“I don’t see myself casting a white dude as the lead in my movie. Not that I don’t like white dudes. But I’ve seen that movie. It really is one of the best, greatest pieces of this story, is feeling like we are in this time — a renaissance has happened and proved the myths about representation in the industry are false.”
Visionary filmmaker, Jordan Peele, who blessed his peeps with box office champs like Get Out, and the most recent stunner, Us, delivered his testimony from the past and for the future during a very revealing interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
The former cast member of 90s cult — MAD TV — had a lot to say about his humble beginnings and immense contribution to the landscape of television and film, but of course the memorable quote that unapologetically gives White dudes the shaft when it comes to starring roles in his future endeavors has become the viral sensation.
Truth be told, I’m beyond stoked that Jordan Peele is willing to boldly go where so many were prevented from venturing decades ago, when #OscarsSoWhite was a fantasy and “diversity” was a word that belonged to White actresses who were chosen to transform into Puerto Rican heroines or Asian warriors.
Yikes! My bad! That’s actually still going on.
Nevertheless, it goes without saying that Mr. Peele’s outright rejection of White leading men is the very definition of Black power in it’s delectably primal form.
I’m old enough to remember being young enough to casually weigh options in the realm of entertainment, and the main reason why the idea of becoming a Black actress in Hollywood didn’t seem like an appealing or worthwhile ambition was due to the lack of role models on the big screen.
Back in the 80s, 90s and early to mid 00s, the actresses of color had to resemble a specific template, and it always included the lighter tone that needed to compliment the darker tone of the Black leading males, as well as the lighter eyes and curly/wavy hair that emphasized the exoticness that “regular” Black women can’t offer.
There was no question that I felt desirable, and in fact I never had any doubt that I was perfect exactly the way I was made, but I also knew that studio executives wouldn’t agree with my assessment.
In terms of the industry blueprint, only the girls who make the listings of Maxim 100, Victoria Secret fashion shows and Sports Illustrated layouts, get to win the votes of horny males who serve as sloppy gurus to ingenues or just need the companionship that fits million dollar lifestyles.
And if you don’t fit those categories, you have to either be funny enough to compensate for those shortcomings or settle for thankless roles as the bestie of White counterparts who are less than you in every way possible.
Needless to say, I was too prideful to commit to something that would evidently frustrate my senses and diminish the pure talent that can’t flourish under the restrictiveness that even mediocre White performers never have to endure.
But my love for movies has always been an inherent tendency that continued to remain the dependably creative outlet.
As a young adult, a lot of the offerings that catered to my palette featured an all-White cast, and the Black movies that I loved rarely showcased lead actresses who matched my skin tone or hair texture.
I would often times imagine myself in those roles, and wonder if the male leads would find me attractive enough to replicate the sexual tensions that keep the audience guessing whether or not the love is strong enough to overcome the obstacles.
The messaging of Hollywood during my impressionable years was immersed in the theory that if you didn’t look like Halle Berry, Paula Patton, or at least possessed evidence that you were mixed with something other than “just Black” — you most likely weren’t going to end up on a gloriously enlarged billboard on Sunset Boulevard.
That’s why it’s incredibly gratifying and prophetically epic to witness the initiated attributes of this long-overdue victory, that has manifested in ways that are hard to express when you’ve spent the best years of your life under the regime of White decision-makers, who are now pathetically scrambling to align themselves with this new era of “wokeness.”
Thanks to the activism of April Reign, who launched the hashtag that changed the world, after the damning 2015 Oscar nominations, that contained all-White nominees in key categories, inspired a call-to-action that grew into a full-blown movement that couldn’t be ignored.
Almost four years later, and the results from Black people calling out White people for the decades-long lack of representation in an industry that’s supposed to cater to the evolving climate of culture-mixing, and the varied tastes of originators, who are tired of being downplayed in favor of Whiteness — has shifted into the season that Jordan Peele astutely summarizes:
“a renaissance has happened and proved the myths about representation in the industry are false.”
When the highly-anticipated trailer for Us dropped on Christmas Day 2018, there was much to be elated about, but more than anything, there was the magnitude of the moment, and how I never imagined that a horror flick captivating the interest of movie buffs of all races, would feature main characters that were just as dark as me or even darker!
And that revelation carried over to the sprawling billboards adorning neighborhoods of major cities across the nation, as my eyes widened with the excitement of watching the bolted barriers being knocked down by the purveyors of our narrative, who have been empowered to prove what was pretty much general knowledge.
This ongoing “renaissance” isn’t necessarily shattering any “myths about representation” because White Hollywood has always been quite informed about the power of Blackness, and that threat is the reason why Green Book was the Oscar-winner, and the more affecting If Beale Street Could Talk was laid to waste.
It explains why Living Single was tossed in the bin after only a handful of seasons on a mostly Black network, that was deemed less notable than the more viable NBC, where Friends found immense success after shamelessly poaching the idea from Black creatives, who couldn’t compete with an all-White cast located in an all-White New York City.
It’s the reason why White Hollywood salivates over “White Savior-themed” shit like Half Nelson, The Help, The Blind Side, and the most recent controversial mess, Green Book. And if the producing team for biopics are White investors, they can make the call to conveniently manufacture scenes where White characters swoop in for the empathetic rescue as cunningly depicted in 12 Years a Slave and Hidden Figures.
White Hollywood was never in the dark (no pun intended) about the global viability of films with a diverse cast, and while the blueprint of the Fast and Furious franchise has been hailed as the winning example of this fact, unfortunately the lack of Black women cast members that resemble my template is an automatic disqualification.
The point is that when Jordan Peele announces that White leading men won’t have any relevancy in his upcoming projects, what he really means is that he plans on rightfully matching the nonchalance of Whiteness when it comes to the subject of healthy inclusion, that doesn’t need to be coerced through the dramatics of viral hashtags, and the updated formations of the Academy.
White moviegoers have never had to consider what it’s like to watch library of films with leads that were specifically cast to demonstrate your unworthiness. And White creatives never gave much of a damn about the way they wielded their privilege in ways that validated the inconvenience of reflecting the real world as opposed to the White-only canvas.
Famously lauded White filmmakers like embattled icon, Woody Allen have publicly defended their right to be exclusively loyal to their world of White characters, navigating White issues in charming locales that apparently host only White vacationers.
Even Lena Dunham, the chosen mascot of White feminism, openly explained her real-life non-diverse existence as it pertains to friends and acquaintances, as the main culprit for the stark absence of Black women on her Brooklyn-based hit show Girls, which suffered consistent criticism for presenting the very same portrait of New York, that prior gems like Sex and the City, Will & Grace and Friends adopted.
If White folks can spend centuries dwelling in the blissful and uninterrupted haven of Whiteness with the periodic infusion of Blackness that can’t be “too Black” for comfort — then Black folks can finally revel in that privilege of “all-Blackness” — with the “extra Black” in the form of Lupita Nyong’o, and other deliciously Black women, who are cast to enhance the complex fragility of Black womanhood that never needed to be exotically-diluted for the benefit of leading men.
White men aren’t needed in this world because they will be a major distraction from narratives that aren’t begging for that “savior” to appear in Whiteness, especially now that we can formally agree that Blackness is more than enough.