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Monday, February 29, 2016

Courtney Elaine: What It's Really Like to Be a WoC Film Critic (Blog Series)

I still remember the first day I fell in love with film. It was the holiday season of 2001. My family was gathered around my grandparents’ brand new DVD player for a special screening. My grandmother told me with great pride, that the musical I was about to watch was legendary. “It's a musical starring beautiful black kids,  Courtney. Wait till you see, baby.” Of course, my 11-year-old self had no idea what she was talking about. However, I quickly learned. All it took was one viewing of The Wiz to make me fall in love with film. One glimpse of Diana Ross as Dorothy fueled my obsession.

Over the next few years, I watched as many films as I possibly could. I spent nights learning the lines to Love and Basketball. I unapologetically recited the lines to Poetic Justice and Do the Right Thing to my TV screen as I watched them over and again. I was inspired and empowered by the beautiful brown faces on my TV screen. As I grew older, I enjoyed learning those beautiful faces weren't just in front of the screen, but also behind it.

However, things started to slow down the more I searched for brown women who wrote about these films. I began to wonder where are all the WoC film critics were. I started collecting articles and anything I could by women writers. It's safe to say those articles by women of color were nowhere near as vast as our male counterparts. This lack of representation inspired me to become a critic.

It goes without saying that there is a demand for WOC film bloggers. We contribute a unique perspective on film that is often ignored and overlooked. Our diverse experiences equip us with the tools to critique films with a different level of sensitivity and understanding. It's unfortunate that our voices are often muffled by others.

Once, when I attended a press junket for a film, a fellow reporter from a larger company suggested I must have been an assistant and not a reporter. Apparently there was no possible way a young woman like myself could have been in the same room as him, about to interview the same A-list stars.

Our opinions and knowledge on film are continuously challenged when we enter a room with males of the “majority” race. I believe race and gender can definitely play a part in how we interpret a film. And sadly, with our opinions introduced in the public sphere on social media platforms like Twitter, our opinions are challenged now more than ever.

However, I am still extremely grateful for social media. It has made it easier to connect with like-minded WoC critics and push our work out there. Our voices are finally being heard. Websites like Black Girl Nerds and Shadow and Act provide places for our voices to be heard. I hope in the near future, more digital spaces and opportunities are given to WoC film critics. I’d like to see us represented not only on the big screen, but the major publications that write about film. I want to see our bylines in the New York Times and other media. Our push for diversity on the big screen should also extend to the film critic community. Our voices can make a difference.

Courtney Elaine
Courtney Elaine is a writer, producer and junior development executive from New York City. When she's not working full time for VH1, she's running her small production company, By Courtney Elaine. Her bylines can be seen on Global Grind, The Jasmine Brand, Necole Bitchie and Madame Noire. Follow her on Twitter

For more information on this blog series, click here.


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