I just cried watching the trailer for the new Annie movie with Quvenzhané Wallis and Jamie Foxx. Tears, real tears, welled up in my eyes. And if you don’t understand why, let me tell you.
I loved Annie when I was growing up. There was a summer where I watched it nearly every day. I sang the songs at the top of my lungs, rewound the tape, and played it all again. And it was great. But as a Black girl, seeing it depicted in this new way only makes it better.
Sometimes I get misty-eyed when I think about the fact that my 4-year-old niece will never live in a world where there had never been a black president. That for her, there are things that will never seem like impossibilities the way they felt for me. Telling the story of Annie with a little Black girl and a black Daddy Warbucks (or the aptly renamed Daddy Stacks) gives me that same feeling.
It’s saying, in a big way, that black men can be successful on merit, not just athletic prowess. It’s saying that Black girls can be interesting and smart and talented even if they are born poor. It’s giving Black people a chance to be complex in a way we aren’t always allowed to be.
I don’t know if I’m explaining this right, but I do know that this movie would have been impossible in the 80s when the first one came out. IN THE 80s. I’m not even 30, but I know that less than 30 years ago Black leads would not have been cast in these roles.
And for people who say it’s just a movie, and that none of this matters because at least it’s happening now, I say look at Lupita Nyung’o who hated her dark skin until she saw The Color Purple, and Alek Wek on the runway. She just won an Oscar for ‘just a movie’ and that’s another ‘impossibility’, a very dark-skinned woman winning an Academy Award (for her debut performance!), that my niece will never think is impossible.
So I’m happy to the point of tears because I know that my little niece and every other little black girl in the world will from this day forward, never live in a world where Annie is only a redhead. They can look at Quvenzhané as Annie, as an actress, as a full-bodied, complicated beautiful little Black girl and know that they can be complicated and beautiful too.