The year 2018 was iconic for Black movies and Black Hollywood, but it was also a year of severe let-downs and flat-out WTF moments. There were so many to choose from, but here are just 10 that left people scratching their heads.
1) Lena Dunham’s “apology”
Late this year, Girls creator and stereotypical White Feminist Lena Dunham tried to make a comeback media tour happen, starting with a profile done for The Cut. In the profile, she talks about how she was chastised by social media as well as friends, including filmmaker Judd Apatow and model Hari Nef, about her decision to stick up for her Girls writer/executive producer Murray Miller after he was accused by biracial actress Aurora Perrineau of rape.
The Hollywood Reporter missed the mark by making Dunham its guest editor and giving her space to write an op-ed to make her hollow apology. In the op-ed, she admitted that when she publicly defended Miller against Perrineau and said she had “insider information” that discredited Perrineau, Dunham was lying.
“I didn’t have the ‘insider information’ I claimed but rather blind faith in a story that kept slipping and changing and revealed itself to mean nothing at all.”
Just like her wack apology.
She also made a show of publicly apologizing to Perrineau’s mother, who appeared as Dunham’s special guest, at The Hollywood Reporter’s Women in Entertainment event. Perrineau herself has never appeared with Dunham in person.
Dunham was ill prepared for the dragging she got once her story and “apology” saw daylight. Little does she understand that she’s acting just like the men she claims she’s against; she’s waited for an opportune moment to come out of the woodwork and assert an apologetic stance, in order to introduce new work into the media landscape (for some reason, she’s adapting a movie on Syria. Keep collecting those Dunham-flavored Ls, Hollywood!). If anything, Dunham’s apology has solidified the public’s stance against her even more.
2) Rebel Wilson forgets Black plus size actresses
Late October, Rebel Wilson officially announced her upcoming romantic comedy, Isn’t It Romantic on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. She would have been fine if she stopped while she was ahead. But instead, she continued on, declaring herself the first plus-sized actress to star in a rom-com. Instantly, Wilson’s assertion was shot down by others who wanted her to remember that Mo’Nique, Queen Latifah, Jill Scott, Loretta Devine and others have paved the way for her in rom-coms of their own.
Wilson didn’t do herself any favors by both ignoring what people had to say online and blocking individuals who tried to correct her, many of whom were Black women and women of color. But finally, after the firestorm became too much, Wilson did apologize.
“With the help of some very compassionate and well-thought out responses from others on social media, I now realize what I said was not only wrong but also incredibly hurtful,” she wrote on Twitter. “To be part of a problem I was hoping I was helping makes it that much more embarrassing & hard to acknowledge,” she wrote on Twitter. “I blocked people on Twitter because I was hurting from the criticism, but those are the people I actually need to hear from more, not less. Again, I am deeply sorry.”
But unfortunately, the damage was done. The extent of the damage will be seen when Isn’t It Romantic comes to theaters; the amount of money it’ll make will depend on if people have decided to forgive her.
3) Golden Globes Snubs for TV and Film
The 2019 Emmys nominations list has a ton of actors and actresses who are mysteriously missing. For instance, where’s most of the cast of Pose? Where’s Sorry to Bother You? Where’s The Chi and Atlanta?
Jordan Simon wrote about all of these snubs for Shadow and Act, detailing the how films including Widows, Blindspotting, Support the Girls and TV shows including This is Us, Insecure and Queen Sugar were all overlooked.
It’s true that there were a ton of stellar performances from Black stars in both film and TV, making the competition extra stiff this year. But that should mean we have less snubs instead of more, right? Somehow, the voting committee behind the Golden Globes seemed to neglect tons of Black media this year, which will only make for a boring awards show.
5) Sexual assault allegations against Salim Akil
In an explosive lawsuit, Salim Akil, the husband and producing partner of Mara Brock Akil, has been accused by actress Amber Dixon Brenner of committing sexual and domestic abuse.
Dixon’s graphic details are part of a lawsuit against Akil, alleging that the relationship started 10 years ago and included sexual degradation and humiliation. Akil has denied the validity of this lawsuit.
Now, OWN has canceled the Akils’ show Love Is_ which is based on the couple’s love story. The Akils’ other show Black Lightning doesn’t have the same hang-up of being autobiographical, so time will tell what the future holds for that series.
Of the couple, only Mara Brock Akil has spoken out about the shows cancellation, saying she’s “saddened.” As for Brenner, she believes OWN made the right choice and had much more to say about her lawsuit and allegations in a new interview.
6) The gun threat at the Surviving R. Kelly premiere
This December, the New York premiere of the docuseries Surviving R. Kelly was stopped prematurely when someone called in a gun threat. Lifetime and Kelly’s ex-wife and victim Andrea Kelly called the threat an intimidation tactic and held Kelly responsible. So far, NYPD has found a Chicago-area man to be in connection with the threat.
Andrea and two other survivors in attendance, Lisa Van Allen and Lizette Martinez, shared that they were standing in defiance against the intimidation tactics.
“We are a united front; the story needs to be told,” Andrea said. “We will not be scared, intimidated, shunned, dismantled, quieted–none of that is going to happen.”
8) Netflix cancelling Luke Cage
Maybe it’s because of Disney’s new streaming service or maybe it’s because Netflix is moving in a new direction, but for whatever reason, Netflix cancelled Luke Cage after two successful seasons. The reasons still aren’t completely clear, but it would seem that some of it has arisen from Netflix disagreeing with Cheo Hodari Coker’s vision for the third season.
It’s a shame, since the second season of Luke Cage endeavored to push Luke forward as a character. The season also brought us the breakout character Comanche (Thomas Q. Jones), who illuminated he and Shades’ past romantic relationship. Just when the series was getting really good, Netflix decides to take it away. For shame.
9) Mo’Nique defends Roseanne
Out of all of the people who would come out and defend Roseanne after ABC fired her for racist comments against Obama staffer Valerie Jarrett, who’da thunk it’d be Mo’Nique?
The comedian called Roseanne her “sister” in an interview with the Chicago Tribune, adding, “…there were Black entertainers who would not come on The Mo’Nique Show because it was quote-unquote ‘too Black.’ But when I called on my sister, she said (imitating Barr): ‘Where is it and what time you need me to come?’ And when she showed up when the cameras weren’t rolling, she said to me: ‘Listen, you’re the real deal. Don’t let them use you up and take advantage of you, because they will. Don’t you let them do that to you.’ Now, a racist woman ain’t gonna say that to me.”
Mo’Nique disappointed and confused a lot of us who have been fans of hers and riding with her for years. It’s true that if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything, but maybe standing up for Roseanne after her unapologetic history of racism isn’t the right thing to do.
10) Kevin Hart steps down from hosting the Oscars over homophobic tweets
This December, Kevin Hart was tapped to host the 2019 Oscars, but soon, his past homophobic jokes came to light. In the jokes, some of which were tweets, he writes about not wanting his son to be gay and stamping out anything he perceived as “gay” behavior, such as playing with a dollhouse.
Hart deleted the tweets after the firestorm, but he failed to do the one thing the Academy asked him to do: apologize.
First, Hart released an Instagram post stating that he has matured since he made homophobic jokes, though he had never acknowledged any wrongdoing or process of accountability. Instead, he called people holding him accountable, “negative”:
“Stop looking for reasons to be negative…Stop searching for reasons to be angry,” he wrote. “…I work hard on a daily basis to spread positivity to all…with that being said. If u want to search my history or past and anger yourselves with what u find that is fine with me. I’m almost 40 years old and I’m in love with the man that I’m becoming.”
As the firestorm continued, Hart announced he would step down from the role of host, citing his intention not to become a distraction to the Academy.
He said the Academy asked him to apologize, but he refused. “The reason I passed is because I’ve addressed this several times. This is not the first time this has come up. Regardless, to the Academy, I’m thankful for the opportunity, if it goes away, no harm no foul.”
All Hart had to do was apologize, but he failed to do so, and this lack of an apology can only hurt his brand. Instead, he chose to be stubborn–but still ended up apologizing anyway? Ok.
11) Green Book and the Hollywood Machine failed Dr. Donald Shirley and his family
Critics and awards shows are heaping praise on Peter Farrelly’s Green Book, the Hollywood White Savior Film du jour. The film follows racist white chauffeur Tony Vallelonga as he drives a genius Black musician Dr. Donald Shirley through the Jim Crow South. With this story framing, it’s no surprise that Vallelonga’s son Nick Vallelonga co-wrote the script.
In an exclusive interview with Shadow and Act’s managing editor Brooke Obie, Dr. Shirley’s brother Maurice Shirley called the film “a symphony of lies,” for portraying his brother as estranged from his family and the Black community as a whole. The erasure of Dr. Shirley’s family and his role in the civil rights movement and deep friendships with other Black artists allows for him to be susceptible makes him more susceptible to a “friendship” with his racist white chauffeur Tony Vallelonga–all of which his family disputes.
“That’s just 100% wrong,” Dr. Shirley’s nephew Edwin Shirley told Shadow and Act. “There wasn’t a month where I didn’t have a phone call conversation with Donald,” Maurice said. Maurice and his wife Patricia, who both met Tony Vallelonga when he was Dr. Shirley’s chauffeur, all dispute that Tony and Dr. Shirley even had a friendship.
“It was an employer-employee relationship,” Patricia said of her observations of Dr. Shirley and Tony together.
And yet, no one asked any members of the Shirley family for any information or to verify these details in the film that Nick Vallelonga is saying is “all true.” Journalists, the filmmakers, the screenwriters, executive producers and stars of the film all took Tony Vallelonga’s word for it and never questioned that the way a racist white man observed his Black employer could have been, well, racist.
Nick Vallelonga has also claimed several times that he received Dr. Shirley’s blessing to make the movie Vallelonga wanted to make. But Edwin said that at least in the 1980s when Vallelonga first approached Dr. Shirley about making the movie, Dr. Shirley “flatly refused.”
“God knows, this is the reason that he never wanted to have his life portrayed on screen,” Edwin told Shadow and Act of the blatant falsehoods portrayed about his uncle in the film. “I now understand why, and I feel terrible that I was actually trying to urge him to do this in the 1980s, because everything that he objected to back then has come true now.”
What Hollywood faux pas made you the most angry in 2018?