by G. Brown
Actress Cynthia Erivo is earning all the praise for her portrayal of Harriet Tubman in the bio flick “Harriet”. It’s the story of a slave-woman fighting not just for her freedom but for the freedom of generations.
Most people over a certain age are familiar with the name and legacy of Harriet Tubman. Most people except a studio exec who reportedly thought the role could be played by a White actress. I kid you not.
According to EW.com, when the film’s screenwriter and producer Gregory Allen Howard first presented the script to a studio in 1994, he says the exec suggested Julia Roberts for the lead of Tubman. Allen says, “When someone pointed out that Roberts couldn’t be Harriet, the executive responded, ‘It was so long ago. No one is going to know the difference.’”(EW.com)
Roberts was on a Hollywood hot streak thanks to the 1990 hit “Pretty Woman”. Julia Roberts as a pretty woman…ok, sure. Julia Roberts as a Black woman who saved countless Black lives via the underground railroad…AWW HELL NAH!
That’s pretty much the prevailing sentiment on social media as the headline hit the internet…
Someone posted that we have to remember that Julia Roberts’ name was thrown out there at a time when Hollywood was very different and not as diversified as it is in 2019. It doesn’t matter if her name was thrown out in 1846…when is it ok for a White woman to portray a Black figure in history? Neither would we want to see Angela Bassett play Betsey Ross or Viola Davis as Eleanor Roosevelt.
This was a case of Hollywood ignoring the truth and trying to perpetuate a lie on the silver screen like it did when casting Laurence Oliver as “Othello”, Elizabeth Taylor as “Cleopatra” or Joseph Fiennes as Michael Jackson. Whitewashing is as much a part of Hollywood history as the Great White Way–pun very much intended.
Yet people lose their collective sh*t when actors of color are considered for roles of fictitious characters like James Bond and comic book heroes or Disney cartoon characters like “The Little Mermaid”.
Hollywood is often full of BS…normally that would mean ‘bombshells’, but this time we mean the other thing…