Criticism of Racism in ‘Wednesday’ Does Not Mean We Can’t Have Black Villains
Netflix’s Wednesday has become a sensation and weeks after its premiere is still one of the most-watched shows on the streaming service. However, due to being made in part by Tim Burton, race has been a part of the discussion around the franchise, and naturally, some people have really misinterpreted that discourse.
Back in 2016 Burton came out with the film Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. It was noted as the first film in which the director had a Black lead, with Samuel L. Jackson. Bustle brought this up in an interview and Burton’s response was … not great.
“Nowadays, people are talking about it more,” he said. “Things either call for things, or they don’t. I remember back when I was a child watching The Brady Bunch and they started to get all politically correct. Like, OK, let’s have an Asian child and a black. I used to get more offended by that than just… I grew up watching blaxploitation movies, right? And I said, that’s great. I didn’t go like, OK, there should be more white people in these movies.”
Yeah, not great Bob.
People have brought up that he had Billy Dee Williams as Harvey Dent way back in Batman ’89 and Mars Attacks has Pam Grier and Ray J in small roles, but that belies the overall issue with Burton’s statement and the fact that he sees diversity as “political correctness” rather than just a normal thing to do when working on a big film where race isn’t part of the conception. It is this that made people feel iffy about Wednesday’s Bianca.
Bianca Barclay (played by Joy Sunday) is a Siren and one of the Queen Bees at Nevermore Academy. She ends up in conflict with Wednesday Addams (Jenna Ortega) for very eye-rolling-ly CW reasons. Bianca’s ex-boyfriend is suddenly interested in Wednesday and so the two girls become laced in a one-sided competition. Eventually, Bianca is humbled and becomes more fleshed out as a character, but even as someone who loves Black villains, I was honestly annoyed that we had two women of color fighting over a white guy. Not only was that reductive, but because of Burton’s history discussing race, it was hard to see the dynamic in good faith. Especially since the first time he hired a major Black lead for his movie, it was as the bad guy.
While there is some hyperbole, people who are upset about Bianca largely are because Burton has not done the work for us to see this as being done as colorblind casting. We can’t know Burton’s intent, but the roles of the Black characters in the show (and really most characters sans Wednesday and her family) leave a lot to be desired.
We want badass Black villains, but we also are allowed to be suspicious when it comes after those quotes in 2016, without any follow-up or clarification, etc. Background BIPOC characters outside of your main lead don’t make up for decades of a career where when we did show up, it was as bit characters in the background.
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