By Tracy L. Scott
So, if youâ€™ve been hanging out with the Internets lately, youâ€™ve heard that Zoe Saldana has recently been cast to play Nina Simone in an upcoming biopic about the legendary singerâ€™s life.Â Most of the internet thinks this is a dumb, bad, stupid, dumb bad idea.Â I agree, and you probably should too.Â But not for the reasons you may be thinking.
Okay.Â The problem here, in my opinion, is not Zoeâ€™s ability to play Nina Simone.Â Some people think she just doesnâ€™t have it in her.Â Nina was gritty, in-your-face, bold, daring, subversive.Â I donâ€™t think she could have been demure and gentle if she tried.Â Zoe could, though, and to some people this softness cancels any ability to give us hard, rough, bitter.Â Iâ€™m vetoing this.Â I saw Colombianaâ€”okay, I saw the previews for Colombianaâ€”and she appears to kick some major butt in that flick.Â Literally and otherwise.
The problem also isnâ€™t that sheâ€™s not â€œblack,â€ and reading this criticism actually makes me mad.Â Zoe has spoken very openly about her ethnicity, and identifies as a black woman.Â Who are we to strip that from her?Â How dare we not let her name herself?Â Get that out of here, sirs and madams.Â Thatâ€™s vetoed as well.
And the problem definitely and absolutely is not that Zoe is â€œtoo prettyâ€ to play Nina.Â Talk about insulting and telling of the extent to which our Western standard of beauty has poisoned our little brains.Â Both Zoe and Nina are beautiful.Â Itâ€™s just the one would be considered more so by a conglomerate of social institutions.Â Whereâ€™s my pen?Â I need to sign this veto real quick.Â The problem with this casting job is rooted in a very harmful, silencing tradition:Â the Hollywood whitewashing of people of color and their stories to make them palatable to the general audience (read:Â white folks).