What was once the Oh hell no! controversy surrounding Zoe Saldana playing Nina Simone died down a while ago. But last week, a trailer for the film gave rise to the much bigger and blacker Oh hell no Zoe Saldana is not still playing Nina Simone and we’ve known about for like two years but we forgot! controversy.
Some makeup artist slathered so much foundation on Saldana’s face to create what may be the worst attempt at recreating the hues of dark brown skin since Hanes debuted L’eggs Brown Sugar pantyhose.
The makeup looks cartoonish, making Saldana look cartoonish, which makes the whole film look like a cheap Lifetime Television for Women production of a subject that deserves an A-List treatment.
In a kind of screen-test protest, some people have recast the role with actresses they find better suited to play Simone, including Viola Davis. Many a meme. I imagine Davis scrolling the internet, saying, Damn, y’all. I got two Tonys, an Emmy; my show comes on every fucking week. How much does a sista have to work?
I’m going to have to agree with what Chris Rock said during the Oscars: basically, back in the day, when there were even fewer black people starring in things, nominated for things, and winning things, nobody fussed because, two doors down, there was another lynching going on.
Hollywood has problems. First World black people in 2016 problems.
Headline: “Outrage erupts over Zoe Saldana playing Nina Simone in blackface.”
Half of the people erupting, at some point, had a Scarface poster on their wall.
Ladies and gentlemen, Al Pacino in Cubanface.
Orson Welles played Othello. In West Side Story, Natalie Wood played the doomed Maria, a Puerto Rican young woman. Sir Anthony Hopkins played a black man who passes as a white Jewish man in The Human Stain. Works of fiction. No problem here.
Nina Simone is real. And Saldana can’t pass.
I’m not sure we have time for this test.
Here’s what I imagine:
Saldana wakes up, looks in the mirror, and says, I got kids. My husband’s an artist/writer/director. He ain’t got no job.
Davis wakes up, looks in the mirror, and says, Damn, y’all. Another Tuesday, another 5 a.m. call time.
Here’s my challenge for all of us who watch E! to avoid dealing with our collective fate (Donald Trump!): Stop stewing about the racism of the movie business and its recent controversies.
It’s a new dawn. It’s a new day. It’s Zoe Saldana playing Nina Simone who isn’t feeling good, or bad, because she’s dead. I’m not trying to be crass. I am suggesting that we have more immediate issues.
A controversy, by definition, is typically a long, public, heated disagreement. What we have here today, my friends, with this presidential election, is a crisis.
Not even a British Daniel Day-Lewis playing Abraham Lincoln can fix this