Monday, 30 January 2012
Recently a petition was set up following the announcement Thandie Newton has been cast in the film Half of a Yellow Sun based on a book written by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I wasn't going to comment on the story but changed my mind after reading the commentary so far.
I have noticed the tendency for people who haven't read the book to frame this argument through a light skin/dark skin, mixed race/black lens and I think that's a little too simplistic.
My issue isn't that Thandie isn't Igbo she just doesn't physically resemble either of the main female characters. Olanna is beautiful, soft and curvy (I really hate that word but hey) whereas her twin sister Kainene is enigmatic, tall, slim and hard faced. The sisters physically look very different. It's important to the plot, tells us a lot about their character and the stormy relationship they have with each other. I'm also very alarmed at the online rumours she's set to play both sisters. Unless they are going to use CGI trickery I certainly hope not.
When explaining this to others I was struck by the barrage of comments about "Black people not sticking together" "Why are black women always divisive and angry" from folks who haven't actually read the book.
I feel the same as I did when Anne Hathaway was cast as Emma Morley from One Day based on a book by David Nicholls. Just like Thandie she is a competent actress who was woefully miscast.
Others claim Thandie is right for the role because she is a Hollywood actress who has box office draw. I disagree. The book was very successful and Chiwetel Ejiofor (who has also been cast) is just as Hollywood.
This was also an opportunity to showcase a more suitable black actress in light of the lack of good roles. Instead the mainstream got lazy. I'm not surprised Thandie was cast. It was always going to be her, Zoe Saldana, Paula Patton or maybe even Angelina Jolie (that was a joke). They're the only ones who seem to be getting any work these days.
P.S Read the book and can I just express my shock that The Help is the first main role Viola Davis has had. That is all.