As many of you know I’ve been hype for Raising Dion for some time now. When it was announced that Netflix was going to be doing the adaptation with backing from Michael B. Jordan I was overjoyed. While I figured they were going to have to switch out children due to the age of the character I looked forward to seeing the actors from the webisodes really get a chance to explore the roles they took on.
Then the trailer dropped:
So, let’s talk about colorism. Colorism aka the Black, but not too Black trend that Hollywood, and other industries, use as a way to make sure dark skinned people of all races feel less than. With the casting of Raising Dion’s Nicole Warren we see a typical example of colorism at play. Both in the comic book and the original short film Nicole was a dark skinned, curvy, black woman, with clearly Afro-Caribbean features. Now, in the Netflix series, we have a light skinned, stereotypically thin, mixed race woman with Anglo-Saxon features. In other words what we’ve been seeing, over and over again in film and television: light is right. Whether you realize it or not, if you’ve seen a beautiful black woman in a film over the course of your life time, but especially in the last few years, 9 out of 10 they’re played by the following actresses: Zazie Beetz; Tessa Thompson; Zoe Kravitz; Guga Mbatha Raw; and, if you really want to go ‘dark’, you get Gabrielle Union or Zoe Saldana. Every once in a while a Lupita Nyong’o or a Danai Gurira will sneak through but for the most part media reinforces the notion that if a female lead in a film must be of African descent then she cannot be dark skinned and she damn sure better not have clearly African features if she is.
Now don’t get me wrong, we’ve made some progress. Shows like A Black Lady Sketch Show; Marvel’s Luke Cage; Marvel’s The Defenders; Queen Sugar; and How To Get Away With Murder and of course films such as If Beale Street Could Talk and Black Panther, have gone out of their way to showcase and celebrate the full range of beauty that black women have. However that only makes the casting of Raising Dion even more problematic. When there are so many dark skinned, talented actresses clearly available and the original comic and short film make a point of having Nicole look such a specific way, why on earth would you make the choice of casting Alisha Wainwright in the part? It’s tone deaf and frankly harmful and just another way of telling black women of a certain hue that they’re just not good enough.
While I will probably tune in to watch Raising Dion this casting choice has certainly dampened my enthusiasm and I’m just not as invested in the series. Representation Matters and women of color shouldn’t have to settle for only being represented one way.