Venus and Serena Williams are two of the most successful athletes in history, arguably the two best female tennis players ever and inspirations to young girls all around the world. They are more than deserving of having their story told on the big screen, especially as African-American women trying to navigate a sport that did not always welcome them. And yet somehow there’s a movie coming out not about them, but about their father Richard Williams, with Will Smith in the role. Unsurprisingly, that shit is getting pounded from all angles.
First of all, the fact that there’s a biopic about Richard Williams, titled King Richard, at all is worthy of some epic side-eye. Who thought his story was the one people were clamoring to hear more about? Sure, he was a guy with zero tennis background who helped turn his daughters into champions, but THEY are the champions, not him. Ugh. The screenplay comes from Zach Baylin and it did make the 2018 Black List so it must be pretty good. Doesn’t mean it’s a story we need right now.
The chief criticism is in the casting of Smith and claims of colorism. If you don’t know what that is, basically it’s bias against darker skinned people, usually blacks, by casting someone of lighter tone. You’ve probably seen it more than you think. It happened a couple of years ago when the light-skinned Zoe Saldana was cast to play the very dark-skinned Nina Simone. Let’s just say that Will Smith and Richard Williams aren’t going to get mixed up in any lineup, okay?
Although it’s rare, colorism does happen in reverse, like when Chadwick Boseman was cast to play Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall. There are too many actors in Hollywood for this type of shit to keep happening, and yet it does. When the Viola Davis story gets told, they might fuck around and cast Zoe Saldana.
If you check out Twitter you’ll see tons of tweets about the colorism involved in the casting of Smith. If he officially signs on expect that to continue, and perhaps we might even get a response from Smith himself. He had no problem commenting when people were upset he wasn’t blue enough to play Genie in Aladdin. Surely he’ll speak up over this, too? [Deadline]
colorism at work…. https://t.co/YsxlKjDVoh
— valerie complex (@ValerieComplex) March 4, 2019
Scarlett Johansson might as well play Venus with this kind of mess casting https://t.co/GmDItxrjJm
— Candis R McLean (@CandisRMcLean) March 5, 2019
Just like Chadwick shouldn’t have played Thurgood Marshall, Will should not play Richard
Skin color matters in how folk were treated and navigated spaces. Is Alexandra Shipp playing Venus? https://t.co/iNtikcsIoT
— George M Johnson (@IamGMJohnson) March 4, 2019