Black Americans in Hollywood are constantly sought out to play stereotypical roles in mainstream media, and this has been the case for decades. There is a dangerous cycle between the media and its representations of minority groups on screen, and the black community is notorious for being stereotyped. The media sets the tone for the images of our culture, and those who may have never encountered black people, will believe that the degrading stereotypes of blacks are based on reality, not fiction.
Yvette Nicole Brown (Community, Odd Couple) sat down with Yolanda Sangweni, Deputy Editor of Essence Magazine, to discuss issues pertaining to black women in Hollywood and the cycle of stereotypical roles often offered to women of color in Hollywood (full video below).
“I feel like we’re kind of the standard-bearers, and we’re lighting the torch. That’s good and bad. Sometimes, we’re not really able to do the kind of roles that will elevate us as a people. When I’m saying yes to something, I find myself wondering whether or not it is a role that will set us back as a people. It feels like there are so few opportunities for us to shine in the way that we know that we shine. We know that we’re kings and queens, but for the most part we’re service people on film and in television, we’re assistants, we’re meter maids, we’re nurses, we’re the judge.”
“When my agent calls I automatically ask if I’m the TSA agent. And it is automatically understood that you need to be sassy. The sassy assistant. The sassy meter maid.”
When asked her opinion regarding #OscarsSoWhite and all of the controversy surrounding diversity or lack thereof in Hollywood, Brown made a reference to Jennifer Lawrence and her role in the feature film Joy.
“Someone made mention of Jennifer Lawrence in the movie Joy which was about a woman who made a mop. This was a great product; however, she played a regular women who did an extraordinary thing. When black people get Oscar-nominated roles, they have to be Malcolm X, or they have to be the greatest black person that ever lived. We have to be a thousand times better to get just a crumb.”
“Until people of color are the people who make the decisions, our films will not be greenlit.”
Brown also discussed the opportunities for black women on television vs the opportunities for black women in film.
“We are doing so much better on TV than we are on film. I will be a meter maid if I can be a villain next week. But if all I am is this one thing, then any person in the world who has never met a black person will think that that is all we are.”
“If your story has not been told then it is time.”
Check out a clip of the full interview below or click HERE to watch