At this moment in history, everyone wants to be heard. Previously marginalized voices —LGBTQ, Latino, female, Black, Asian, Native American—are shouting at the top of their lungs, fighting to break through to the mainstream. The American dramatic tradition embodies a long tradition of artists using their historical context to elevate new voices, and to introduce audiences to new perspectives. Though we’re embroiled in a different revolution in 2019, its tumult provides a similar opportunity for diverse artistic perspectives to emerge.
Our film, WHITE LIKE ME, provides a representation of a modern African-American woman we’ve never seen onscreen before. Gretchen Jones is not a stereotype. She is not the Black best friend. She is not the help. She’s not a punchline, not underdeveloped comic relief, not just onscreen to make a white woman look thinner or less racist. Gretchen is a talented, driven, and educated woman of color who also happens to be the girl next door—even though Hollywood has traditionally defined “educated” and “girl next door” as white roles.
Our film urgently needs to be made because Black girls deserve a romantic-comedy heroine as iconic as Julia Roberts or Meg Ryan. Gretchen wants to be the girl who gets the guy, who kisses him passionately under an outrageous all-American monument at the end of the film—and she also wants to be a successful actress. Gretchen’s plan to cast herself as white, male talent agent “Grayson Roark” allows her the opportunity to seize an image power and success previously inaccessible to her—but at what cost?
Even though Gretchen whitefaces herself, WHITE LIKE ME isn’t about Black people making fun of white people. WHITE LIKE ME expresses the frustration of a Black woman who’s always wondered how things would turn out if she looked different. And there isn’t a Black woman in America—there probably isn’t any woman in America—who’s never wondered that. We’ve long seen male actors play different genders and races, but women, especially Black women, haven’t typically been offered such expansive roles. In 2019, it’s time for that to change—to provide an image of an ambitious Black woman who gets the great guy, the great job, and maybe, eventually, success on her own terms, too.
- Brandee Steger
screenwriter/co-director, WHITE LIKE ME