What’s with colorism and sexism behind the scenes of the much-anticipated movie?

by Winnie Valerio

Excitement exploded as the new Straight Outta Compton trailer was released to audiences in early February. In theaters August 14, 2015, audiences nationwide wait in anticipation for the movie about how “the world’s most dangerous times created the world’s most dangerous group.” The film examines the growth of the N.W.A (Ni***s With Attitude) and how their music revolutionized hip-hop and African-American culture as well.

But people seem to have forgotten what happened a few months back during the movie’s casting call. Producers hired casting company Sande Alessi, which placed announcements on Facebook in search of “A” girls which included women who “are the hottest of the hottest. Models. MUST have real hair – no extensions, very classy looking, and great bodies. You can be black, white, Asian, Hispanic, mid-eastern, or mixed race too.” “D” Girls, on the contrary, were asked to be “African American girls. Poor, not in good shape. Medium to dark skin tone. Character types.” (The page has been removed.)

Backlash was swift. Gawker called the casting call “racist as hell.” Spin said the notice links dark skin with unattractiveness.

How could such a high-budget film with actors like Ice Cube and Dr. Dre and a seasoned director like F. Gary Gray actively call for actresses with specific features without sounding like hypocrites? Great — a movie about discrimination that discriminates, with both sexist and racist overtones. Who gets to decide that light-skinned women are more beautiful? The filmmakers’ ranking system of real beauty comes through loud and clear in this casting call.

Standards of beauty have always been troublesome, but especially true for women of color. Unfortunately, Straight Outta Compton’s blatant sexism is far from unusual in Hollywood and the music industry. Dr. Martha Lauzen, executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, created a research project about the roles women play in television and how they’ve changed over time. She found that they have not changed — at all. Female characters are more likely than male to play personal-life related roles such as wife, mother, and girlfriend (43% vs. 24%). Males, however, more often play work-related roles (66% vs. 41%).

Women are still being taken advantage of and used for beauty rather than intelligence. Our generation needs to link back to Tupac’s song “Keep Your Head Up,” where he wonders “why do we take from our women, why do we hate our women? I think it’s time to kill for our women. Time to heal our women, and be real to our women.”

Things are never going to change if we do not demand it ourselves.