Former NBA star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar says Black remakes of white films are a “nudge” in the right direction.
We’re at a time where Black culture is quickly climbing and building a permanent spot in the forefront of media. We are likely in another Black renaissance with several Black creatives at the helm like Issa Rae, Donald Glover, Lena Waithe, and so many others. While creating our own original stories, Black TV and film creatives have also re-envisioned popularly white films, and television shows with Black casts and stories.
Projects like “Annie” and “About Last Night” are modern-day Black remakes, but the first Black remakes included “The Wiz,” which paid homage to 1939’s “The Wizard of Oz.” “One reason to colorize a movie with black and brown faces is to make the film more appealing to people of color who don’t often get to see people who look like them dominating the cast,” Jabbar explains, citing that, “In 2016, 86.1 percent of the leads in top theatrical films were white, while only 13.9 percent were people of color, even though the latter group made up 38.7 percent of the U.S. population.”
“Another reason to alchemize white casts into black is to show how the same story told from a different cultural perspective can illuminate and celebrate those cultural differences,” he continues. “That can be done by incorporating traditions, behaviors, and beliefs unique to that culture. But it can also be accomplished by doing nothing different. After all, to watch black characters endure and overcome the same obstacles that the white characters faced in the same story present a universality that emphasizes our similarities rather than our differences.”
Abdul-Jabbar also highlights “What Men Want” and “Little” and the films’ ability to “good-naturedly” show that movies starring Black people can appeal to everyone. “A remake should be a reimagining and revitalizing of the original, and both of these movies accomplish that,” concluded the NBA Hall of Famer. “They are welcome additions to the black canon because both subtly nudge the needle of racial equality forward while still giving their audiences a couple of hours of fun.”