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Lee Daniels and Reverse Racebending

By Alyssa Rosenberg on May 25, 2012 at 8:38 am

"Lee Daniels and Reverse Racebending"

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I’m excited for Lee Daniels The Paperboy, which explores a wrongful conviction in Florida, and I was intrigued by this little tidbit from The Hollywood Reporter’s Cannes review of the movie: “Working from the well-received 1995 novel by Pete Dexter (Deadwood, Paris Trout), Daniels and Dexter have stuck closely to the book’s storyline in their adaptation but have amped up the racial element by making one major character and two secondary ones black rather than white. This doesn’t create any fundamental differences but does thicken the deck with extra tensions and innuendo.” The value of black directors isn’t just their authority to speak about race in certain ways, but the fact that they can present challenges to default whiteness in a way that white writers or directors may be unable to see. Default whiteness isn’t just lazy. It can flatten a story, or remove opportunities for tension and conversation. If white directors turn characters of color white because they want to cast a certain actor, they may end up with movies that don’t just look more generic but are less powerful.

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