Tag Archives: Nicki Minaj

Where Are All the Leading Ladies of Color?

10 Apr

Image

A few years ago, my boyfriend and I sat in a movie theater in Malibu, watching the opening of Couples Retreat. When the first black actress came on the screen, my date smacked his teeth in disgust. The woman was loud, obnoxious, and senseless. Within the first 5 minutes of seeing her on the screen, the only other black couple in the theater walked out.

They were lucky: Had they stayed any longer they would’ve seen the other black woman in the movie, who was louder, violent, and even more irrational, knocking other women out of her way while she searched for her cheating husband.

It wasn’t the first time I’d seen that black woman on the screen, and definitely wouldn’t be the last. Although not all black characters in film behave as badly, actresses of color are often pigeon-holed into playing the same typecast roles again and again.

In “Typecast,” their brilliant parody of Lorde’s “Royals, actresses Tess Paras, Haneefa Wood, and Ayana Hampton display that for actresses of color, the road to stardom means playing race-based, cookie-cutter characters, with the role of the leading lady often remaining just out of reach.

Actresses who look like the ones in the video are sometimes subjected to typecast roles: Sassy black girl, geeky Asian, fiery Latina. Actresses of other races and ethnicities may not even be considered for a part. This leaves opportunities few and far between for actresses of color.

When placed in a historical context, Typecasting becomes even more problematic. In the parody, as Hampton sings, “Any maid could look like us,” I was taken back to the historical mammy figure. While we’ve come a long way from the Hattie McDaniel’s mammy in Gone with the Wind, the pool has only expanded wide enough to include other stereotypes and subordinate roles, with a few exceptions here and there.

HATTIE

Hatti McDaniel in Gone with the Wind

Typecasting women of color into supporting roles such as the main character’s best friend, secretary, or nanny, reinforces the idea that people of color are only supporters or “extras” in America, while white people are the central figures. It displays a dynamic where actresses of color don’t have their own story outside of helping the main character, not unlike the historical mammy, who usually has no life outside of serving her bosses. Such roles are seen in movies like Sex and the City, with Jennifer Hudson playing Sarah Jessica Parker’s personal assistant, and in the upcoming comedy The Other Woman, with Nicki Minaj playing Cameron Dias’ legal assistant.

Then there is the obvious problem with typecasting: the roles play off of stereotypes that project sexist and racist ideas. When consistently casting women of color for the same typecast roles, the industry renders possibilities for these women to exist outside of their stereotypes unlikely. While typecasts like the fiery Latina, nerdy Asian, and sassy black girl, are usually written for comedic affect, they reduce human beings to a one-dimensional devices that garner a few laughs at the woman’s expense and move the plot along.

Moving away from these stereotypes and adding some color to leading lady role can be good for audiences. After backlash from fans of movies Annie (2014), Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Fantastic 4 (2015), where black actresses and actors were cast for traditionally (or what people believed to be traditionally) white roles, maybe audiences could use a little help expanding their imagination. It seems that when actors of color are cast in central, not typecasted roles, racist commenters masking themselves as “fictional purists” storm twitter with remarks about how their favorite character’s skin should be white. Yet, the more we see actresses of color playing central figures, the more we can shed the stereotypes and break down barriers for women in the industry. Maybe then American audiences will become a little more comfortable with diversity on the screen.

While we’re moving in the right direction, with shows like Scandal and The Mindy Project (though they also have their flaws) and movies like the latest remake of Annie, we still have a ways to go before we see more accurate and equal representation.

P.S. This article is part of the Top Posts. Check out the Best of A Womyn’s Worth.

Women Rappers: Sexy or Sexualized?

2 Oct

wmn rap 4

Take a stroll through the music aisles at your local Best Buy, Target, or music store. Or scan the Hip Hop/Rap section on iTunes. You’ll find the latest from Drake, Jay-Z, Kanye West, J. Cole, and several others, which you can purchase with ease online or at the register in the store.

But where’s latest from the women rappers? And where can you find their music?

Nicki Minaj has been busy on American Idol, many would say. Yet, she isn’t the only current female rapper out there, despite what radio stations, iTunes features lists, and music store shelves would have us believe. Several female emcees released albums, singles, and mixtapes during the summer and this fall, but haven’t received the same amount of attention as their male counterparts. Because they are women in an industry that is often viewed as a boy’s club, few female artists are widely recognized. Occasionally, women are allowed to hold the spotlight, though in recent years, that fame has been contingent upon how these lucky few present their sexuality. Read more.

*Hey Everyone. The link above will take you to Slutist, the site where this post is published (written by me).  Hope you enjoy!

3 Things Someone Should Tell Miley Cyrus

18 Jun

miley_cyrus_juicy_j

Miley 2.0, Take A Seat

Lately people have been buzzing about how Miley Cyrus twerked on stage at a Juicy J concert and about her latest song produced by Mike Will Made It. At first, I was upset that she received so much attention. I saw news anchors on television discussing her twerking, and I thought, “Why the F is this news?” So I was hesitant to write this post. Yet, with all the comments about Milley 2.0 “trying to act black” and “being ratchet,” I felt the need to say something about her new tactic to increase the hype of her upcoming album.

Unlike many people who are quick to shame Miley Cyrus for her recent twerking obsession and her new sound, which claims that she is “bout that life,” I won’t go there. Let her twerk if she wants to—but don’t you dare applaud her for twerking and then turn around and criticize all the black women who twerk.

I have other issues with little Ms. Party in the USA.

1) Stop referring to hip hop and other music from black artists as “hood” music. In a recent interview with Billboard, she claimed that she loved “hood” music.

I think most of us know (but someone needs to let Miley know) that the majority of commercial hip hop sales are from suburban areas and that about 60% of those consumers are white.* Miley, sweetie, you aren’t special because you like Juicy J—you’re part of the 60%. But hey, maybe some of that 60% who bump fictitious “hood” music, yet haven’t gone beyond their white picket fences may pick up her album. Maybe Miley’s onto something.

2) Tread lightly and remember your privilege. The other day one of my sorors tweeted,

So when I twerk, I’m ratchet. But when Miley twerks she’s queen goddess of all unicorns!?”

She raises a major issue. Commenters on several blog sites said that Miley twerking was “cute” or “adorable.”

First of all… No. It wasn’t. Think about it—would it be adorable if it were Willow Smith or Gabby Douglas? Is it cute when Nicki Minaj twerks? No! Many people have internalized a double standard and would criticize young black women for being overly sexual.

Miley at Juicy J concert

Miley twerking at Juicy J concert

Blogger Necole Betchie wrote that Miley is “definitely carrying around a ‘ratchet’ card somewhere in her back pocket.” Yes, she may be carrying the card, but she can use or toss it as needed. Others don’t have that luxury. According to writer Sesali Bowen, many people (mainly black women) are labeled ratchet because of their poverty, clothing choices, and actions, and they cannot shake the label as easily. So be careful who you call ratchet.

3) Do what you do. Let Miley be Miley. Hanna Montana, Miley 2.0, rebel Disney star, whatever. If you don’t like her, don’t listen to her and don’t talk about her. That being said, I’m not going to say anything else about her. But I think it’s imperative that we think about and discuss double standards, white privilege, and what is acceptable for certain women to do but not others.

If you don’t feel like reading up on cultural appropriation, check out “White Privilege” by rapper Macklemore. His song is open and honest about how white musicians fit into black music.

*Stats from Rhythm and Business: The Political Economy of Black Music

Related Articles:

Sorority Girls Must Twerk: Cultural Demands on Black Women

Let’s Get Ratchet!: Check Your Privilege at the Door

%d bloggers like this: