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The Sad Truth For Biracial Women in Hollywood

When people ask me why I refuse to watch “Euphoria,” I tell them it is simply because I do not care for Zendaya. That is not to say she is lacking talent, but I certainly believe that it could be channeled much more productively. Zendaya is being molded into the next Halle Berry. This is to say, they are both attractive biracial women who are typecast into one of two categories: trashy and victims. For biracial actresses, these two categories tend to interact. If an award-winning actress like Berry is only now beginning to escape disrespectful typecasting, it is only a matter of time before Zendaya takes her place and plunges deeper into that hole.

Let’s take a look at some of the characters they have played. Zendaya is a fresher face in the industry, so her list is brief. Rue from “Euphoria” is a drug addicted teen who has obviously never owned a hairbrush in her life. If we did not know her character’s circumstances, just looking at her already speaks volumes. Rue looks disheveled at all times; can biracial actresses ever be portrayed as beautiful without being sexualized? Obviously not. Furthermore, her drug problem is the focus of the series. So she looks trashy and is, in a sense, a victim (to her addiction). Zendaya’s other role of concern is in the film “Malcolm and Marie.” The film depicts Zendaya in an horribly abusive relationship; once again, she is victimized. I know that “Euphoria” and “Malcolm and Marie” are directed by the same person, but that adds another layer to the issue of Zendaya’s typecasting. Is that director seriously only able to envision Zendaya as characters who need saving from their dangerous circumstances.

Halle Berry has played far too many concerning roles for me to even list. Some that have always particularly irked me were are Leticia in “Monster’s Ball,” Nisi in “B*A*P*S,” Catwoman, and Jinx in “Die Another Day.” Every single one of these characters’ storylines are intertwined with their sex appeal. I believe in female sex positivity when it is empowering; none of these characters have made me feel empowered. Ever. Let me explain why.

 Leticia is an abusive mother who struggles financially until becoming sexually involved with a white man who enjoys sex with black women. Her sex is pretty much bought throughout the film through “kind” gestures. Giving a grieving and struggling woman a car and inviting her to stay with you when you know sex will follow is manipulative. Throughout the film, Leticia never really gets any sort of development; she remains something of a damsel. Nisi is not that much different. The story of “B*A*P*S” literally kicks off because Nisi and her friend are striving to become video vixens. So Nisi starts the story off as a sexualized character. To make matters worse, she and her friend are entering a contest to become a video vixen for a measly $1,000. They enter the contest to raise money to open their own business. There were a thousand other directions the film and Nisi could have been taken in, but obviously, it was necessary to build the conflict around sexualization.

We all know that Catwoman is a sexual entity of her own. Always has been. However, Berry’s Catwoman takes sexual tension to a level wherein it cannot even be considered tension anymore. Her character, Patience, starts off being demure and reserved, but once she is revived as Catwoman, the directors and writers had an excuse to sexualize her. The film has actually been criticized for being a film solely about Berry’s sex appeal. Finally, we have Jinx. While Jinx can be a badass super spy, she spends more of “Die Another Day” being a damsel. She is, naturally, saved by a white man who she has had previous sexual relations with. Once again, Berry is turned into a “white man’s trophy” with no control over her own life. Not to mention how many drug addicts and prostitutes Berry has played.

Zendaya has some trash roles under her belt already, so it is really only a matter of time before she begins to be typecast as the powerless white man’s trophy. Another biracial who has also, unfortunately, fallen into this category is Zoe Kravitz. As a biracial woman, it makes me so upset to witness this. I believe that women of all races deserve equally great roles. Sure, some actresses will continue to play into the unfortunate typecasting of biracial women, but no one has to. Actresses want roles, of course, but there really is a time to pick a battle and refuse. It can be empowering to change the narratives of biracial women in film and television; we have to learn to start saying no. This goes for those of us who are not yet famous, too. In college plays, community theatre, we do not need to force ourselves into sexualized, trashy, damsel roles.

I still do love Halle Berry as an actress, but I wish she would stand up to casting directors. Her acting is too strong to be confined into roles where the only appeal to be made is her body or her character’s lack of control over her life. This is why, for the sake of Zendaya’s future, I hope she begins to see how messed up Hollywood’s view on biracial women is. They see us not as mixed women, but mixed up women. There is this assumption that we as actresses are well-equipped to play characters who have no direction. Furthermore, I believe the sexualization of biracial women in Hollywood to be rooted in colorism; they see us as a “sexier alternative” to black women. We serve as a way to meet minority quotas without having to cast dark-skinned black women. 

As a biracial woman who hopes to be on Broadway someday, the trash casting of women like me in Hollywood is something that I lose sleep over. Fortunately for me, Broadway is a different ballgame. Still, I feel awful for my fellow biracial women who are restricted to playing addicts, prostitutes, and eye candy. They are given no room to grow as actresses. This is the sad truth of the way biracial actresses are taken advantage of in Hollywood.

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