|The Wire employed Black actresses playing believable roles|
Earlier today, The Wire actress Felicia "Snoop" Pearson was arrested as part of a large-scale drug raid in Baltimore and surrounding counties. Slate asked David Simon, creator and executive producer of The Wire (and currently in production on Treme), for comment. He offered this statement, provided to Slate through an HBO spokesperson.
First of all, Felicia's entitled to the presumption of innocence. And I would note that a previous, but recent drug arrest that targeted her was later found to be unwarranted and the charges were dropped. Nonetheless, I'm certainly sad at the news today. This young lady has, from her earliest moments, had one of the hardest lives imaginable. And whatever good fortune came from her role in The Wire seems, in retrospect, limited to that project. She worked hard as an actor and was entirely professional, but the entertainment industry as a whole does not offer a great many roles for those who can portray people from the other America. There are, in fact, relatively few stories told about the other America.The problem with filming "the other America" is that critics attack these films for being racist portrayals of the Black community and a perpetuation of negative stereotypes. Remember Precious? Many Black critics attacked it for showing a part of "the other America" -- normal Black life -- the film not having been first airbrushed and sanitized for consumers The New York Times wrote this:
Professor Neal was among dozens of black people interviewed about their perspectives on “Precious.” Perhaps the most provocative salvo against the movie was fired by Armond White, the chief film critic of The New York Press and the chairman of the New York Film Critics Circle.So you make a movie about "the other America," but then righteous Disingenuous White Liberals attack the film for insensitively showcasing authentic Black life. So then you don't make a film about authentic Black life, but then you get attacked for not giving Black actors and actresses the chance to tell stories that Tyler Perry refuses to share with the world.
“Not since ‘The Birth of a Nation’ has a mainstream movie demeaned the idea of black American life as much as ‘Precious,’ ” Mr. White wrote in his review. “Full of brazenly racist clichés (Precious steals and eats an entire bucket of fried chicken), it is a sociological horror show.”
“Black pathology sells,” Mr. White said in an interview. “It’s an over-the-top political fantasy that works only because it demeans blacks, women and poor people.”
Felicia "Snoop" Pearson would have made a fantastic Helen of Troy in the 2004 film Troy. Why on earth wasn't she cast in that role? Look, consumers are rejecting ghetto culture in both popular entertainment and sports. The NBA is on pace to lose at the least $350 million.
Though the NFL has tried to put a white face on the lockout, the vast majority of the players in the league who are living paycheck to paycheck are Black. And it is in that league that Michael Vick -- always a favorite among Black people's list of most beloved athletes -- has had an opportunity for redemption. (We'll have more on the NFL lockout later, although Big Fans probably don't care.)
David Simon, the creator The Wire, has inadvertently shown that the creation of Black Fictional Heroes in Hollywood and on television is real. He only laments that more authentic roles for Black actors aren't available to keep Black people from landing in jail when they could instead receive paychecks for playing Black characters who land in jail for the entertainment of Stuff White People Like-type people.
If only Pearson looked like more like Rashida Jones, she might be able to land roles that are atypical for a dark-skinned Black actress or that showcase "the other America" that consumers reject when making choices about what to entertain themselves with or where to live. Pearson's role in The Wire reflected her real-life mentalities.
So here's the upshot of why she was arrested: It wasn't because of any lack of available roles for Black actresses; instead, she was arrested for "keepin' it real" and living the life of "the Other America."