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She’s Gotta Have it writer responds to backlash

UNIMPRESSED: John Boyega referred to She's Gotta Have It as trash

A WRITER on the Netflix series She’s Gotta Have It has responded to the backlash of a controversial episode in which a character claimed black Brits “fell in love with your captors” had Stockholm syndrome.

In the scene from the series based on Spike Lee's film of the same name, Nola Darling (DeWanda Wise) and Olumide Owoye (Michael Luwoye) speak about the transatlantic slave trade and black British actors getting work in the US.

Darling says: "[Black British actors] need to fall back and fall away from taking all of our roles, like we have dope, talented, trained, qualified black actors right here in the States.

“But at the end of the day, black Brits just come cheaper.”

At one point, Darling intentionally mispronounces John Boyega and Chiwetel Ejiofor’s names, referring to them as John Puerto Rican Bodega and Chewy-toy Ijeda-tofu respectively.

When viewers understandably took offence at the dialogue, calling it out on social media, Boyega quote tweeted a clip of the scene with the caption “trash”.

In an open letter to Boyega, Barry Michael Cooper apologises for the mispronunciation of his and Ejiofor’s names but defends the scene overall, its character and the message he was seeking to convey.

“In all fairness, Mr Boyega, you have every right to be incensed by the intentional mispronunciation of you and Mr Ejiofor’s names. My apologies to you both. I wrote Nola’s politicised screed not only to be provocative, but to also bracket her riposte with a historical reference,” Cooper wrote in the letter shared with Indie Wire.

He also said the interaction between Darling and Michael Luwoye) was inspired by a real life dialogue based on comments made by Samuel L Jackson and David Harewood.

In 2017, Jackson told radio host Ebro Darden that he knew Daniel Kaluyya, the lead in Get Out, was British and he wondered what an African American actor would have brought to the role. He also claimed that British actors were cheaper.

In response Harewood wrote an opinion piece in The Guardian in which he said: “We black British performers have the ability to unshackle ourselves from the burden of racial realities — and simply play what’s on the page, not what’s in the history books.”

It is these two distinct statements on black British and African American actors that Cooper says informed the conversation that has since attracted a lot of criticism

“Unshackle. That word has brutal connotations: Whips, blood, wounds, beatings, bondage, chains, water hoses, dogs, police batons, submission,” wrote Copper.

Responding to Cooper’s explanation of the scene, Bola Agbaje tweeted: “Just like the episode this is once again Trash!!! What’s an Afro-Brit? Cos I don’t know any of us that has ever, will ever call ourselves Afro-Brits. Is it really hard to research the people you put down? Uncle was giving us an essay to say nada.”

Another critic wrote: “Honestly! I'm like you basically based your entire scene on things two people said and now therefore claim to understand the Black-British experience. Sis I'm tired of these people already. Lemme base African-American ignorance on this article.”

Read Cooper’s letter in full here

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