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Beauty Standards and Black Women in the Media

Posted by bwmm on July 9, 2009  

Do you know that black people had a film industry that we actually ran? Black filmmakers got to show a way or ways of life that they wanted to show and not what others wanted. We for a time controlled our images. They were called race movies, race films, separate cinema has posters from different eras of black movies (I don’t consider the 70’s black film movement or blaxploitation movies as a black controlled film industry) . The problem is not every ones image was in their control. By That I mean black women. Even though it was mostly a black run industry black women still didn’t get to show themselves or see themselves the way they wanted to be seen or the way they wanted to be shown. In many race films black women (love interest, hell most of the black women)were light skinned while black men could be dark as midnight. Of course there were dark skinned women, but they were more like the mothers, grandmothers, or big momma. This wasn’t always the case, but I sure saw enough of this in these movies to see that we were already creating this type of media influence that is hurting us today. Light skinned black men such as Herb Jeffries was considered to light so his skin was darkened.

I was casting a fantasy movie (a game some of friends play)and it was hard, because many of the actresses don’t represent the women I see on the daily either in my family or on the street. I yahooed black actresses. I clicked on Mahogany Cafe. As I was going through love that site. It’s a tribute to black women actresses in Hollywood I couldn’t help but think were are the dark skinned actresses? I began to notice they were in short supply. If I notice this from a website that is a tribute to black actresses then what does that tell people watching movies, tv etc.? I see the gamut of all shades of black women, but I don’t mostly see light and nothing else. So I left this site and in the search engine (of which I searched black actresses)I came across Abagond’s posts black-actresses, the-most-beautiful-black-actresses and I noted that out of all the dark skinned actresses there were only four Jill Marie Jones Gabrielle Union, Aissa Maiga (and she is a French film actress), Angela Bassett on the list. Even the Honourable mentions don’t represent most black women. Most black actresses whether they are light skinned are dark skinned barely get screen time and when they do it’s so treasured we still talk about them even when they are doing movies and shows every once in a blue moon.

The black-actresses topic was the one that really hit me. Because it’s what this blog is about and there was a quote that really caught me.

Spike Lee: “The way for black actresses to start getting more roles is for black women to start directing and producing their own films.”

There was a comment I especially liked and made me think in a way that I hadn’t before.

Today I think it’s critical that BW take charge of our image, especially in the media/entertainment industry, and hammer home the fact that Black actresses are beautiful, desirable, and talented enough to play any role opposite any actor regardless of race. If I had the money, I would set up a production company that would feature films where today’s most talented Black actresses would be mainstreamed by being given the role of leading lady opposite the hottest White/non-Black actors. These films would be written/directed by Europeans and Americans who have a pro-BW perspective and would present IRR’s in a positive, matter of fact manner as opposed to the tragic manner IRR’s involving BW and WM/non-BM are typically portrayed in Hollywood. I would also strive to end the unequal PAY Black actresses receive by insuring they receive EQUAL wages to what White/non-Black actresses are being paid.

Black actresses have a hard time getting roles whether in Hollywood or other industries. Beautiful actresses such as this lady shouldn’t have to struggle to be seen. There are so many wonderful and beautiful black actresses that talents have gone to waste not only in Hollywood, but other industries as well. We have to stop this. We have to come in and take command of our image and say no more. No more to waste talent. No more to degrading parts. No more to being the best friend. No more to be seen as undesirable. Hell I most definately urge black filmmakers to get these women, before Hollywood or SAG gets their hands on them, because then we’d barely see them at all. Create an industry where there talents will be cherished and nurtured not let go to waste.

The second sentence in bold is what made me think in a different way. It just didn’t occur to me that we are not only going to have to have African American women as well as other black women make movies that show us in a better light and give us better roles, but also those other filmmakers from other countries and even races who see us that way too. That just seriously didn’t occur to me. And it makes sense. Why would do we expect those who continually make movies that show you in degrading or undesirable fashion to make movies showing us as desirable or as any other woman. These filmmakers white, black etc. have proven that they don’t have your best interest at heart with these types of images. So it would behove black women to only work with those black, white filmmakers and others etc. who do have your best interest at heart and want to show you just as any other woman in the world wants to be seen.

And here is something for actresses struggling out there. Yes it is hard, but you can do it. You aren’t getting the roles you want. Make your own movie and cast yourself. The movie doesn’t have to cost a lot. It also doesn’t have to be Oscar worthy. It just needs to get made. With digital cameras now you can make a movie cheaply sometimes not even spending money at all. At least you’d have a film under your belt and more to add to your reel. And if you don’t want to do it yourself get with other actors and actresses and make a movie. There are so many books websites, youtube videos that are about no/low budget film making.

We can make black films by black women all we want, but if we don’t stop being our own worst enemy then it won’t work. In order for this to work we absolutely have to to stop being our own worst enemy. Will Smith said that the studio refused to consider an African-American woman for Hitch. Partly due to the movie being seen as a black film and not being able (or so called able I don’t even think they try)overseas (We have to remember certain White Hollywood films don’t always sell overseas either, but they won’t tell you that bit)and the other part because they found that if they cast a white women there would be hell from black woman. Then they found that if they cast a black women there would be hell from black women. So they had him choose a Latina. Then they found the got hell from black women anyway. I mean look at the ugly comments with Tameka Foster and Usher. I think them divorcing has a lot to do with the ugly comments coming at her from all directions. There have been ugly things about her skin tone to her being a gold digger when we all know damn well that a white women wouldn’t be treated this same way. We even partake in this type of behavior with the women in our own group and then have the gaul to get mad when others do things based on how we respond or behave. We have to seriously think of our words and behavior ladies. Seriously I have found the most detractors with the Black Princess Disney movie to be other black people.

Books to check out

Rebel without a Crew: Or How a 23-Year-Old Filmmaker With $7,000 Became a Hollywood Player By Robert Rodriguez

Feature Filmmaking at Used-Car Prices: Second Revised Edition By Rick Schmidt He also has a book called Extreme DV

Digital Filmmaking 101: An Essential Guide to Producing Low-Budget Movies (Paperback)
by Dale Newton

Independent Feature Film Production: A Complete Guide from Concept Through Distribution by Gregory Goodell

Voice and Vision: A Creative Approach to Narrative Film and DV Production by Mick Hurbis-Cherrier

Jumpstart Your Awesome Film Production Company by Sara Caldwell


4 Responses to “Beauty Standards and Black Women in the Media”

  1. I agree with most everything you say. I have to say this though. It does not surprise me ONE BIT that that Black hollywood you showed gave short shrift to dark-skinned sistas yet had no problem whatsoever with the Black male actors being black as night. That is typical of how Black men behave when they control media. If that black hollywood existed now, the light-skinned sistas would be replaced with Latinas and White actresses. You see though, if you speak out about how Black men constantly screw Black females over on certain Black female "Empowerment" blogs, they will ban you because they cannot handle the truth. That is the crap I am pissed off with. We as Black females need our own film industry, there is no doubt about that!

  2. The fact that there are so few black actresses is very telling especially black actresses that represent most black women in America. We have to start supporting each other instead of tearing each other down. Yeah it sucks that even the men and even women of our group show the haterade that is going on in the bc, but that doesn't mean that we can't still make movies that show us as beautiful and desirable to all men. Hell they are going to hate regardless so why not.Like I said if Nollywood can make movies for 4k on up we can as well. And also look at Nepali films (bollywood like). We can't claim that because there are about 40mill or so black people in this country we couldn't have an industry when Nepal has about the same or less people in their country. The movies might have to be cheaper for a time, but so what?

  3. I can't believe we still don't have a film industry of our own. I'm sorry, but Tyler Perry is not the best rep for a black film industry. Can you imaginge more films with black women being shown the way he was them in his movies?

  4. misslegs said

    Yeah Creative I’m with you on that one

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