Nothing burns my butt more than someone using the black struggle as a backdrop for their own selfish agenda. No, I am not talking about Idris Elba, who I have on a pedestal (until he fucks up, which I can’t imagine how)…no. I am referring to the writer of the new Showtime miniseries Guerrilla, which he is starring in.
The miniseries takes place in the U.K. in the 70’s…the backdrop, U.K’s anti-racists movement (similar to that of the Black Panthers in the U.S.). The story focuses on a couple who are fighting to free a political prisoner (played by Elba) who is pertinent to the cause.
Long story short…there’s very little (if any) presence of Black Women in this series (at least in the first episode). The main characters are an interracial couple, played by Indian actress Frieda Pinto and Black actor Babou Cessay.
The issue isn’t so much about the interracial relationship itself…but the woman in said relationship has a powerful role in the fight to liberate the prisoner. This sparked a lot of questions at the London Premier of the show last week. The main one being..
“Why are there no Black Women in the forefront of the struggle? That does not necessarily reflect what happened in the 70s in the U.K.”
In his emotional tirade about racism, Writer John Ridley (12 Years A Slave) said:
Ok, I get it. It’s a “What if” series. Has more to do with the characters than it does with the movement itself. I don’t like when series are done that way, but it’s done more often than not regardless to which historical event it happens to take place in.
I do have 2 issues with this. The first issue is his statement about why the main characters are an interracial couple. I am not against interracial relationships whatsoever, but I see a discrepancy of authenticity in his statement. His wife is Asian, but not Indian…
Now I may sound nit-picky, but if he really wanted to reflect how much of a “fighter and activist” his wife is through this series, shouldn’t he had cast a Far East Asian actress? I mean there are plenty to choose from…not to mention historically speaking there were Far East Asians who were avid participants in the movement both in the U.K and in the U.S. Or did he think that by casting Pinto, who is brown skinned, that his “personal agenda” will go unnoticed(to those who are unaware to the Asian involvement in the movement)? Either way, he would’ve been called out on it…and he has…point being, no powerful Black Women. Which brings me to my second and more important issue…
The answer to the main question was never answered. Ridley went around it by talking about understanding racism. There is one black actress in the series though, but she is playing an informant for the opposition. This to me, shines a negative light on Black Women during that time, if this is the only prominent Black female character. Guerrilla, to me, is more about the writer’s ego.
It remains to be seen if there are any powerful “supporting” Black female characters in upcoming episodes. However, based on Ridleys’ response to the questions at the premiere, it’s unlikely…and I am not going to stick around to find out.
Sorry, Idris…still love you tho. ❤️
What do you think? How do you feel about writers and their use of historical events as a backdrop for their personal agenda? What do you think of Guerrilla’s first episode? How do you feel about John Ridley’s justification of a non-black woman playing this particular role (which Ridley stated in a separate interview was inspired by Indian-British Activist Mala Sen) and the lack of Black female Black Power Movement characters?