A still from Lee Daniels‘ upcoming biopic The Butler has emerged, showing Mariah Carey as a light-skinned field slave–and for a whole slew of reasons–a range of responses have popped up online. While the dominant narrative tells us that dark-skinned slaves stayed in the fields while light-skinned slaves were charged with supposedly less strenuous work in “The Big House,” that was not always the case. Regardless, maybe we should be asking why Mariah Carey is acting at all… Either way, the credit list for The Butler is set and with conversations around Zoe Saldana‘s recent casting as Nina Simone, the politics around who gets which roles looms large when discussing “Black” films and actors.
Apparently a favorite of director Lee Daniels, Carey has worked in a few silver screen roles throughout her career. Although her performance in Precious as a dedicated social worker earned her several nominations and a few small-scale awards, I wish we could forget her star role in the 2001 Glitter (but I wasn’t mad at Da Brat showing up). Perhaps one of the most spot-on tweets regarding the issue read: “I’m not concerned about her lack of melanin, I’m concerned about her lack of acting chops.” Needless to say, hopefully this go round is more like her work as Mrs. Weiss in Precious than anything else.
It would have been nice to see Daniels cast an up-and-coming actor for this spot as a non-Tyler Perry option for Black Hollywood, but with the all-star cast including Oprah, Terrence Howard (who apparently shares a pretty intense love scene with Ms. Winfrey… whoa.), Forest Whitaker, Robin Williams, and Jane Fonda, it makes a certain amount of sense to see Mrs. Nick Cannon herself in this role. We’ll see what she does with the character in this highly anticipated film and hope that the Terrence Howard-Oprah coupling doesn’t make our stomachs turn more than the over-buttered theatre popcorn. Check out The Butler coming this October.
spotted at TR