It’s so great to see “Annie” revitalized with an African-American girl in the title role. In the first scene of the movie, a white, red-haired girl is reading a report to her class. Turns out there’s another Annie in the room. Quvenzhane Wallis goes on to give her oral report and steal the show. Daddy Warbucks is now Will Stacks played by Jamie Foxx, that’s right America– a black guy billionaire businessman and a dad.
It’s sad that in 2015 I have to go on and on about the rare, rare, RARE female protagonist of color in a children’s movie. This whole blog is dedicated to gender equality in the fantasy world and girls of color shown front and center is almost non existent in kidworld. “Annie” was produced by Jamie Foxx, Will Smith, and Jay Z. It is no coincidence that people of color with money use it to create movies that star people of color. So you know what we need, more women and people of color with $$$$. Unfortunately, the people that run Hollywood are white men, thus the stars of the “fictional” narratives are…white men! This has been going on since men wrote the Bible, I mean since men wrote the Greek Myths, I mean since men started writing and not letting women write, or go to school, or publish books, or be pictured in media coverage of stories about censorship. But, I digress. Back to “Annie”: Pathetically, the black girl front and center, starring the show, does not even manage to dominate the clothing line sold at Target. Here’s the ad:
To protest this racism, there’s a petition you can sign.
In the movie, I also liked the role of Grace played by Rose Byrne. She is an employee of Stacks but not a secretary. (Can you imagine that sentence about a male character? “He’s an employee but not a secretary, isn’t that wonderful?”) Grace is a high level employee who he respects and listens to. (He listens to a woman. Wow.) Also, Grace doesn’t take on the mother role for Stacks. There are instances in the movie where instead of letting Grace step in as “the soft touch,” Stacks takes control, having the talk required with Annie, telling Grace he’ll take over, not letting her do it for him. Stacks does ask Grace to help Annie get dressed, but that makes sense to me in the plot. It’s that dress in the Target ad that Annie wears.
I’m tempted to only give “Annie” two H’s because I really don’t like the Miss Hannigan character played by Cameron Diaz. She is washed up at 40, a desperate alcoholic who is looking for a man, any man. If I were remaking “Annie,” what would I do with this character? Do you all have any ideas? While I wouldn’t do a boy-crazy woman, she’s got to be mean and pathetic enough to rip off an orphan. Maybe a gambler? She was great at cards but now she’s hard on her luck…
Reel Girl rates “Annie” ***HHH***
It’s even better when you realize that the comic strip this was based on was a right-wing propaganda that openly supported child labor. The creator was a rabid anti-FDR nutcase.
7 Things I Love About the New Annie (SPOILERS)
1) The heroine is a whip-smart African American girl who gets dressed up for a party in age appropriate (i.e. non-sexualized clothing) and without straightening her kinky hair.
2) The hero is an African American millionaire who is neither a drug kingpin, rap star, nor an athlete.
3) There is a chaste, and very sweet interracial romance which no one makes a big deal about.
4) Miss Hanigan is allowed to have a change of heart and ends up saving Annie, rather than callously abandoning her. In so many children’s films, the villain is a 2 dimensional caricature, with no nuance and no redeeming characteristics, who typically gets killed, or at least carted off to jail at the end. Kudos to the filmmakers for imagining a person who might do bad stuff, but is not an irredeemably bad person, (and who incidentally has a love interest who believed in her goodness all along).
5) The film is forthright in its depiction of how depersonalizing the child welfare system can be, even though individuals within it may be kind. We see Annie waiting in an absurdly long line and coldly told to bring back a certain form, yet when the rich guy character turns up it’s a very different story.
6) Annie is illiterate. We see how she copes: memorization, verbal skills, and chutzpah, but when she is caught off-guard and asked to read in public she is terrified and humiliated. There is talk of how kids often get overlooked in overcrowded schools, and the film ends with Annie and her adopted dad opening a literacy center.
7) Unlike almost every film I’ve seen with a similar scenario, when the soulless opportunist running for office has a change of heart, he doesn’t win the election, he says, “Hey, I have no business being mayor. Vote for my opponent with the solid record of public service!”
THis is a great list, can I re-post as a guest blog from you?
YAY Thanks, will get it up soon. Can you post a bio here?