It is 2019 and a movie that blatantly advertises blackface was written, funded and is about to be screened in July.
Loqueesha is a movie written, directed, and starring Jeremy Saville. Get this – he also owns the production company behind it, called Cinema Saville. Its trailer shows a white man, Joe, who decides the best response to having his radio show turned down is to pretend to be a black woman. You read that correctly. He takes advantage of the fact that listeners can’t see him, a full-grown white male, and pretends to be a black woman named “Loqueesha.”
If the plot wasn’t mind-boggling enough, the main character’s motivation makes it worse. Joe doesn’t need money to feed and clothe himself. No, he resorts to blackfishing in order to send his “gifted” white son to a school that costs USD$13,000 a semester.
Let’s take a step back. Blackfishing is nothing new. If this trailer outrages you, so should Ariana Grande’s tan and numerous Instagram accounts. But this movie is shameless. Its poster literally has a black woman’s face being split in half to reveal a white dude.
What’s worse is its obvious exploitation of black characters.
“It’s not a crime,” the token black guy tells the morally conflicted white male, “It’s theater.”
The easiest counterpoint to this is that black people’s lives aren’t theater. And the white guy is conflicted because what he’s doing is wrong. Just because one black character says he shouldn’t feel bad doesn’t magically make what’s going on here okay. Neither do all the black females that claim to feel empowered by “Loqueesha’s” talk show.
Honestly, it’s appalling that any POC agreed to be in this film. It’s not that black actors should be satisfied with just Black Panther and Jordan Peele movies. Hollywood is a tough place and sometimes it’s necessary to take on less than ideal roles to pay the bills. But, really, is this worth it?
Part of me hopes there will be a “gotcha” moment. That this insanely racist plot will somehow reveal itself to be a campy critique of the blackfishing that we see every day. Unfortunately, the racial climate in the United States lends itself to this type of uncritical BS. Let’s be real, white people’s insecurities got Trump elected.
White people, listen up. Blackface is not the answer. Racism is not the answer.
Do white people have problems? Sure. Americans don’t have universal healthcare, student debt is on the rise, and we aren’t taking good care of our mental health. But notice that these issues aren’t reserved to the white population. They affect everyone.
So tell me, why is the solution to take opportunities from a group of people that, on top of everything just listed, also disproportionately face police violence, mass incarceration, and hiring discrimination?
Blackface is a lazy way to profit off decades of black history. It ignores societal realities in favor of individual goals.
“If I was a black woman, I’d be perfect,” thinks the white male protagonist. Not once in the trailer does he think about why that is.
The reason why “minorities and women are encouraged to apply” to the position that the protagonist wants is because people of color and women are underrepresented in American entertainment. By contrast, Variety found that of all of scripted shows in 5 major TV networks, nearly 90% were run by white people.
Maybe identity politics seems unfair on an individual level, but the truth is that the white market is saturated. Joe’s show would get rejected in real life is that it already exists. Black people aren’t to blame for that. Centuries of racism and glass ceilings are.
Instead of making ridiculous movies that reify old patterns (i.e. white protagonist using blackface as comedy), we need to make space for new voices and encourage collaboration in order to push entertainment to new creative limits. We should also be addressing the political realities that lead audiences to the misguided conclusion that racism somehow solves job insecurity.
Race is a social reality, especially in the United States. We don’t need to shy away from it. There are plenty of examples of race-based comedy done well. Take SNL’s Black Jeopardy. Or basically any Key and Peele sketch. But for the love of everything good, let’s cut it with these thinly veiled minstrel shows.
In the absence of a ground-breaking plot twist, this movie is trash and doesn’t deserve our attention. Frankly, even if there is a plot twist, its reliance on racial stereotypes for shock advertising are enough for it to be capital C, Cancelled.