In a recent (and oh so untimely) review of the film “Jumping the Broom,” Selam Aster of Madame Noire had a few words for actress Paula Patton: Girl, you’re just not Black enough.
In the article, “It’s Nothing Personal Paula, But I Don’t Want You Playing Black,” Aster argues that Patton, who is biracial, isn’t “Black enough” to portray Black women on film.
Let’s set aside Paula’s skin color for a minute, because that doesn’t seem to be Aster’s issue with her (she later shouts out Tia Mowry and Jurnee Smollett, both light skin sisters). So, what’s her beef? Paula, apparently, “acts like a white girl.”
Aster writes: “I’m not saying Patton is white, but she played that character like a straight up white girl. In fact, she could’ve easily been replaced by Tara Reid and no-one would probably have noticed if they just closed their eyes. Just because you’re playing well-to-do doesn’t mean you’re devoid of all of the natural sass and rhythmic intonations of a Black person.”
Oh, so we are going to go THERE, eh?
I guess I missed the “all Black women are sassy and speak like Jessie Jackson” memo. Excuse me, I thought we were beyond allowing people–including each other–to put us in a box. Let me go transport myself back to 1988, ‘cuz I feel an “oreo” insult coming on right quick (was that sassy enough?).
I wonder would Aster have preferred, say Stacy Dash, in the role. Like Paula, Stacy’s acting skills are…let’s just say…on the bland side, but at least she’s brown, right? Or wait…would Stacy “sound Black” if we closed our eyes? Hmm, I’m not quite sure she’d make the cut either.
But in case you had doubts about what is and isn’t Black, Aster has some tips for you.
“From bourgois to bourghetto, black folks just have a way of communicating that ranges from subtle to outlandish. To give you an idea of how liberal I’m being with my interpretations of what’s Black, every character on the Cosby show reflected Black folks despite their range of shades and their use of ‘proper talk.”
What I find hilarious about this “liberal” definition of the way Black folks communicate is the example of the Cosby Show. I wonder how, on one hand the author can diss Paula Patton for “sounding like a white girl,” and on the other embrace the Cosby Show–and by extension–Sondra Huxtable-Tibideaux. I mean if Sondra Huxtable wasn’t the Paul Patton of the ’80s, I don’t know who was. Can somebody tell me how Sandra exhibited a MOMENT of “sass” and sterotypical “Black” speech? I’ll wait. So to be all up in arms about Patton’s lack of proficiency in the art of slang or neck-rolling, is not only silly, but it’s also limiting.
I know this may come as a shock to Aster and Madame Noire (who very clearly published this for the hits, they have over 10k), but contrary to popular belief, all Black women don’t neck roll, we don’t yell “guuuuuurrrrrrllllll” when we see our friends, we aren’t all dark skin or light skin, we don’t have witty ish to say just because it’s Tuesday, and despite everyone’s NEED and/or want to put us in the Black box, some of us just don’t fit. And that’s cool.
Can we critique Paula Patton’s acting skills? Most definitely, but to say she shouldn’t play ANY role–in a “Black” film–simply because she “sounds” White is amazingly stupid. Or in Aster’s limited version of Blackness, “Das da most ig’nant thing I eva heard, yo.”