12 Years a Slave could have only been told by non-Americans. That is to say Americans, both black and white are just too close to the subject and spent too long avoiding the dialog about our shared homeland origins to do the story justice. When I saw this film with my father back in Tacoma, WA there were a few times I almost walked out the theater, it a was a such an accurate depiction of what it must have been like to live through hell. Unique because it was a trifecta, from the eyes of the protagonist, the viewers eyes, and the lens of a British director. All of us new to this visceral depiction of this American life, it took the distance to tell it truthfully. The result, a story so subtly nerve racking so devastatingly “normal for the time” that you like me may have wanted to walk away but like me couldn’t. I happened to walk in India.Arie’s room delivering lunch in Jakarta just as Will smith announced the winner is… Having spent the last week cooking for her in Asia 15 hours ahead of LA, watching the Oscars live on Monday afternoon made all seem like a dream, we high fived. A dream who’s time has come, which is probably why 12 Years will be shown in schools across America and Django will not. Yes of course it won the Oscar, it had to. This is why we make art.
Real dialog VS. Comedy
While laughing is great for us it doesn’t deal with the full reality. Like SNL does here and after watching 12 yYears this is a welcome relief but only scratches the surface.
A word on Lupita.
Her performance as Patsy was heartbreaking, I wanted nothing more than for Patsy to be able to find some peace to escape. I still wonder what happened to Patsy, but that’s the power of a great actor. Both Patsy and Lupita have opened a whole other can of worms that are the direct result of slavery and colonialism in the world, so since we are talking about race now let’s get into it.
Black Americans hold black women (and men) with lighter skin and “good (straight) hair” in higher regard than dark skin women. It’s widely known in the American community, the paper bag test in South Africa to hollywood’s casting process. An Afro-Latina to play Nina Simone being the last upset. Though this is seldom understood by non-blacks because to the non-black people we’re all just black. Ironically most non black people like the blacker berry hoping for that sweeter juice. I’m looking at you Jared Letto… Maybe Lupita’s beauty comes from the fact that in real life she’s not trying to look like Mistress Epps. Food for thought.
Hashtags telling the tale:
#MyBlackIsBeautifulToo #TeamDarkSkin #the blackerTheBerryTheSweeterTheJuice
These tags were trending all over my TL’s with pictures and praises for “my Girl” Lupita. A quiet victory for the brown girl in the back of the picture off center of the light skinned best friend. For that I’m happy because there are so many more dark and light skinned girls who have to deal with color issues for reasons ingrained in us since long ago.
Every major outlet has turned Luptia the into a real life Katniss Everdeen. But the narrative is not one of a girl from the slum but a beautiful African Princess, a Senator’s daughter, smart, sexy, desired, dress killa, all this a great feat…to be so dark. Beautiful dark skin women is of course nothing new to a lot of us, however it seems brand new on Lupita. Don’t get me wrong she is quite charming and talented and I’m gad she is representing for women like my little cousin, sister, mother, ex girlfriends etc. But enough already with fetishizing her please!
Lupita spoke about her own struggles with her color as a girl, it was only after she saw model Alek Wek and Oprah put her stamp of approval on her as pretty did she stop begging god every night for lighter skin. So yes shit is real but I think it constantly feeds itself I remember hearing my mother telling my darker skin sister she would “have trouble being that dark” I was like huh? Let’s not make it self perpetuating Lupita is probably 10 times prettier than Alek Wek in my book but it took the media to say that for her to believe it. Lupita is pretty, she’s black as an ace of spade, so what? My point is if stop saying (or thinking) women are “pretty to be that black” and just let them be a pretty woman maybe we can help eradicate these complexes. But even in her very existence like FLOTUS, Lupita is changing the narrative and so is this press outlet.