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Uh-Oh, is the New ‘Annie’ Black-Washing Hollywood?

Photo: Glamour

Photo: Glamour

Oscar-nominee Quvenzhane Wallis is causing a stir. Shamefully, not because of her acting chops that established her as the youngest ever nominated for the golden trophy for her portrayal of Hushpuppy in Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012),  but because she will be in the newest film adaptation of Annie, playing the lead role.

By some of the comments you would think she had been cast to play Anne Frank.

Social media and news article backlash ranges from: “I’m not racist or anything, But this new Annie movie is all mixed up!!! Annie is WHITE” to more vulgar disputes not worth mentioning.

There are even those who are against the casting not because of race, but because the depiction is simply not what they are used to. “[This] has everything to do with the aesthetic tradition of the character, and nothing to do with ethnicity.”

Annie is an American classic. A comic strip turned Broadway staple turned iconic film, whose story line holds universal meaning void of racial underpinnings. The original Annie character happened to be a spunky, pale-skinned, freckled-faced ginger, but there is no racial or colorism copyright on circumstance or characterization, although many would like to think so.

Ironically, Black figures, both historical and fictional, have been portrayed by white Hollywood on occasion; Cleopatra played by Elizabeth Taylor and Othello played by a blackfaced Laurence Olivier, being two examples.

White-washing is so commonplace that there is an industry classification for it: race bending.

Race bending or casting a white person in an ethnic role is another way the stories Blacks are enlisted to tell are limited and lack diversity. Some would contend Wallis is simply reversing the bend. Others would argue some things should not be touched.

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3 thoughts on “Uh-Oh, is the New ‘Annie’ Black-Washing Hollywood?

  1. Bridget Anne says:

    For context, there are a lot of social cues that point to the historic context of Irish children who ended up in orphanages for a while because of flaws in the immigration system when the poor Catholic Irish were fleeing waves of famine and British colonialism.
    Nowadays, a lot of that social context is lost though, and an informed adaptation of Annie that accounted for the period's racial context could convey the meaning of Annie these days probably much better than if Annie were played by a white actor.
    More specifically, during the period that Annie was initially penned, Irish people were better off that POCs at the time, but actually suffered from the same stigmas that blacks especially do now involving income disparity and criminalization.
    Just my perspective though.

  2. Cleopatra was not black, her ancestry was greek, macidonian, and egyptian.

  3. Shazer says:

    Cleopatra was not black, she was of Greek descent, her half sister was black because she had a Nubyan mother, but Cleopatra herself had no black genes at all

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