I’m All For Diversity In Film And TV, But Not At The Expense Of Originality

In the era of #OscarsSoWhite and the continued cases of whitewashing in TV and film, I understand that diversity is incredibly important. When you go from seeing Black characters all over TV shows and films in the ’90s to wondering why everything turned so pale again in the ’00s, one can’t help but get it. But if I can be honest for a second (and trust me, I’ll be quick), I would like to see diversity in ways that don’t include remaking classic projects with majority Black cast members. I dig diversity, but it doesn’t need to be at the cost of originality.

First Wives Club remake

I had this thought after hearing the news that Girls Trip writer Tracy Oliver (man, was that movie hilarious or what?) was going to helm the script of a new reboot of the 1996 hit, The First Wives Club. That film featured Goldie Hawn, Bette Midler and Diane Keaton. Oliver’s reboot of the project for TV, as she revealed on Twitter, will feature a “diverse cast.”

Do we have to remake this with a colorful cast? And better yet, do we have to remake this picture at all?

Oh, but that’s not the only remake happening right now. There has also been talk of a Hocus Pocus reboot (yet another Bette Midler film) for the Disney Channel with an entirely new cast. With no word on who they have their eyes on for casting, the Internet has decided to change things up and recommend the likes of Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monáe, Zendaya Coleman and Octavia Spencer to play the witches.

And then there have been plenty of past projects with a new and diversified cast that have come and gone. Like ABC’s very short-lived Uncle Buck remake for TV starring Mike Epps. The Magnificent Seven remake starring Denzel Washington. The reboot of A Wrinkle in Time with the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Mindy Kaling and star Storm Reid. Beaches with Nia Long. Jay Z’s all-Black remake of Friends for his music video “Moonlight.” Annie. Death at a Funeral. G. The Nutty Professor. Steel Magnolias. And so on and so forth.

While some of the previously listed projects have been and look to be great (I’m looking forward to A Wrinkle in Time because Ava DuVernay is gold), it’s starting to feel like there’s a Black version or even an all-women version of an old film or TV show popping up all of the time now. As someone who still watches The Wiz whenever it comes on, a reboot doesn’t have to fall flat. But at the rate studios are churning them out these days, they can’t help but feel stale most of the time.

We once asked the question of whether or not Black remakes separated African-American culture from the mainstream. We also asked if women-centered remakes were limiting and detrimental to actresses. Well, this time around, I don’t have a question. I just plainly think that Hollywood needs to curb a lot of the remake ideas in general, but especially when they want to pretend they care about representation by putting people of color in the roles. Thanks, but no thanks.

But more than being worried about faux strides at diversity, I want to see talented Black stars have the chance to shine in original roles. I don’t wish to see them critiqued to death when compared to the person who originated their character, or by racists hiding behind laptop screens. I want to see more screenwriters and authors of color telling stories that end up captivating everyone like Moonlight did. And I don’t want to feel as though the only way we can really get opportunities like that is if we’re pretty much playing stand-in or second fiddle years later to help a studio make a little money and look progressive at the same time. You can celebrate diversity and do well at the box office without having to rip the story from a project that was just fine standing alone. If anything, Oliver’s work on Girls Trip proved just that.

With that being said, I’m thankful for the burgeoning and established Black storytellers who are creating opportunities for truly talented people. I’m thankful that they’re exposing the world to all forms and realities of Black life, and doing so in a relatable way. And more than anything, I’m thankful that they’re reminding people that we don’t need scraps, including remakes of old action, comedies, dramas and romances, to truly perform. While I’m excited for Oliver and other talented people of color getting gigs through these remakes, here’s to hoping these projects will soon stop being the norm and originality as the standard will come back in style.