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‘Looks Like a Mockery’: Viola Davis’ Portrayal of Michelle Obama’s Facial Mannerisms in New Series Divides Fans

Actress Viola Davis has fans on the fence over her portrayal of Michelle Obama in the Showtime series “First Lady.”

In the months leading up to the April 17 premiere, Davis was on the receiving end of praise for what appeared to be an accurate embodiment of Obama’s likeliness. From the eyebrows, hair and clothes fans raved that Davis was perfectly cast, but all that changed when viewers tuned in to the anthology.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – APRIL 14: Viola Davis attends Showtime’s FYC Event and Premiere for “The First Lady” at DGA Theater Complex on April 14, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)

For starters, some viewers took issue with the way Davis attempted to mimic lips by holding her own in a pursed position. Many took issue complaining that the duck lip appearance mocked Obama’s natural lips. Others found displeasure with Davis’ take on Obama’s mannerisms, overall appearance and diction. 

“This one role might set her back a few years. I understand FLOTUS Obama has certain mannerisms, but I feel the role could have been accomplished ad fulfilled without Viola holding her mouth like this. I’m a fan of Viola. She’s one of the best actors out but idk about this.”

“The videos and pictures of Viola Davis’ depiction of Michelle Obama has been irritating…Looks like a mockery and I can not for the life of me understand why she’ll do that!”

At least a few people felt the onus did not fall fully on Davis, and that instead of slamming her, people needed to speak of her with more compassion. 

“Viola Davis is faultless and flawless. If y’all have a problem with her portrayal of Michelle, take it up with the director who didn’t do their job correctly.” Another person felt the shaming of Davis was not only unnecessary, but also reminiscent of the various ways in which Obama was mocked in the media and through cartoon drawings for her appearance. 

“The way the black community is tearing Viola Davis apart right now is the exact way yt ppl made fun of Michelle Obama during both terms on how she looked. Do y’all not remember the cartoons ppl made of her? Man y’all gotta stop. Take a look at MO 2008.”

Despite the overwhelming flood of critiques, Davis’ performance did yield kudos.

“They set you up Mama but you are and will always be a legend and icon, you’re just the #MOMENT at this time but soon this will be forgotten and you’ll be playing another fantastic role.”

“Amazing portrayal of First Lady Obama and I don’t know neither of you personally.”

Davis previously shared that it was both terrifying and an honor to depict the first African American First Lady. “I feel very protective of Michelle,” Davis told Entertainment Weekly. “It’s our job as actors not to judge whoever we are portraying, but I ended up thinking she’s just dope.”

Davis has not directly addressed any of the criticism of her depiction, but she did repost a video on Instagram detailing ways in which a person can control anxiety with the caption, “Needed this!”

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