Welcome To The Bitchery

Feeling the Sting of Light is Right


I'll probably take this post down soon enough. It's so silly, but I'm legit upset about the casting of a stupid movie because it reinforces what the world must believe - that dark brown women are not the kind of people anyone wants to see on any kind of platform. This especially stings for me because of what the source material meant to me as a little girl.

So, in case you don't know, there is a Jem and the Holograms movie in the works. The cast of the movie was just announced. Aurora Perrineau was cast as Shana. This is Shana in the cartoon and how she is known by fans:


This is Aurora Perrineau:

I fully recognize that Ms. Perrineau is biracial. I do not know how she self-idenifies, but if she identifies as black that's cool. I would not say she's not "black enough." My feelings about her casting are intensely personal and I already know the producers don't care what I feel. I'm just sharing some thoughts with y'all.

So, I'm an old. A child of the 80's. When I was growing up, there were very few black dolls I could get at the store (when my family could afford it). I still remember always having to go to the customer service counter at Toys R Us to put in a "rain check" request for a black doll because the store only had 2 black dolls on the shelf and two black families got there before me.


So, when the Jem and the Holograms line of dolls came out, I was overjoyed. There was a black doll and an Asian doll (and later a Latina). And the black doll was brown! And her hair was curly! In fact, it was an afro! When my mom saw the Jem and the Holograms commercial she had this look on her face like, "This! This I can get my daughter." And she did.

Shana was a big deal. A readily available, mass produced black doll. When I got her I never let her go. It was just nice to have a doll that looked somewhat similar to me. Even with her purple hair, she was similar to me.


Even better was the cartoon. The cartoon made Shana even more familiar. Her hair was kinkier. Her skin seemed to be darker. There could be no mistake that Shana was a black girl with kinky curls like me.

So, fast forward 20+ years later. When I heard they were making a Jem movie, I was cautiously excited. Mostly, I knew it would probably be awful. I also knew, I KNEW, they would cast an actress who was as close to racially ambiguous as possible for Shana. I knew that an actress who might actually look like Shana would not be cast. After all, that's what they did with Josie and the Pussycats, and Storm of the X-Men, and practically any character which is written as a brown black woman. Black woman in a movie? If she's not a housekeeper or a slave, make sure she's as light as possible.


I knew all of this and it still hurt my heart when I saw this picture announcing the casting of Jem and the Holograms:


I know why it hurt. Shana was an important part of my childhood and those of many other black girls. She was unabashedly "black." She wasn't ambiguous and she was a representation in children's media that was not common.

Well, now Hollywood has its claws in Shana. The difference between the original character and the new movie is staggering. There can be no other message than the one that has been consistently shoved down my throat since the end runs of shows like Cosby, and A Different World, and Living Single. When it comes to media representation, brown women need not apply or even be considered.


Anyways, I'm just sort of sad about all of this. Earlier this week when the SCOTUS issued the latest blow to civil rights (my opinion, and no I do not want to discuss this case), I told my co-worker that there is no way I would have kids in today's world. Whether it be Trayvon, or affirmative action, voting rights, or media representation, I do not understand how black kids today are going to fare in the future. I can't bare to raise a child where the whole world is against her.

I'm sure many will think I'm just being dramatic and maybe I am. It's "just a movie" after all. But, this is just how I'm feeling right now. I can't apologize for it. It's all just very disheartening.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter