You want to know what’s the hardest part of my job as a female critic of color? It’s not the online hate which, unlike others, I’m blessed to rarely receive. It’s not the pressure placed on me and my sisters in film criticism who must act as both critic and race relations teacher in our reviews. The toughest part is giving a negative review of a highly anticipated POC-starring film and anticipating the possible backlash.
It’s not my job to sugarcoat how bad a film or TV show is just because the project is mostly POC. However, as a Black female critic, my words carry even more weight than I sometimes realize. Because I am an entertainment critic, I am one of the many gatekeepers who can determine the critical success or failure of a project. If that project happens to be a monumental one starring a majority POC cast, how would my words affect that film and future films like it?
I’ve come up against this angst several times; the most severe of which was when I watched A Wrinkle in Time last year. My brother and I went to see it with the hopes of it being a fun, fantasy adventure. The elements for success were there — the directorial talents of Ava DuVernay, acting newcomer Storm Reid, and a multicultural cast featuring Oprah. What could go wrong?
I didn’t like the film, and I immediately panicked over giving it a negative review.
If you know anything about Film Twitter, particularly what I call “Representation Space” Film Twitter, then you know it can be as divisive as it can be affirming. I’m constantly annoyed by how binary thinking can become regarding “diverse” projects. There’s an instant fear of nuanced discussion regarding these projects. No one can talk bad about them, or else you’re a traitor to your race and the cause.
If that project happens to be a monumental one starring a majority POC cast, how would my words affect that film and future films like it?
I don’t like being pressured into an opinion. But at the same time, the social media audience…