Tag Archives: colorism

Recollections of “Belle”

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I just stumbled into the house after seeing a screening of the period piece, “Belle.” 

It’s late,I’m tired,but here are my initial thoughts – may I not regret making my thoughts public in the morning. 

1. Sometimes any publicity is better than no publicity

     I knew nothing about the story about Dido, Bell Lindsey, before seeing the movie, but I was inspired to learn more about her after this viewing. I was on the fence about the upcoming movie about Nina Simone, starring Zoe Saldana.  The choice of actress, the possible,ok likely, fictionalizations that will be made in telling the life story of a real live person. But honestly, Nina Simone was never in the forefront of my consciousness until the announcement of the movie and all of the controservies that have ensued.  

Educating mass audiences – isn’t that what the ultimate goal of many if not most mainstream endeavors are meant to do? 

2. Why has Belle been held up as an achievement/proud role model?

      Wait, wait -the back story for this comment 

I had heard anecdotes, more like brief comments before, about Black aristocrats whispered, stated triumphantly – “And did you know that so and so was a Black aristocrat?”.  

But then I actually witnessed “Belle” and saw a glimpse of what her life was likely like – not allowed to sit with visiting family members for fear that they would be offended by her presence, kept hidden away from the public, not having any cohorts to understand first hand what this type of lifestyle was like, and don’t get me started on seeming impossibility of finding a suitable marriage mate….

She was beautiful. She was dark (for the time period), She was clothed in some of the finest dresses, spoke well, had gracious manners. 

She was lonely. She possibly/likely hated her own skin.  For a good while (until she inherited a fortune), she appeared to be doomed for a life of single hood.  She was only in this position because her father decided to recognize her as his.  Where exactly does Belle’s heroism come in? What makes her character, which was essentially a whimsy of fortune, worthy of the reverence that it has received? 

Right now, late when I am tired and have no energy to spin a good tale about the strength and triumph of the human spirit – I think I heard Belle’s name mentioned so fondly because of her race (representation is important- there is no sarcasm here) and the wealth and glamour of her rank.  Because Blacks are so rarely afforded a dignified role, let alone a beautiful and glamarous one.  I don’t cast any contempt on this view, but I only just now came to appreciate the pain, awkwardness and loneliness and near despair that comes along with being “the Black artistocrat” in a white society. 

3.  Actually about that human spirit

       In the movie, there were a few people, men, who were willing to buck all of society’s traditions and taboos, in order to support Belle.  I would have liked to learn a great deal more about them, what drove them and what their values were. Who and what sort of people who are ahead of their time.  I think it has something to do with being so dedicated to a set of values that you are willing to follow that logic through and express those values in all walks of your life. Walk that walk. 

4.  Sisterhood

     I don’t know what Belle’s views were about other Blacks, but it was a sweet sweet moment getting to see Belle and a Black slave woman (damn shame I can’t remember her name) getting to share screen time, helping each other, being kind to each other.  

5. And about the rest of the movie….

      Eh, it was ok.  Considering that so little is known about the real Dido, and this is largely a work of fiction, I would have hoped that such free reign would inspire a more creative or at least more competent.  Instead kind of typical, bland love, coming of age and big sports event kind of story.  

Oh well, I went for the history not the story, so I wasn’t that disappointed. It was a movie that made me think, just not about what the didatic speeches and quips wanted me to.  Still not bad. 

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Origins of Taboos: Part II

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H/T to Black Girl wit Short Hair for photo.

I haven’t been able to find the origins of the taboo of how never the two components of dark skin and bright colors should meet.

BUT I do think I have interesting insight into why this ‘rule’ exists. I read the novel ‘Plum Bun: A Novel Without a Moral’ by Jesse Fauset. Published in 1928, the book follows the life of a young Black women whose light skin affords her the opportunity to pass for white. End synopsis. I brought up this novel that I read years ago, because while the story itself has faded – greatly – in my memory, I do still recall the description of one scene, where the protagonist explained that dark and or darker skinned teachers?/students? were encouraged not to wear white shirts. Instead it was recommended that they wear shirts with darker hues – black, navy blue, etc. The reason? The darker colors were meant to blend into or rather complement the dark skin of the clothes’ wearer. According to this line of thinking, darker skin was not meant to be set off or featured, instead such skin should be hidden, or the next best thing was to “help” such skin be overlooked.

AND THIS line of thinking, is partly why brightly colored lipsticks are not recommended – and even vehemently argued against – for dark skinned make up wearers.

However, I am still stumped as to why this ‘ruling’ has lasted in regards for make up but not clothes. Seriously, I never hear such warnings against dark skinned people shouldn’t wear brightly colored clothes. May be because make up is still considered such a feminine accoutrement and females have always been held to a more constricting beauty standard?

If anyone who happens to wander by this blog has a theory, please feel free to share your opinion. Thanks!