“Nina” (2016), a film about singer Nina Simone, is set to come out on April 22nd. See the trailer above. Nina Simone is played by Zoe Saldana, a light-skinned Latina who looks so unlike Simone that she plays her in what is arguably blackface.
Simone’s daughter, who controls her estate (but not enough of her songs to stop the film) says the film is “unauthorized”. She preferred Viola Davis or Kimberly Elise. On Twitter she told Saldana to “please take Nina’s name out your mouth. For the rest of your life.”
Because the film has a (made-up) love story and is by and for White people, it falls under the “But Not Too Black” trope, a sort of Hollywood whitewashing. The idea is that most White men could see themselves in love with Zoe Saldana but not, say, Viola Davis or any other woman who is actually dark-skinned. Even Nina Simone would be too dark to play Nina Simone!
You see the same sort of thing in “Kung Fu” (1972-1975), where a Chinese American is played by David Carradine, an Irish American made to look Asian (yellowface). That was because White Americans (or at least Hollywood producers) have a hard time seeing Asian American men as fully human (partly because of the many wars the US fought in Asia).
– Abagond, 2016.
- Zoe Saldana to play Nina Simone – the post I wrote in 2012 when Saldana was cast for the film.
- Ta-Nehisi Coates: Nina Simone’s Face
- Zoe Saldana
- Hollywood whitewashing
- Nina Simone
- David Carradine
- Real People