Sunday, November 23, 2014

A "Black Annie"

Yesterday, I was talking to one of my friends about the movie, Catching Fire; however, instead of telling me about the actual movie, she was talking to me about an interesting trailer that was playing before. The trailer was for Annie, a classic American movie and musical usually staring a white orphan with fiery red hair. However, in this upcoming version of Annie, the actress playing Annie (Quvenzhané Wallis) is African American.

In order from left to right: the 1982 Annie, the 1999 Annie, the 2014 Annie

While this adaptation of Annie is unusual, I think the idea of casting an African American to play Annie is extremely appropriate. America is a diverse country, and if each time Annie is played by a young, Caucasian girl, it is not an accurate representation of the large 14.4% African American population in the United States.

By simply casting Quvenzhané Wallis, progress has been made. In class, we have been discussing how African Americans are often used as "tokens" by playing a sidekick (the boss, best friend, etc.) for the sole purpose of having a minority on the screen. Annie is three-dimensional character, unlike the two-dimensional "token", so being cast to play Annie is a highly coveted role. By casting Quvenzhané Wallis, the producers believe Americans are able to accept having an African American play not only the lead, but a traditionally white lead.

While this choice of casting conveys progress, there is even more progress to be made. The upcoming version of Annie is produced by Jay-Z, Will Smith, and Jada Pinkett Smith - all of whom are African American. If the producers were all white, would they still choose to cast an African American to play Annie? Also, Cameron Diaz and Jamie Foxx are casted, both of whom are very successful and well-known actors. Did the producers only take a gamble on casting a black lead because they had two successful actors to support her role? Some Americans even showed they are unable to look past the stereotypes. Saturday Night Live has already made a spoof of "Black Annie" by portraying Annie as someone who is "hyper-sexualized, temperamental, physically opposing, and money hungry", all of which are black stereotypes.

In America, nothing changes overnight, and I am thrilled with this movie because it does show evidence of progress. As time progresses, hopefully America can become an even more accepting nation and the extent of progress can be even greater by white producers hiring more African Americans, the ability for African Americans to stand on their own without a famous actor as a "safety net" and without only being viewed by their stereotypes.

3 comments:

  1. Claire-
    I think it's so great that Annie has been cast by an African American. It shows how far America has come in terms of racial acceptance and demonstrates the changes of mind we, as Americans, have made in our society. This changes all preconceptions that Annie must be a little "white girl" and takes steps closer to breaking stereotypes of black vs white people. I think that overall, it is a huge step in the right direction for our country.

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  2. Claire & Isabelle-

    Great blogpost and insightful comment! I agree with both of you and I'm glad to see racial diversity. I think it's interesting that they chose a mainly African American cast to play out an underdog story. I wonder if this makes the modern version of Annie more relatable.

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  3. Claire,

    Good job blogging this term. I'm glad to see the improvements you've made to this post. The pictures and link are helpful in advancing your case. You can, however, analyze evidence further -- the quotes you cite and the consequences of this reboot of the "Annie franchise."

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