In This Italian Theater, 12 Years A Slave Is a Brad Pitt Movie

Yesterday on Tumblr, Carefree Black Girl posted the image seen above: A 12 Years A Slave poster with Brad Pitt as the dominant feature. Sigh.

Along with the photo of the poster, she wrote:

I was at the movies the other day ( I live in Italy) and I saw the poster for 12 Years A Slave. I've been following the press for months and I can't wait to watch it but REALLY? I don't remember Brad Pitt being the protagonist of the film or having such a pivotal role in the story to stay in the middle of the poster.

He isn't! And he doesn't.

Obviously movie marketers try to draw audiences using familiar faces. But it's incredibly sad that Brad Pitt's is huge and luminous, god-like, while the true star — British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor — is but an almost-faceless blur running by.

Buzzfeed's Jordan Zakarian tweeted, "This weirdly, sadly conveys the film's message."

And Esther Zuckerman writes for The Wire:

While using the name (and heavenly visage) of an international star like Brad Pitt to sell a movie whose history and pedigree might not translate everywhere in the world might be understandable, this specific poster design manages to sum up one argument of the movie's detractors: that Pitt plays the role of the "white savior," swooping in at the last moment to save the day.

This is why the fight for diversity is so important, on a global level. When we harp on the fact that black faces are too infrequently seen on fashion runways, in film, on TV and in ad campaigns, it's because white faces continue to be the acceptable default, the more comfortable, palatable choice. Without consistent visibility, black people will continue to be undesirable, less than, easy to pass over — even when they're the STARS of a film.

The real question is: Do the ends justify the means? If a bunch of people otherwise disinterested go see 12 Years because Brad Pitt pulled them in, is it worth it? At what cost?

UPDATE: As seen on Twitter, there is also a Michael Fassbender version of this poster. [h/t Desus.]