Let me just say, I am not here to criticize the looks of any women, nor am I here to promote that one form of beauty is better than another. But, Hollywood has insecurities when it comes to giving recognition to Beautiful Black Women in films. Viola Davis, a very beautiful woman, may receive an Oscar nomination for her role of Abilene in the film adaptation of The Help. I think Davis is very talented and attractive woman, yet it seems that in order to receive recognition in Hollywood a Black woman has to conform to the mammy, jezebel or sapphire roles. Not only does she have to fufill these stereotypes, but she also needs to be MADE to look less physically appealing than her white counterparts. Black Girl with Long Hair wrote about this phenomenon in her post.
Black women in Hollywood are portrayed as unappealing as possible. Viola Davis is an attractive woman, but they made her look homely in that movie…why I don’t know…As if ALL Black women who were maids were unappealing. My great-grandmother was a domestic, she cared for a white family and from what I understand, she was an articulate, ambitious and attractive woman. I don’t know why Hollywood is obsessed with portraying ALL Black women as cumbersome mammies…
If you look at Black women who receive Oscars, they always portray characters who exemplify the ole mammy or jezebel stereotypes. Hattie McDaniel was the first Black woman to win an Oscar for her 1939 portrayal of Mammy in “Gone with the Wind.” While, Ms McDaniel was extraordinary in her acting , her character conformed to both the asexual mammy and domineering sapphire stereotypes. Halle Berry won her Oscar for best actress in Monster’s Ball by portraying a Jezebel and Monique won her Oscar in Precious for portraying the welfare queen stereotype and the immoral Black mother stereotype.
Now, all of these women are beautiful and talented…but it’s just sad to me that the only time a Black actress receives any recognition in Hollywood is when she is portraying these roles. Do you think if a Black actress like Angela Bassett (she SO should have won an Oscar by now) portrayed Cleopatra, Queen Nzinga or Hatshepsut, she would receive an Oscar…? I don’t know that she would because Cleopatra, Nzinga and Hatshepsut do not conform to the traditional image of Black women in Hollywood.
Hollywood likes to portray Black woman as being the least attractive and physically appealing of all women. The reason for this goes back to slavery. You see the whole origin of the mammy caricature started because during slavery (and even during Jim Crow) white men regularly raped Black women and kept Black women as mistresses. You see the story of Celia, Harriet Jacobs for more information. These type of forced or coerced relationships went on all around the world, not just in the United States. In order to excuse the white men for their sexual relationships with their Black slaves, they created the mammy caricature. She was a cumbersome, elderly, asexual Black woman. This stereotype was designed to make Black women look so UNAPPEALING that white men wouldn’t POSSIBLY want any type of sexual relationship with them. This helped to protect the ego of their white wives as well as excuse the white men for their crimes against Black women’s bodies.
This same mentality persists to this day and it’s evidenced in Hollywood. We can’t have beautiful, articulate Black women being portrayed positively in Hollywood because that would threaten the beauty hierarchy that benefits their white counterparts. This is why women like Kenya Moore, Angela Bassett, Meagan Goode and Nicole Beharie don’t get the same opportunities as other non-Black actresses. They’re all beautiful, articulate and intelligent Black actresses who don’t conform to society’s stereotypes of Black womanhood.
Nicole Beharie played the sh*t out of her role in American Violet, but for some reason, that movie hardly received any mainstream recognition or accolades and it was based on a true story.
This just goes to show that Hollywood is obviously offended and threatened by beautiful, articulate and non-stereotypical portrayals of Black women.
I believe images like this one are the types of images Hollywood likes to see of Black women:
Let’s analyze this still from Martin Lawrence’s Big Momma’s House 2:
We’ve got the mammy caricature in the obese, elderly Black woman who is laying on the beach contrasted with the thin, blonde and appealing white women. Obviously this is a parody of Bo Derek running down the beach in her cornrows. We are mocking the Black woman for daring to want to match the beauty of “the beautiful white woman.” The ironic thing is, Bo Derek’s cornrows are something Black women have always done, so really Bo Derek was imitating the beauty of Black women, not the other way around. But still, in this photo we’re mocking the Black woman for imitating the beauty that was stolen from her in the first place…
But, this is the story…we’ve all seen it. The big lips on Angelina Jolie are God’s gift to the world, but Black women have always had lips like that, Kim Kardashian and J.Lo’s booties are praised like they’re the first and only women to have that body type, when MANY Black women have always had that body shape NATURALLY…but that’s how they do us…
Historically, people have always capitalized off of Black women’s bodies…going all the way back to slavery, why should it change now?…
But, the most important thing is for Black women to learn to recognize these stereotypes for what they are. This is why movies like Precious, Monster’s Ball and The Help are given such recognition by Hollywood, while other movies like American Violet and Rain don’t get their due credit in Hollywood.