JULY 13, 2021
BLACK PUBLIC MEDIA
By Leslie Fields-Cruz
The Hollywood Remake, for Better or Worse
Am I the only one who is troubled by Hollywood’s tiresome penchant for blackfacing their old movies and TV shows (e.g., First Wives Club, Wonder Years)? I know summer is primetime for blockbuster movie releases, and I realize the industry is scrambling to recover from the pandemic while also reinventing itself as “woke” and inclusive. But are blackened remakes really the best way to do that? I mean, not only were the original versions of these stories not written, directed or produced by Black people, the original narratives weren’t grounded in our lived experience.
Of course, I get it, remakes are irresistible because they come with a built-in audience, which can enhance the likelihood of box office/streaming success. But if you’re gonna go the remake route, why not feature hit content that’s already Black? Spike Lee did it with the 2017 TV series remake of his debut film, She’s Gotta Have It (1986).
I would love to see a series based on the film Roll Bounce (2005), which was written by Norman Vance Jr. Or how about a remake of Cooley High (1975)? Not to mention the scores of Black documentaries that feature compelling Black characters and stories: e.g.., Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise; Mr. Soul; or Flag Wars.
And it’s not as if there haven’t already been some truly wonderful original series and films produced in recent years. Hit programs like Insecure, Queen Sugar, Underground, etc., have fresh storylines, are anchored in the African American experience, and have enjoyed critical acclaim and box office success. Why can’t we see more of these? Against this backdrop, blackfacing remakes of old White movies and TV shows feels agonizingly tone deaf.
Of course, there are exceptions. Over the weekend, I had a chance to see a trailer for Jordan Peele’s latest project, Candyman, which is a remake of the 1992 horror film written and directed by Bernard Rose and starring Tony Todd. I'm not really into horror flix, so I have no plans of watching this redux, but Oscar-winning satirist/comedian Peele appears to be living his dream. I just hope his Candyman doesn’t turn that dream into a nightmare by hooking him into a redux-horror-hell niche that he can’t escape.
Alas, maybe I’m expecting too much from the Hollywood system. The remake is not new. After all, they remade A Star is Born FOUR times(1937,1954, 1976, 2018)! Considering the canon of Black film projects, which films/TV shows would you like to see remade or turned into a fresh series?
Black Public Media is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, with further funding from the MacArthur Foundation and the New York State Council on the Arts. Support for Afropop: the Ultimate Cultural Exchange and the 360 Incubator+ Fund comes from the National Endowment for the Arts. BPM is the only nonprofit that offers training, funding and distribution for projects solely about the Black experience. We are seeking foundations, corporations and individuals to help our work. For more information about underwriting and contributions, please contact Alisa Norris (Alisa@ blackpublicmedia.org). To donate, click here! In addition, you can donate to BPM through your Amazon purchases by going to smile.amazon.com/ch/31- 1335950.
Copyright @ 2021 Black Public Media. All rights reserved.
Our mailing address is: 530 W 25th St., # 501, New York NY 10001.