Tone deafness reaches further back than the 90s, but this one from that decade is especially striking.
Reportedly, back in 1994, when the film Harriet was in development, Gregory Allen Howard (screenwriter and producer of the film) was pitching the film to a studio executive, when the executive seemingly out of nowhere, suggested that Julia Roberts play the titular role of Harriet Tubman.
Yes, that Julia Roberts, and yes, THAT Harriet Tubman.
Julia Roberts was suggested to play Harriet Tubman by studio exec, says Harriet screenwriter https://t.co/9XlW4oF6gl
— Entertainment Weekly (@EW) November 20, 2019
Understandably Howard was very confused.
Howard, recalling the moment, said:
“When someone pointed out that Roberts couldn’t be Harriet, the executive responded, ‘It was so long ago. No one is going to know the difference’.”
Is this an onion headline
— aran (@arancaytar) November 20, 2019
This CAN’T be true…… Right…. pic.twitter.com/PihrdJDInp
— Not_Social (@NotSocial7) November 20, 2019
Was Scarlett Johansson unavaible for the role?
— Mel (@mel7pass) November 20, 2019
This gif is obligatory… pic.twitter.com/uJ4qhjC5EZ
— CrassLauren (@CrassLauren) November 20, 2019
— Twin & her Hubs! (@CLE_SHONUFF) November 20, 2019
People might have known the difference, considering White people were not kept as slaves in the United States. And no, indentured servitude is not the same thing since at the end of their service, indentured servants were free people eligible for citizenship.
Mercifully, in 2019, Cynthia Erivo has instead been cast in the role, which Howard says he is thrilled with.
“I first saw [Cynthia] when the other producers flew me to New York to see her in The Color Purple. As soon as she opened her mouth, I thought, ‘Yes, that’s Harriet.’ Afterwards I emailed the other producers, ‘That’s Harriet. She’s a little stick of dynamite.’”
What ? pic.twitter.com/ZJymeXdJjw
— chelle (@ruesdice) November 20, 2019
Bish what?? pic.twitter.com/uQzqgCShxZ
— Terry Singleton (@TerrySi16587751) November 20, 2019
“‘It was so long ago. No one is going to know the difference.’” pic.twitter.com/lXx55uD9fS
— Ivonne (@ivonne_r1) November 20, 2019
EXCUSE ME…….. pic.twitter.com/66MBqaSeP5
— Danny Phaggot+ 🎟 (@DannyPhaggot) November 20, 2019
— 🌈FruitKace💅🏽 (@FruitKace) November 20, 2019
— DIOMI (@Diomi) November 20, 2019
Despite the attempted caucasity, a racially accurate version of Tubman’s story is currently in theaters.
Alongside Cynthia Erivo, the film also stars Leslie Odom Jr., Joe Alwyn and Janelle Monáe.
— r ♥️ c k y (@ramblgy) November 20, 2019
— Fire Bruce Allen (@Kareem_captain1) November 20, 2019
We deserve to know their name. Anyone this egregious needs to be named publicly
— Saun (@Sauniell) November 20, 2019
Hollywood execs: hey Julia, gotta role for you… Harriet Tubman.
Julia Roberts: pic.twitter.com/Sj8tQbkbBW
— The name’s Rollo, turkey! (@sonofdusable) November 20, 2019
White people in Hollywood must be stopped. Immediately. https://t.co/GvWgeAN7vj
— Jason (One Piece fan) (@EscaflowneClown) November 20, 2019
Sometimes, we couldn’t agree more.