Club, to give a thorough explanation about the dark shadow hovering over an otherwise thriving show. The interview gave the actress, screenwriter and producer the platform to engage with fans and naysayers, who had questions about her inaction when it came to honoring the basic requirements of the #MeToo movement.
Waithe was understandably nervous during the segment, as evidenced by the rambling and repetitiveness, but the coherent parts of the dialogue clearly showcased a young Black woman, who was profoundly apologetic and admittedly blindsided by the inefficiencies of those that she trusted to officially take care of a highly-sensitive matter that wasn’t diligently resolved.
Despite her heartfelt transparency, that wasn’t meant to necessarily evoke empathy, as much it was the valiant attempt to shed light on the often times inflexible mechanisms of a complex industry, that presents formidable challenges that can’t be conquered without the input of strategically-placed executives — her fiercest critics still maintain their stance of “cancellations” and the permanent side-eye.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with expressing disappointment and even anger towards a member of the community, who is managing the consequences of a very bad judgment call, but when it converts into a full-blown attack that fails to leave any room to elevate the discussion beyond the chasms of verbal disorder, the end result is the wasteland of distorted views and insults pointed at every direction.
We’ve forgotten how to agree to disagree, and we’re not at all interested in healthy debates about unhealthy shit, even when it pertains to the sustainability of our prized possessions, that are in desperate need of nourishment.
And now Waithe’s latest snafu involves her scathing review of the revered superstars of Black Hollywood — Denzel Washington and Will Smith. Both are box office heavyweights, and despite commanding substantially high fees for their services, they still haven’t been demonstratively supportive or vitally instrumental when it comes to propelling the ambitious pursuits of Black independent filmmakers — as a collective.
“Don’t get me started on black financiers!” “How many of those do we have? I’m not [going to name] names because I know better, but there are some very big black movie stars out there, and they could pay for two or three or even five small independent movies to get made by black directors and black writers.”
It certainly would’ve been easier if Waithe had opted to keep the promise of not mentioning the names of two beloved icons who represent the notable fibers of modern day Black cinema, but it’s very likely that she got carried away by the passionate desire to vent her frustrations without the limitations of a filter that would’ve kept the maddened crowd at bay.
Once the clickbait heds began circulating, the prayers of ravenous editors were immediately answered by the rabid bites of eager-minded users, who couldn’t wait to weaken an already vulnerable prey.
She simply has no business holding anyone accountable for anything when she has barely escaped the punishment for exhibiting the unsightly symptoms of fallibility.
The popular reaction on blazing timelines was to ruthlessly revive Waithe’s past sins of disgracefully dropping the ball when it came to guarding the set of her show from alleged sexual inappropriateness. Even after issuing the statement of apology via numerous outlets, and taking ownership of an unfortunate mistake that she vowed to rectify for future projects, her critics aren’t ready to forgive her.
In all fairness, there’s nothing in the NYT article that strays away from the stark reality of the sturdy hurdles facing Black creatives, who share similar goals that their White counterparts harbor and accomplish with relatively more ease, based on accessibility to White executives, who readily approve scripts that showcase the global viability that creatives of color apparently can’t amass.
As a relative newcomer to the proven treacherous path of a burgeoning storyteller in Hollywood, Waithe is obviously navigating the unpredictable terrain of #filmmakingwhileblack, and the mostly “lows” than “highs” thus far, forces moments of intense reflection, that unearths the unpleasantness of realizing how those who came before you, and flourished under the generosity of the big studio system, weren’t willing or capable of envisioning the bigger picture for the generations to come.
At the BET Awards ceremony, one of the very few Black titans of the industry, Tyler Perry, became a trending item after his rousing speech about his impressive track record of keeping Black talents employed and well-compensated for as long as he’s been in active.
Perry received the Ultimate Icon Award, and while his enviable roster of box-office hits that feature all-Black leads is a testament to his rejection of #OscarsSoWhite’s mantra of “fighting for a seat at the table,” when he’s been profitability focused on his expanding empire — the main glitch in Perry’s trajectory is the unforgivable exploitation of his Black female characters, and how a grossly offensive film like Acrimony — starring frequent leading lady, Taraji P. Henson should never have been allowed to see the light of day.
The crux of what Waithe brilliantly articulated in the NYT writeup is encased in the modest shaming of nonchalant Black movie stars, who have spent their gold-star careers fueling their own successes by installing production hubs that cater primarily to their needs, without the dutiful inclusion of young Black creatives who are hungry enough to benefit from those prized alliances.
Most have vehemently pushed back against pointing the finger at two Hollywood greats, who have evidence of rising to the occasion to lend a helping hand to up and coming Black talents, with quiet reassurance.
But the issues that Waithe raises are specific to the moviemaking process, that presents a plethora of systemic setbacks that are meant to derail, discourage and exhaust bright-eyed Black auteurs, who don’t deserve to be at the mercy of White male producers, who won’t fund Black movies unless they resemble the template of the disastrous Award-winning fares like The Help, The Blind Side, and the most recent addition to that hideous list — Green Book.
If anyone has doubts about the real problems that Black creatives face in spaces that are manned by White voices, then you must be reminded about that heated episode of HBO’s Project Greenlight, back in 2016, that featured a disagreement between Effie T. Brown, a Black film producer known for her work on the hit movie, Dear White People, and pompous White movie star Matt Damon, who was annoyed by the Black woman’s insistence of a diverse directing team for the new season of his show.
Perhaps Waithe’s choice of words seem disarmingly harsh, but in order to be unapologetically authentic, you can’t afford to hold back or wearily strategize on how to politely call out White film critics for cowardly awarding five stars to Black movies that are indisputably sub par.
There will never be a cohesively endorsed delivery that will satisfy the variety of palettes that are getting scarily blended into the monolithic diagram, that wants to prevent the survivability of individualism, that has always relied on the freedom of expression in ways that push boundaries to progressiveness without the verbal rioting that hijacks our best culture moments.
Lena Waithe is not the enemy, and in fact her dedication and unwavering quest to secure an uncluttered path to the consistent production of Black projects, that don’t suffer the manipulation of our narrative for the preferences of Whiteness is nothing short of laudable.
Her dedication serves as the main characteristic that would’ve invalidated the formation of a campaign that begs for a seat at a table that will never leave enough room for Black beggars.
This talented and creatively generous professional is working hard to maintain the momentum outlined by fellow counterparts in Black genius; Ava DuVernay, Issa Rae, Ryan Coogler, Jordan Peele, with more to come.
And Waithe’s latest big screen collaboration with another outstanding gem, who’s been helming back-to-back hits for a minute, Melina Matsoukas, is already garnering the level of interest that signals big things in her future.
We need to talk about online haters and the buzzkill of clickbait heds, that are devised to explode on impact with the debris of the loudest choruses, that aim to devour vital moments of potential change.
We need to talk about how unfair it is to vilify the ones that are on our side, especially when they don’t say or do what we expect because nobody will love us better than our own. And in the fast and furious climate that is directed by the dubious motives of Whiteness, there’s no other mode of operation that will suffice outside of the code of “all hands on deck.”
We need to stop butchering the process of enlightenment and reclaim the right to scold and forgive; listen and examine; or better yet, allow ourselves the freedom to speak out loud because whispers can be inaudible, and in this day and age — that just won’t do.