Slumped between some friends in a college dorm in Montpellier, France, I stared at the laptop screen in thinly-veiled disgust. We had come over for a sleepover at their place, a Turkish couple with hearts of gold, and they had made a bong out of a bucket of water, and we were smoking and eating bread and cheese and just chilling. Next thing I know, someone suggested a good way to wind up the night: watching a marathon of Friends.
I was horrified. After smoking with my friends in the Caribbean, we usually had those overly deep high conversations, or listened to reggae music and contemplated life, or went on silly little adventures. Once, they asked if I wanted to go hunt a caiman that lived in the pond in the backyard, and there I was high as shit, stumbling barefoot through the marshes to shoot (and miss) for the first time. For better or worse, that was my idea of “high activity”.
Watching Friends was about the dullest thing I could possibly do with my time, but everybody else being mostly white people and one biracial, was excited af.
Growing up, so many of the shows I watched had all-white casts, that even when I played “pretend”, I pretended to be white and live in a white world where I had long flowing hair and an American accent and the melodramatic life. That was the effect the ones I liked had on me. Friends was one of those shows I never really bothered watching because it was not relatable to me at all, in terms of both content and diversity. The jokes were awful, mostly exaggerated quips or dry sarcasm, no in-between, and all their issues seemed like “white people problems”.
So when Jay Z, as part of his new 4:44 album, portrayed a black version of Friends as part of his music video for “Moonlight”, I was intrigued. Having grown up on ,The Bernie Mac Show, My Wife and Kids, The Cosby Show, One on One, Family Matters and the like, seeing black actors in starkly different roles from their usual hit 90s sitcoms was fascinating.
The actors in Jay Z’s “Moonlight” are doubly talented, and I’ll explain why. On level one,they embodied the popular characters on Friends so well, that many people are now calling for an actual black remake of Friends. The humor, mannerisms, and adorable awkwardness are mirrored to perfection.
On level two, the whiteness of the show, it’s contrast with blackness in style and delivery of humor, is highlighted in a subtle, almost inexplicable way. You balance between whether Jay is paying homage to the cult classic or poking fun at it. Either way,the result is a charming, tasteful commentary on being black in a white world.
While we are just as talented and qualified as our white counterparts, our achievements are much less heralded.While looking at the Black friends, picture all the actors who have fought over the years for their place in entertainment, their visibility and success, only to be snubbed.
“We stuck in Lala Land,
Even when we win we gon’ lose
We got the same fuckin’ flows,
I don’t know who is who.”
A direct reference to the 2017 Academy Awards faux pas when Faye Dunaway and Warren Beaty announced “Lala Land” the winner of Best Picture, although the winner was actually “Moonlight”. A mistake that sparked a wave of suspicion and echoed the sentiment of black achievements being regularly overlooked, often deliberately.
The thing is, fate couldn’t have picked two more perfectly contrasting movies to go head to head in the battle of awards and symbolism. Lala Land, a musical, on top of being a romantic-comedy-drama, starred Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling as your quintessential white protagonists with big dreams who fall for each other in the city of Los Angeles. A good, wholesome love story that had white america swooning.
Then, you had Moonlight, a compelling drama revolving around the intersections of identity for a troubled homosexual black male. The originality is incomparable.
And Moonlight won, but they had the audacity to accidentally announce Lala Land as the winner. Is this really anything new? We’ve been stuck in Lala land for centuries now, where certain white people constantly trek through the world like bratty toddlers, feeling entitled to everything. I mean, we all feel entitled, but they actually impose themselves.
Thinking themselves superior, you just have to watch one episode of the pathetic show to realise how fake, fragile and fucking ridiculous their make-believe world is. Where they are the stars and minorities are blurry background characters, just there to fill space.
Now they want to remind us that we fill too much space. I wish one of them would say it to my face.
But I digress.
In Lala Land, the Moon only eclipses the sun once in a blue…lifetime, but when it does, we all remember that shit.
I had planned to end the article there, but I ended up looking at the footage of this so called “error.” Stop what you’re doing and look at it.
Grampa was having trouble reading the words on the paper, so Grandma stepped up to the plate and did what he didn’t have the balls to. Announced the movie that she felt should have rightfully taken that award. She pulled a Kanye, “classy” white woman style. But there was no barrage of insults following her for this major f**k up, as there was when Kanye announced that Beyonce should have taken the award.
It was swept under the carpet. The audio bio of Lala Land played as normal, the entire cast hugged and shit, got their asses on that stage and started with the speeches.
And I can’t make this up. The second guy is making his speech now and literally saying the words “Repression is the enemy of civilization”, while a storm brews on the faces of the cast and crew in the background. Their humiliation is undeniable as word spreads that the shiny new trophies had been engaged to other people.
They announce that Moonlight won, Moonlight makes their way to the stage…but alas, Grampa seems to have taken some viagra and is ready to speak up, so he seizes the opportunity to explain the mix-up to everyone. Listen carefully, he says:
“I want to tell you what happened. I opened the envelope, and it said, “Emma Stone, LaLa Land.”
That’s…that’s odd, Grampa, because, the director of Lala Land already showed us what was in the envelope.
You guys ought to get that colorblindness, checked, really.
The comedian host assured Grampa that his “joke” was “funny” and helpfully reminded everyone of Steve Harvey, for whatever reason. But anyone who can’t tell the difference between an honest mistake and McScrooge and the Wicked White Witch of the West’s arrogant vindictiveness, ought to get their colorblindness checked, really.
Editor-in-Chief at The Black Revolution Blog