Friday, January 25, 2008

Blackface 2008?

Angelina Jolie in "Blackface" as Mariane Pearl

The real Mariane Pearl

Angelina Jolie without "Blackface"

The NAACP has announced it's nominees for the 2008 Image Awards. Among a few controversial nominations this year is the nomination of Angelina Jolie. Ms Jolie has been nominated for playing the part of Mariane Pearl. Ms Pearl is the wife of the late Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

Mr Pearl was killed in Pakistan in 2002 by extremists. The film A Mighty Heart (2007) in which Ms Jolie stars is the story of Mr Pearl's kidnapping and murder.

So the question is; why would the NAACP honor Ms Jolie with a nomination for portraying a bi-racial woman, Ms Pearl? Mariane Pearl is of Afro-Cuban and Dutch ancestry and was born in France.

As you can see from the photos above Ms Jolie had to use make-up to 'darken' herself for the portrayal.

Sophie Okonedo

Many are upset that a woman of African decent was not chosen for the role. I for one think Hotel Rwanda star and Academy Award nominee Sophie Okonedo would have been perfect for the role. First because she is a great actor but also she happens to be bi-racial.

What do you think?

Is the NAACP's nomination of Ms Jolie's "Blackface" performance an insult to African Americans and Black people?

Is this further evidence that the NAACP is totally lost and irrelevant?

Also does this show a lack of respect for Black actresses by the NAACP?


Micha said...

I think barring any racist agenda, these people could use whatever actress they want. They are probably not out to make a racial statement and Jolie was a famous actress they wanted.

But for NAACP for give a reward for that, makes me tilt my head. They would be the ones with a racial goal -is what I would imagine.

I dunno.

(boy they word verifications are hard! lolol)

Miriam said...

That last message by Micha, was really by Miriam. Wrong account (hubby's). Oh incidently, we first met at the Dan Pearl Hotel. sigh. I am so sorry for that man.

jjbrock said...

Hello,Mes Deux Cents(1) I think it is an insult. When they were casting for that role it was some controversy about her playing the role.(2) I think the NAACP needs stronger leadership.(3)I think it shows a lack of respect but it comes back to the leadership.

Tami said...

I guess Angelia Jolie's portrayal of Marianne Pearl didn't bother me, except that I don't think Jolie is that hot of an actress. Ms. Pearl is as white as she is black, and I wouldn't have been offended if a black woman played the role. Plus, I know that Pearl and Jolie are friends, their kids allegedly play together and Pearl was happy with her playing the role. Sophie Okonedo would have been a good choice, though.

But NAACP? Still totally lost.

Anonymous said...

I'm not upset by it. She funded it and wanted to do the role. So if she was a tanned white woman the blackface thing be a none issue? Or if she decided not to do blackface would it still be an issue? said...

Hola Mes Deux:


Great minds think alike, heh??!!

What a coincidence!!

Yep; today is Sophie Okonedo Day.


Anali said...

I don't have a problem with it. From what I've heard also, Marianne and Angelina are really good friends. Since Marianne is biracial, it could have gone either way. I haven't seen the movie, but it seems that there was a lot of respect and caring that she put into this role. And since Angelina's lips are real, she may just have more color than we know.

Anali said...

Oh and I forgot to address the NAACP part. The organization is in transition or at least needs to be. I really don't know what to think about their choices of a whole lot of people they have nominated in the past. So for this nomination, I really don't know. Who wasn't nominated for another role because she was?

Brown Girl Gumbo said...

I didn't have a problem with Angelina Jolie playing her, but I do disagree with the NAACP nominating her for her portrayal; something about it is unsettling...

Shelly said...


This is a very interesting post. My first thought/question: would you have written the same post if the actress playing mixed race Marianne had been a (light-skinned) BLACK woman? Essentially it would have been the same potential offence in principle.

Also, I have to say that Jolie and Marianne don't actually look that different - if Jolie went to the beach for a few days, she could easily be the same skin tone or darker than the character she was playing.

So, is this about actual skin tone or adhering strictly to RACIAL composition?

I too would have preferred to see a "true" mixed race actress playing this role (Okonedo would have been an excellent choice) but I can't say I think it's an insult that Jolie ended up doing it.

The main issue here for me is did she feel passionately about conveying this tragic story in a respectful and truthful way? I think she did. Also Jolie is an extraordinairily famous actress - with her in the lead role it maximises the potential audience for a small indie film like this one, bringing this important story to the attention of many who may have otherwise ignored the piece.

And the fact that the real Marianne Pearl fully supported this casting decision is paramount - isn't she the most important person to consider in all this? If she had no problem with the racial aspect, why should black people take any offence? said...

well i like a. jolie and if the casting director wanted her to have that role...well, so be it. but i think that for the naacp to give her an award for playing a black woman is just a little uncle tomish for they are thanking her for validating us (black women) in some way. no matter what, she was still in black face.

SheCodes said...

I'm not upset about Ms Jolie playing the role. However, I am very upset that many talented black actresses are never given the opportunity to play meaty roles, or women who have integrity or valor.

And, well, I lost all respect for the NAACP a long time ago, so my opinion of them can't be brought any lower than it already is.

mrshadow33 said...

I have been distressed over the direction that the NAACP has been headed for several years now. This "Blackface" insult is the latest. Did you know about 10 years ago they didn't even nominate the classic movie "Eve's Bayou" in any category? A classic film if there ever was one. I'm still mad at them for that.

Mango Mama said...

MDC, I posted about this casting in October (A Mighty Opportunity... Missed) and ultimately, the filmmakers can cast whomever they like, but it's important to note that this movie was produced by Brad Pitt's production company and in my humble opinion, it would have been nice to see the Pitt/Jolie machine give a mixed actress an opportunity.

New Black Woman said...

I questioned why she was chosen for the role. There are plenty of talented biracial actresses who could have played the role.

They probably chose Jolie because they thought it would bring in more money for the film.

As for the NAACP, isn't it ironic they are having Blackface awards? Wouldn't that go against everything civil rights was supposed to eliminate?

Maybe it's just the name that makes me weary...

tasha212 said...

When I first heard that Jolie was playing this role I wondered why a black woman or at least a biracial woman was not hired to play this role. I like A. Jolie but there are so few roles out there for black women. That wouldn've been a good role for a black woman or biracial woman to get.

As for the NAACP, nothing they could do at this point could surprie me or make me have more disdain for their leadership.


Mes Deux Cents said...

Jaymac - You postd this in the Apple post below so I moved it for you.


jaymac said...

I don't think there is anything wrong with A.J. playing the role.

It seems to me that there are so few roles for women of color, that the NAACP might have done better to honor the performances that don't get the attention from the big media.

But celebrity sells and A.J. is a big time celebrity. The NAACP might do well if it followed Alex Haley's notion, Find the Good and Praise it."

January 25, 2008 8:05 AM

Mes Deux Cents said...

Torrance - You posted this on the wrong post, so I've moved it for you.

Torrance Stephens bka All-Mi-T said...

sophie is my girl.

January 25, 2008 8:11 AM

Liz said...

I don't know anybody who's actually a member of the NAACP or even thinks their awards are relevant. I also think Marianne Pearl had a right to pick whoever she wanted to play her.

Of course, we could speculate that Marianne preferred someone white to play her because of internalized oppression but I think I'm just going to take her at her word that she felt comfortable with Jolie.

As for biracial actresses, I know some people always throws Halle Berry up there as the go-to gal for lighter skinned or biracial roles but, no thank you. I'm so glad you suggested Sophie. Personally, I wouldn't mind if Angelina or Sophie played long as I look good!

You do make me wonder if we will ever have black actresses play roles that are historically white women. Like, will we ever get to a point where a black actress could be cast as Anne Boleyn?

Mes Deux Cents said...


I don't think Angelina had a racist agenda. I think she just wanted the role.

I tilt my head at the NAACP all the time!


You are right, the leadership at the NAACP has been lacking for a very, very long time.


Yeah the NAACP has even given an award to RKelly, after he was charged! That's pathetic.


It's the history of Blackface that is the concern. If this was the first time a White person had even done such a thing it wouldn't be an issue.


Yep!! :)


Lol@Angelina's lips. That is a thought; someone missed out on a nomination because of this.

Brown Girl Gumbo,

It's the history of Blackface that is unsettling and the NAACP of all organizations should realize that.


"And the fact that the real Marianne Pearl fully supported this casting decision is paramount - isn't she the most important person to consider in all this? If she had no problem with the racial aspect, why should black people take any offence?"

This is where we disagree; I don’t think this is really about Ms Pearl. After all the film will be shown around the world, so it's more than just what she thinks.

She can't really decide for hundreds of millions of people of African decent what's okay and what's not.

Just as Tiger Woods not being upset about a comment about a noose does not mean that other will not be upset.

Who knows what her, Marianes, agenda was, could it have been money?

Do you see my point?

Big Black Kitty Kat,

I agree the real issue is the NAACP.


You and I are on the same page about the NAACP. When they gave an image award to RKelly that was it for me.

Mr Shadow,

I wasn't aware they slighted Eve's Bayou. That is a big miss.

I wonder what there criteria is?


It should be against what they stand for. But the question is what do they stand for?


Disdain is a really good word to describe my feelings for the NAACP.

And you are right about the already limited roles for Black actresses.


I agree that they could have put the spotlight on an actress who might not otherwise be noticed.


I like Sophie too. She's a great actor.


That is a really good question; I think Jennifer Beals may have crossed that line already. She has played roles where I think it's assumed that she is White and not necessarily bi-racial.

Does that count?


Jackie said...

I can't assume that A.J. was the only one considered for the part, and I don't have a problem with her playing it. I guess I'll have to assume the NAACP was honoring the bi-racial character played well by A.J.
I question NAACP Image Award choices often. I was livid that Isaah Washington was given one last year. That was totally absurd and insulting.

BeholdenGrace said...

Hey Mes Deux, I am delurking by posting, found you from Wonderful post. As a mixed-race actress who identifies as Black, I would have to say, this is the NAACP's M.O. when it comes to artists, they have never gotten it; don't know if they ever will.
The actor's goal, particularly, the artist of color is not to make people of color look perfect, but human. (read: the white people already know what's wrong with us, it ain't no secret, we just have to make sure that we also show what's right with us). They villified Hattie McDaniel, when she won the Oscar, but without her, there would have been no Dorothy Dandridge nomination...

So, on one hand, it does really bother me that AJ played it; why couldn't Sophie play it? or Thandie Newton? or any number of other well qualified, talented actresses who could have brought it to life?

I do feel that it is modern day black/brown face--though "color-blind" casting happens onstage, do casting directors ever get multi-ethnic actresses, who have more African features to play white women on film? NO, NO, NO! IMHO, it is the case of Liz Taylor wearing Lena Horne's "Dark Egyptian" make-up all over again. I think you've inspired a post on my blog, Peace.

roslynholcomb said...

Marianne Pearl is not biracial, she's barely of 1/4 African descent. If you read her book she explains her racial heritage. Her father was white European, Danish if I'm not mistaken. Her grandfather was Chinese and her grandmother was Cuban of African descent. She doesn't call herself biracial or black, therefore I don't understand why anyone would be upset by who plays her. Brad Pitt bought the movie rights to the book. This wasn't a bestseller so presumably anyone who put up the money could have done so. He bought the rights and put the person he wanted in the part.

Mes Deux Cents said...


I saw that; they even gave him a standing ovation. That was crazy.


Beholden Grace,

Oh my, Liz Taylor playing Cleopatra was a faux pas for the ages!

I'll stop by and check out your post.

Thanks for delurking yourself. :)


What you described sounds bi or multi racial to me.

But the real point is the NAACP recognizing this portrayal. It just seems really weird for them to do so.

If there were no history of Blackface then this wouldn't be an issue at all.

roslynholcomb said...

It is generally accepted that a biracial person has two parents of two different races. Pearl has one parent of one race and another of at least 2 (or more) races. At best, she's 1/4 black.

The NAACP is a joke and has been for quite some time. I don't know why anyone concerns themselves with what that dinosaur of an organization does. They have been relevant in more than 20 years.

I'm simply annoyed at this criticism directed towards Jolie/Pitt. Especially given that Ms. Pearl and Jolie are friends and she wanted her to play the part. Ms. Pearl suffered an awful tragedy and when it's all said and done, it's her story to be portrayed on film as she saw fit. I have a real problem with black folks adopting this woman's tragedy and making it into some kind of cause célèbre.

Professor Tracey said...

The NAACP award makes no sense, but it's the NAACP awards after all. They rarely make sense.

I am not too mad because the film would have never been made at all with Ms. Jolie desire to play the part and her man, Brad Pitt producing the film.

Further, Ms. Pearl is mixed race, neither being African or African American, so I'm not sure what the fuss is about.

Mes Deux Cents said...


Okay she's multi-racial then.


Professor Tracey,

For me it's just really about the NAACP, I wish they would just go away.

Anonymous said...

Oh, please. Actors constantly alter their appearance for rolls. Jolie slightly darkening her skin for the part is in no way racist, intending to offend. The NAACP's recognition of her is not a sign they need new leadership. Pick your battles, this is really ridiculous. The performances of Tyler Perry, Eddy Murphy, Martin Lawrence and others should be of far more concern. As they are created by African Americans, they are far more likely to further stereotypes as the general population feels comfort finding humor in their portrayals.

Anonymous said...

As a multiracial person I was also annoyed by Jolie casting herself in a role so many black, Hispanic and biracial actresses would have loved to play. She really showed her true colors (no pun intended) with that decision. Sophie Okenedo would have been a wonderful choice, I agree. Thandie Newton actually expressed disappointment at not knowing the part had even existed, and disappointment in seeing Jolie play the role "corked up."

I completely agree with you that the NAACP has lost its collective mind by nominating her. Maybe it was just a ploy to get Brangelina to show up at the ceremony?

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About Me

West Coast, United States
African American, Poet?, Vegetarian, Music lover, Agoraphobic, Social Phobic

My Favorite Poet

My Favorite Poet
Staceyann Chin

My Favorite Track Athlete

My Favorite Track Athlete
Christine Arron