Today’s Friday 5 comes from Joelle Blackstock, a NYC Civic Corps volunteer currently serving the NY Writer’s Coalition. She is from Hollis, Queens, and has a BA in Film & African American Studies and a MA in Africana Studies. Her Master’s thesis, “The Scourged Back of Hip Hop: the Commodification of the Wounded Black Body,” explores how the black body in pain is made available for public consumption in hip hop.
The remake has taken on a life of its own and created a new genre in Hollywood cinema. The 2012 summer season introduced new installments to time honored classes with The Amazing Spider-man (2012) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012). Over the years we have said hello to other remakes such as Freaky Friday (2003) (originally released in 1971), and Guess Who (2005) (remake of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)). However, another trend in not only Hollywood, but on theater stages and television screens, are classic Hollywood films and plays remade with all black casts. The latest is an all black remake of the 1980’s classic Steel Magnolias, which premiered on Lifetime on October 7, 2012. It stars Jill Scott, Queen Latifah, Adepero Oduye, Alfre Woodard and Phylicia Rashad. Then there was this summer’s predominately black cast remake of the 1947 play “A Streetcar Named Desire” now staring Blair Underwood, Nicole Ari Parker, Daphne Rubin-Vega, and Wood Harris.
On a good note, these all black cast remakes show the universal appeal that certain films carry and how underlying themes unite us all regardless of race. Queen Latifah states for The Daily Beast that when she was first approached to take on the role that was once coveted by Sally Fields, she was all in as she states: “I also knew that story was timeless and colorless, which is something a lot of people need to understand about life. Certain things in life are universal.”
However, when Hollywood films are remade with all black casts, major questions arise on the state of good roles for black actors in film and on stage. Allison Samuels from The Daily Beast, writes that black actresses such as Kim Wayans, Debbie Allen, and Angela Bassett, whom she interviewed, can all agree that there is not enough quality roles for black actresses today or about black life. So when Hollywood remakes old stories for black casts, although it might seem like quality roles on the surface, which introduce black actors to mainstream audiences, these stories are not specifically speaking about black life. Then, although these stories might present black actors and black actresses in a more positive light than the stereotypical figures of the past, they are not original. Even when film themes are somewhat universal, rarely do we see films originally staring all black casts remade to feature all white casts. Thus, there is still a disconnect in media about how to feature black actors and black life in film and on stage.
For more on all black remakes, check out BlackEnterprise.com.