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It’s a hard knock life for us in Hollywood

BACKLASH: Some film fans are unhappy Annie has been remade with a young black actress in the title role

IN DECEMBER, Jay Z and Will Smith clubbed together to do the unimaginable – create a big budget Hollywood film with a black main character.

The remake of children’s classic Annie stars 11-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis as the infamous orphan.

It’s a change from the red haired, freckled little white girl in the 1977 Broadway production, but the story has been reincarnated numerous times.

The musical was an adaption of a 1920s comic strip and the 1984 film was a remake of the musical. That version was remade for TV by Disney in 1999.

But this is the first time Annie has been cast as a black girl.

Frankly, it’s not a difficult transition to make – in the story, Annie is known for her big hair, and that’s not an attribute black people lack. Quvenzhané fits the role well.

When Sony Pictures suffered its email hack of 2014, correspondence from chairwoman Amy Pascal revealed she was keen on the idea of Idris Elba as the next James Bond.

The very idea of a black Annie and a black James Bond has sent the same people who insist that they’re liberally colour-blind spinning into fear of a black planet-style anxiety.

“Was there any need to remake Annie with a black cast? Probably not”, wrote one disgruntled teenage boy on Twitter.

“Still can't hack how in the remake of Annie they've swapped the ginger girl with short hair to a black girl with an Afro,” writes another. That guy added a crying face emoji at the end of his tweet, to really hammer his discontent home.

When newspapers covered the Bond speculation, the commenters almost burst. “I’d never watch a Bond film again”, wailed one Daily Mail reader. “First Annie and now this? What a joke of a world we live in.”

It seems to back up another leaked Sony email correspondence sent to studio chairman Michael Lynton from an unnamed producer who questioned whether it made financial sense to give [Denzel] Washington lead roles because “the international motion picture audience is racist”.

The producer cited the reception of the actor’s recent feature release The Equalizer as a reason to support the case that his race was a factor.

This line of thought demonstrates a real struggle to identify with black humanity in any conceivable way. But those of us who aren’t white have been subjected to having to identify with the lives of white main characters since film began.

If a black Annie or a black James Bond is too much for these folks, I’m sure they can cry into their popcorn and console themselves with the 99.9999 per cent of Hollywood films that are released each year with white main characters.

These tantrums reveal narcissism at its finest.

White people are so used to seeing a reflection of themselves in all representations of humanity at all times – and simultaneously seeing non-white characters relegated to sidekick or token status – that attempting to try and relate to black skin in a main character is an alien concept. We’ve been positioned as the ‘other’ for too long – from villain to comic relief.

Ironically, Annie was released in the same month as Exodus: Gods and Kings, the biblical blockbuster set in Egypt with an all-white cast.

No tears were shed from the boycott Annie crew over it. I’m assuming they didn’t bat an eyelid at the casting.

This strength of feeling over a classic being ruined was not present when the Charles Dickens novel, Oliver Twist, was remade into a film in which the lead character cast in the image of a cartoon cat.

It’s almost like some other reason for dissent is at play.

There’s a double standard here, and it stinks of racial disparity, prejudice and power.


Reni Eddo-Lodge is a freelance writer and feminist

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