Dear Aurora and cast of #JemTheMovie,
I want to formally issue an apology to you for my conduct on Twitter regarding this film. I want to let you know that I have been very disappointed with the direction of the film from Day 1 and some of my anger may have been misdirected at you, and for that I apologize.
If you feel in any way that I have harshly criticized you or made you feel incompetent to play the roles of my beloved characters I ask again that you accept my apology. I feel like my nostalgia has got in the way of what has happened within the last month or so when this film was first announced. I was just like everyone else. I was excited, intrigued, and curious to see the characters of a TV show that I have come to know and love as a child and even as an adult with weekly episodic live-tweets, to finally have a place in current pop culture again.
When I found out that the production team completely dismissed Christy Marx, the creator of Jem and the Holograms. I was disheartened and concerned why she was not involved. I later read an article where she openly discusses being excluded from the production and was in fact, eager to be a part of it.
This is where my bewilderment evolved into disgust.
I sent a message to Samantha Newark, the voice of Jem asking if she was involved with the project. She additionally confirmed that she had no part in it. That same day, I received confirmation via Twitter from Britta Phillips (the singing voice of Jem) that she also was not involved but had interest in being part of the film.
Three women who were an integral part of the making of the iconic animated series who were interested in taking part in the film’s production were not asked nor consulted when this movie was announced.
My disgust evolved to anger.
The YouTube video featuring three men including director Jon Chu waving a Jem doll around didn’t help appease my anger, suffice it to say.
However, I had an A-ha moment after I received a tweet from Aurora Perrineau, the actress cast as Shana Elmsford on Twitter about the film. I sent out a tweet to the #JemTheMovie hashtag (as I’ve done so off and on since it was created) about my thoughts on colorism. Aurora had responded to one of my series of tweets directed at the film.
On April 24, 2014, the cast of the Jem and the Holograms movie was announced. I’m always notified by my followers on Twitter about Jem because they know how much of a fan I am. When I saw the first reveal of the movie poster that had the image of Jem, Kimber, Aja, and Shana, my first reaction was, “Shana is awfully light.”
I Googled the actress Aurora Perrineau (Shana) and first noticed that her father is Harold Perrineau whom I know best from Oz, Lost, and The Best Man movies. I’ve been a fan of his work for years and was shocked to know he had a grown daughter.
I guess I’m still stuck on that island in a time warp.
When I saw the photos of Aurora, I noticed she was very fair-skinned and seems to have straight, European textured tresses that fell down her back. I thought it was odd that the filmmakers thought Shana, who is of a darker hue and has a hair texture that leans course/curly to be played by Perrineau. With these contrasting images, my anger was in no way subsiding.
I channeled all of my anger into a simple hashtag called #WeWantChristy. The tag caught on with many fans. An online petition and fan artwork was created with the hashtag embossed on the creations. Shortly after I created the hastag #WeWantChristy, Jon Chu tweeted to Britta Phillips.
Soon after, it was announced that Britta Phillips and Samamtha Newark would have have cameos in the film.
I’m not sure if social media campaigning did the trick or not. But I wonder, if there was no outcry at all for women to be involved in the film, would this have ever happened?
As for Christy, it is still unknown if she will be involved in the film.
I let my social media weight get the best of me by thinking that if I had the capacity to change who became involved in the film, then perhaps I can do something about the issue of colorism among women of color. Colorism is an issue I have addressed on this blog many times and it resonates with me. I am a woman who is light-skinned and share a similar complexion to that of Aurora herself. I am not exempt to the divisiveness I have suffered among friends and family members when it comes to the complexion of my skin color. I don’t know what it is like to walk in the shoes of a darker skinned woman and be judged with such vitriol. But I do sympathize on a level of anger and sadness when lighter hued women are preferred over darker ones.
Monoliths are boring. I embrace nerd culture so much because diversity is my passion. I don’t like being in spaces where everything looks the same. It is part of the reason why I loved living in NYC for a short while. I loved the melting pot of so many unique experiences, philosophies, and people from all walks of life. I am drawn to other cultures and things that are inimitable. I lived in an apartment with three other female roommates that were just a multicultural as Jem and the Holograms, I had a Black, a White, and an Asian roommate when I lived in uptown Harlem. It was a fun bunch with all of us, and we certainly had our own crazy Jem and the Hologram experiences when we partied in downtown Manhattan.
I’m always seeing TV, Film, and other forms of media with the same white faces and lighter hues. This is nothing new and there is nothing profound about discussing the disparities of colorism among Black women in TV/Film. It’s happens often and keeps happening. Here is a public and reusable presentation slide giving examples of colorism in movies. The classic movie School Daze said it all with the “Good Hair and Bad Hair” musical number directed by Spike Lee. A divisive tool yet again strikes a chord with Black women. The sad part about this is, I see it more prominent among women than men, and colorism is yet another tool used to divide and suppress all of us.
I decided to take a social media stance and send out a series of tweets on my thoughts towards the casting of Shana Elmsford with respect to the issue of colorism as well as tweet about other dark skinned animated characters who were portrayed by lighter skinned actresses. A few months back, I started a change.org petition to cast Lupita Nyong’o as Storm in any upcoming X-Men films on the block. The virtual press got whirlwind of it and it became a media frenzy. I had no idea the kind of vitriol I would get for simply replacing Halle Berry with Lupita. I once wrote in an article that “representation matters”. My intentions with the Lupita campaign was to cast the right actress for the role of Storm. An actress with not only the acting chops, but the look and dialect of the character that she is portraying. I wanted an actress who looks like the Ororo Monroe I read in the comics and watched in several animated series. I want to hear the African accent that Storm has which is sadly missing from the current X-Men films, I wanted the one Black superheroine who I’ve admired, to be adapted and depicted on the big screen accurately. That is the reason why the campaign started.
Additionally, my skin tone has put my Blackness into question by others. The same way Aurora’s Blackness is being questioned just because she has a fairer hue and straight hair doesn’t make her any less African American than the rest of us. She is a Black woman and she is not “whitewashing” anything. Sadly I have misused the term myself addressing the issue on Twitter when referring to Aurora.
Here is the tweet Aurora sent to me in response to my tweet about colorism:
When I read this, I immediately got defensive. I have learned that a knee jerk reaction on Twitter is not the way to go when someone disagrees with your discourse. I took a breath and read her tweet a few more times just so I can understand and get some context. With some reflection, I tweeted back:
I realize now that even though I took a breath, decompressed, and had a thoughtful response to her tweet, it was still un-kosher. I could have asked her, “what are her thoughts about the issue and why do you think others are critical of the casting news?” It does concern and frustrate me to a great extent that Hollywood’s diversity quota are filled with women of lighter hues, and that many talented beautiful dark skinned women are dismissed from that very quota. However, I never thought the day would come where another Black woman would have to explain to me that she is in fact a proud Black woman and that is how the world sees her. I felt incredibly small and it stayed with me for a while reading her tweet.
It was in fact the very issue of “Black-checking” that I have also been a victim of and try to combat daily is what I was just accused of doing.
My goal with Black Girl Nerds was simply one thing. To create a space for women to embrace their nerdiness and freely express who they are. However, I know with this site and this community does come with a great deal of responsibility. I know at times people look to my behavior and conduct at times on social media. I wouldn’t exactly call myself a role model, but I know that there is a certain level of expectation as a content creator with a large audience.
To Aurora, I never meant to make you feel less than or even question your Blackness. I have been made to feel less Black and sometimes not even Black at all by colleagues, friends, even family members. Many of us have dealt with racial discrimination to some extent and as a Black woman I am with you on every level on how difficult it has to be to deal with being both Black and Female. I published a post several months back about the issue of colorism also being a problem for lightskinned women.
I know your father Harold has been an advocate for you on social media and it pains me even more that he has to see his child go through this. I am sorry if you feel like you have been slaughtered by disgruntled Jem fans on Twitter and other forms of social media because of this film. I also want you to know that everything I have lamented on Twitter about the issues of colorism with this film has nothing to do with you personally. I take issue with Jon Chu, Scooter Braun, and Jason Blum for their hand in casting which is a whole other issue to begin with. Many fans have felt duped since the initial launch video suggested fans can send audition videos to be cast in the film. Many of these fans believed these roles would be lead roles and not extras.
But I digress.
I just want you and the other actresses cast in this film to know that I have no bitterness towards you. I am looking forward to you proving fans wrong and that this movie is worth watching. I hope that each of you knock it out of the ball park and kick some major ass! I wish the best for you and your new career.
Seriously, I am for my sisters.
We have to work twice as hard to build one another up and not break each other down, and this is why you have my full support.
I will be blunt and say that as far as John Chu and his dude-bros are concerned, they can kick rocks.
That is all my dearies. Aurora, I wish you and the cast well and please don’t listen to trolls.
Huggz N Luvz,