Monday, December 22, 2014
Movie Review: Black "Annie" Supports White Supremacy
Movie Review: Black "Annie" Supports White Supremacy
The new "Annie" may have black characters, but it supports the same white supremacist capitalism of the original.
Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year—if you're an affluent white Christian cisgender heterosexual male. If you're not, then the holiday is yet another sad reminder of your oppression and exploitation under our white supremacist, patriarchal, heteronormative, transphobic, Eurocentric, imperialistic, hyper-capitalist society.
After all, when most Americans think of the ideal Christmas, they always think of a "White Christmas", never a "Black Christmas." If that doesn't blatantly reveal how the Christmas season is deeply rooted in white supremacy, then I don't know what does.
Despite this, many people-of-color have found solace this holiday season with the new "Annie" movie released last week. My fellow social justice warriors have considered it an early Christmas present, with its black cast providing much-needed media representation in a white-dominated movie landscape—not to mention it was satisfactory to see so many racist temper tantrums on social media over the casting of the titular character as a young black girl. (Mmm! Nothing goes better with hot cocoa than white tears!)
However, despite casting the traditionally white characters of this traditionally white musical as POC, this movie still proves to be rather problematic, especially with its white supremacist, capitalist overtones. If anything, the black casting makes it all the more problematic!
As a white girl, I humbly check my privilege and acknowledge that I cannot properly speak for POC; however, having taken a course in African-American studies, and having dated a black guy, I feel I'm somewhat qualified to discuss black issues as a white ally.
“Annie” is the classic rags-to-riches tale of a plucky, high-spirited orphan who, despite being born on the streets and raised in an orphanage, dreams of a brighter tomorrow until she is finally rewarded with her fairy-tale ending by being adopted by the millionaire Daddy Warbucks.
The story is a transparent metaphor for the “American Dream.” Just as Annie rises out of poverty by dreaming of a better future and by clinging to Daddy Warbucks (who, being a fabled “self-made millionaire”, is a blatant personification of capitalism), so too are Americans indoctrinated since birth into believing that they too can surpass their lower class status by conforming to our capitalist system.
But sadly, just like the story of “Annie”, the very concept of the “American Dream” is but a fairy tale, and one that far too many lower and middle class Americans, especially those of color, believe to their own detriment.
Indeed, it is their blind faith in the “American Dream”—the belief that hard work and determination will help raise themselves out of poverty by their bootstraps—that allows them to shun any economic government reform that would actually help them. As John Steinbeck once wrote, “Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”
If the past 30 years of rampant neoliberal economic policy, which devastatingly culminated in the current recession, has taught us anything (or at least should have taught us), it is that the “American Dream” is only a dream, and as George Carlin once put it, "you have to be asleep to believe it.” Capitalism, especially free-market capitalism, does not pull the poor out of poverty. It only exists to make the rich richer and poor poorer—and this is sadly most true for blacks and other POC.
Like Christmas, capitalism is only a good thing if you are an affluent white Christian
cisgender heterosexual male. Capitalism can never work for black people because it was never designed for them. Capitalism was created by rich white slave-owning men and sustained through the exploitation of African slaves, and even though slavery has ended, capitalism continues to be maintained through the exploitation of a permanent underclass of minorities.
Now I know there are plenty of right-wing corporate fascist apologists like that bow tie-wearing house negro Thomas “Uncle Tom” Sowell who insist that income inequality don't real—arguing that economic mobility only appears stagnate when you view income earners as collectives, but when you view them as individuals, you see that many individuals who were once in the lower income bracket 30 years ago became richer while many who were once in the higher income bracket no longer were.
All of that is only true if you accept statistics rather than feelings. Statistics, after all, are a racist social construct invented by white supremacists to defend their own white supremacy. We should never allow such hard empirical scientific evidence invalidate our own experiences and feelings. After all, what are you going to trust more: evidence, or feelings?
As much as Americans dream about being a millionaire so freaking bad (to buy all of the things they never had), the sad truth is that they will never become that rich. As with the rest of the “American Dream”, the “self-made millionaire” is but a myth.
No American has ever risen from rags to riches. Every rich person was born into wealth that they inherited from their family—and as capitalism was created by rich white slave-owners and built on slave labor, so too has every rich white person inherited their wealth from their slave-owning ancestors, with all black poor people having inherited their poverty from their former slave ancestors.
And yes, elitist right-wing corporate fascist apologists will insist that the “self-made millionaire” is anything but a white supremacist myth. They will certainly cite statistics about how only 32 percent of those listed in 2011’s Forbes 400 inherited their wealth (down from 60 percent since 1982) with more than 69 percent having started their own businesses (up from 40 percent in 1982). But again, this is only if you trust statistics, and as we all know, statistics are only a racist construct that no self-respecting social justice warrior should ever trust.
And just as there has never been a “self-made millionaire”, even more so, there has never been a POC who has raised themselves out of poverty. It’s not as though the first self-made female millionaire in American history was a black woman—and anyone who claims that there was is only referencing the white-washed version of history. (History, like statistics, is a racist construct!)
I know that many ignorant closeted (and not so closeted) white supremacists will point to Oprah Winery and Will Smith as examples of self-made millionaires of color, but they don’t count because they’re not real POC. As capitalism only benefits rich white men, POC can only benefit from capitalism if they, in actuality, are rich white men themselves. Therefore, Oprah is really white, not black.
The only way that POC can possibly benefit from our white supremacist capitalist system is if they strip themselves of their own blackness, their own black culture, and accept whiteness. After all, it’s a well-known fact that a well-dressed, college-educated white man is more likely to obtain a high-paying job than a black high-school dropout with a criminal record who attends a job interview wearing baggy pants and speaking in Ebonics. Either way, capitalism only serves to further their destruction through genocide, both cultural and literal.
This is what makes the recent Blaxploitation version of "Annie" most problematic: by telling the story about a poor black orphan rising to a higher social class by being adopted by a black millionaire, the movie gives a false impression to young black people that they too can rise out of poverty by submitting to the false idol of the free market, when, historically, POC have only served as sacrifices for this idol.
This movie and its capitalistic overtones are the last thing POC need. If they want a brighter tomorrow where the sun will come out, they’ll have to stop waiting for their Sugar Daddy Warbucks. They need to march out into the streets in solidarity and demand economic policies that redistribute wealth away from white people, bleeding them dry until their wealth finally “trickles down” into the hands of colored people, and if all of this requires a full-blown race war, then so be it.
So this holiday season, don’t give me some re-packaged white supremacist fairy tale in black face. All I want for Christmas is the abolition of our imperialist white supremacist heteropatriarchal feudal system that is American capitalism.
Irma Kant is a proud graduate of Brown University with a degree in Women’s Studies and minor in Social Justice. She is also an unabashedly proud queer, trans, pansexual, wolfkin, self-diagnosed autistic whose headmate “Angel” is the daughter of Wonder Woman and Loki. Read more of her insightful feminist, social justice musings about pop culture on her Tumblr blog.
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