The young and adorable Quvenzhane Wallis is slated to play Annie alongside Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz in the upcoming remake of the cult classic. Last year, Quvenzhane gained international recognition after her portrayal as Hushpuppy in Beasts of the Southern Wild, which led to an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. She is the youngest person to ever be nominated.
She also played alongside Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong’o in 12 Years a Slave. Oh, and she’s only 10. Quvenzhane took the throne once held by Abigail Breslin and Dakota Fanning. Quvenzhane is not only young and sweet, but she’s also very talented and dedicated to the craft. During her professional and personal journeys, I hope and pray that she continues to excel and inspire the next generation of young leaders.
A cultural staple and heartwarming story, Annie is a tale about a poor mistreated orphan who eventually gets adopted by the rich and powerful Daddy Warbucks. A feel-good story, Annie is a legend of sorts. The title character is typically played by a young, white, red-headed girl. Aileen Quinn played the orphan in the 1982 adaption, and Alicia Morton followed up in 1992. For many, the red hair and freckles are a staple for the character.
Remarkably, there hasn’t been protest against Quvenzhane’s casting, and I hope it stays that way. Creativity and interpretation are the pinnacle of effective entertainment. I can’t wait to see what Quvenzhane brings to the role.
I raise the point of backlash because of the controversy surrounding Michael B. Jordan’s casting as the Human Torch in the revamped Fantastic Four series. The star of the critically acclaimed Fruitvale Station was the subject of harsh attacks from the comic book fans and opportunistic racists. But of course he brushed it off with this suave response:
What’s going on in Hollywood?! Do entertainment moguls finally realize that Black actors can carry white roles? Do they finally understand that people won’t run and hide if they see a Black person on the silver screen? Did they finally recognize that the Black demographic deserves representation? Whatever their reasons for promoting more Black actors….I’m rejoicing.
Like many, when I watched Lupita Nyong’o win her well deserved Oscar, I was overwhelmed in emotion. A tear may have trickled from the corner of my eye. I still can’t capture what I was feeling in that moment; pride? camaraderie? justice? redemption? RELIEF?!
I was relieved that a women I could identify with was standing before an audience of millions, speaking a warm truth that crept from the passions of her soul. In that moment, I saw me. I saw possibility. I saw opportunity.
I was empowered.
I hazard a guess that Hollywood’s motives aren’t entirely pure; that the empowered underpinnings of social justice do little to influence their casting decisions. But I do believe there’s a wave in Hollywood that understands (or is starting to understand) the complexity of the American socioeconomic space. I credit President Obama. As an irrefutable truth that Black people are productive enough to run the greatest superpower on Earth, corporate entities are taking note that the Black community is a sizable force that should be encouraged, empowered, and reckoned with.
But are these new realizations just a trend? Is it a fad? Are Quvenzhane, Lupita, and Michael momentary outliers to the frightening commonality of colorism, prejudice, and discrimination? I don’t have the answers to this question, and honestly, these three are the only ones who do. They alone know what their ultimate career goals are. They alone have their professional trajectories mapped, and it’s up to them to execute their plans.
On the consumer end… we need to consume. We need to continue to support these talented actors and others like them if we hope to continue this path. Everything is precarious right now. Nothing is concrete, established, and set in stone. As consumers, we have to ensure that our icons are profitable enough to stay in their industries.
So, if you have $15 to spend, go see Quvenzhane rock it in a role that historically does not belong to her.