Well, this is a curious discussion probably better suited for a forum in which one or more moderators had the drive, aptitude, and/or listening ability to ask a useful follow-up question or two. When discussing his upcoming Fox show Star on Tuesday’s episode of The Real, Empire mastermind Lee Daniels said his new narrative—which comes in the tradition of Dreamgirls and Sparkle and follows a modern-day aspiring girl group in Atlanta—is told from the perspective of a white protagonist (played by Jude Demorest) “because I thought that instinctively, the country needed to heal. And I think that this white girl is so fabulous that black people will embrace her, and white people will embrace her.”
“And she has a half-black sister,” added Daniels.
If the idea, which could use some further explanation that was not prompted by any of The Real’s tenured hosts nor guest host Evelyn Lozada, is that situating a diverse ensemble around a white character will help make the show more palatable to viewers across color lines, well...welcome to Hollywood! That’s the strategy of virtually every quote-unquote diverse cast outside of those engineered by Shonda Rhimes. Think about superhero movies or Pitch Perfect or Clueless or horror movies that are too guilty to kill the black characters immediately these days, so they do it somewhere in the middle. By and large, white characters are still the center of their narrative universes, it’s just that people of color are now allowed in their orbit. White supremacy is the law, it’s just less blatant. (And of course, there does exist art focused on people of color—it’s just when an ensemble is diverse, it tends to be the whites who are given the roles of leaders and protagonists.) You can’t heal white supremacy with...a more nicely packaged white supremacy.
But maybe that’s not the idea. Who can be sure!
Later, The Real co-host Adrienne Bailon, formerly of the girl group 3LW, asked Daniels what made him make the group in Star look as diverse as it does (in addition to white Star and her half-black sister Simone, the group features “bourgie black beyotch” Alex):
“I thought that it was important to address race relations in America,” answered Daniels. “We are, truly I believe, in a civil war. And I think that when we understand that we’re all one that [we will] then understand America. And America is still to be understood by us.”
Earlier in the episode, Daniels was asked about the ridiculous controversy over a black Santa at the Mall of America, and he said the concept of race is incomprehensible to his children, so they’re “laughing at the idiots that are making a big deal about it.” He added that he never “embraced racism,” because then it would become real and then he’d be an “angry black man.”
Hmmm. It is real, though. Sticking your head in the sand, cozy as it may be, is no way to understand America.
Then he said he’s “just been in denial about it.”
Bailon commented, “I love the way you think. The way you think is definitely on point.”