• Thu. May 6th, 2021

Lena Waithe faces backlash for racial violence in new Amazon series ‘Them’

ByBTV

Apr 10, 2021

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Lena Waithe is facing a backlash on social media over her new series ‘Them’, with some saying they ‘thought a white person wrote it’ because of its portrayal of racial violence.

Several people took to Twitter Saturday to slam what they claim appeals to ‘hate crime fantasies’ over a brutal scene in the fifth episode where a baby is brutally murdered while its mother is raped. 

The new horror series tells the fictional story of a black family who move from North Carolina to an all-white neighborhood in Compton, Los Angeles, during the Great Migration of the 1950s. 

Despite hoping the move would be an escape from the Jim Crow South, the Emory family quickly find themselves facing the peril of both supernatural forces and racism from their new white neighbors who, among other things, scorch the n-word into their front lawn.  

Lena Waithe is facing a backlash on social media over her new series 'Them' (pictured promo poster), with some saying they 'thought a white person wrote it' because of its portrayal of racial violence

Lena Waithe is facing a backlash on social media over her new series ‘Them’ (pictured promo poster), with some saying they ‘thought a white person wrote it’ because of its portrayal of racial violence

The series, created by black producer and writer Little Marvin and produced by Emmy-winning black producer, actress and screenwriter Waithe, was released on Amazon Prime Video Friday.

But the furore over the series largely erupted after the Los Angeles Times published a piece questioning if the series had gone ‘too far’.

The review pointed out a flashback moment in episode five showing the infant’s murder before the family moved away from North Carolina.

In the scene, the mother Lucky hides her son Chester in a closet as a white mob break into her home.

The mob find them and the men sexually assault Lucky while the woman stuffs the baby into a pillowcase and throws him around while chanting ‘cat in the bag’ before dropping the infant to the floor, killing him.

The episode in question was written by Little Marvin and Dominic Orlando and directed by Janicza Bravo.  

Social media users slammed the violent depiction and hit out at Waithe, questioning its depiction of violence against black people with some calling it ‘propaganda for white terrorists.’

‘I’ve been a horror super fan for over 30 years. Lena Waithe’s ‘Them’ is the cheapest kind of horror,’ one person wrote.

‘It’s propaganda for white terrorists and torture porn fetishists. There is a huge difference between fear and disgust. The show is disgusting.’ 

The series, created by black producer and writer Little Marvin (left) and produced by Emmy-winning black producer, actress and screenwriter Waithe (right), was released on Amazon Prime Video Friday

The series, created by black producer and writer Little Marvin (left) and produced by Emmy-winning black producer, actress and screenwriter Waithe (right), was released on Amazon Prime Video Friday

Another person chimed in: ‘Lena Waithe like a lot of bourgeoise black artists uses black trauma to give their work depth that they are too lazy or incapable of providing.

‘Too often people treat a piece of work as profound because black people are being victimized and Waithe doubles down to seem profound.’  

Others cast doubt over how any people of color approved the series.

‘I think lena waithe should review ‘them’ and try to decipher who her target audience was,’ one person wrote.

‘who exactly was she making this series for? honestly, when i saw the trailers for it and read about the series, i thought a white person wrote it. do NOT watch ‘them’.’ 

Another agreed: ‘Lena Waithe getting as far as she does might be a sign that there’s still little to no diversity in these rooms because there’s no way Lena presented this story to an actual living breathing black person and got the green light.’

‘Lena Waithe will pay for her crimes against the black community,’ one person wrote alongside a meme of an angry Barney the dinosaur.  

Several people took to Twitter Saturday to slam what they claim appeals to 'hate crime fantasies' over a brutal scene in the fifth episode where a baby is brutally murdered while its mother is raped

Several people took to Twitter Saturday to slam what they claim appeals to ‘hate crime fantasies’ over a brutal scene in the fifth episode where a baby is brutally murdered while its mother is raped

Both Waithe and Little Marvin are black. 

Little Marvin defended the show of violence saying it was necessary for ‘authenticity’ about the experience of black people during that period in America.  

‘Yes, there is a concern, but at the end of the day, I as an artist have to sit with myself and grapple with the authenticity of the show,’ he told the LA Times. 

‘If I can sleep at night knowing this entire enterprise has an authenticity and integrity to it, then I’m good.’

He said the aim was not to be ‘provocative or hot button’ but to ask two things: ‘what terrified us the most and what felt most true. Typically, those two things were the same.’ 

The executive producer also pointed out the key timing of its release as he said it is ‘a scary place to be in 2021.’ 

‘We’re incredibly fractured and split down the middle,’ he said. 

‘There are people who want to take the country back to a time they consider great, and there are folks who are fighting for progress. That’s a scary place to be in 2021.’  

The nation is facing a racial reckoning following the death of George Floyd and multiple police killings of black people. 

The new horror series tells the fictional story of a black family who move from North Carolina to an all-white neighborhood in Compton, Los Angeles, during the Great Migration of the 1950s. A clip from the show

The new horror series tells the fictional story of a black family who move from North Carolina to an all-white neighborhood in Compton, Los Angeles, during the Great Migration of the 1950s. A clip from the show

Despite hoping the move would be an escape from the Jim Crow South, the Emory family quickly find themselves facing the peril of both supernatural forces and racism from their new white neighbors who, among other things, scorch the n-word into their front lawn

Despite hoping the move would be an escape from the Jim Crow South, the Emory family quickly find themselves facing the peril of both supernatural forces and racism from their new white neighbors who, among other things, scorch the n-word into their front lawn

The trial of white cop Derek Chauvin for Floyd’s murder is currently in progress in Minneapolis court.  

Floyd’s death sparked renewed calls for racial justice and an end to systemic racism but it comes as concerns are also growing over the re-emergence of white supremacy and extremism. 

Little Marvin said seeing shocking videos of violence against black people in recent times inspired him to tell the story of ‘Them.’

‘My inspiration was waking up every day and seeing cellphone videos of black people being terrorized in some ways, either by threats from police, surveillance or something else,’ he said. 

‘That history goes all the way back to the founding of our country. I was also thinking about the American Dream. There’s nothing more emblematic of that than owning one’s home. 

‘There’s great pride in that, particularly for black people. But as you know, it’s been anything but a dream. It’s been a nightmare for Black folks.’  

Little Marvin defended the violence saying it showed 'authenticity' of the experience of racism and several social media users agreed arguing those criticizing it are just 'uncomfortable' facing up to the reality of racism

Little Marvin defended the violence saying it showed ‘authenticity’ of the experience of racism and several social media users agreed arguing those criticizing it are just ‘uncomfortable’ facing up to the reality of racism

Several social media users agreed with the creators, arguing those criticizing the depiction of violence are just ‘uncomfortable’ facing up to the reality of racism.

‘#THEM on Amazon is insane. This new-ish genre of horror that examines Black trauma through racism isn’t going away any time soon,’ one person wrote. 

‘And judging by the reviews, it’s making our melanin-free friends uncomfortable. So you know it’s good.’

Another person agreed, replying: ‘Glad you are enjoying(?!) it! I couldn’t agree more – I heard one reviewer saying it was just too much and she wished it had been dialed back. 

‘Missing the entire point there. Really tough show to work on all things considered but I’m glad it’s getting the recognition.’    

The criticism was largely directed against Waithe who is more well-known than Little Marvin, after she became the first black woman to win the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series for her Netflix comedy drama series Master of None.

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