Sunday, 9 March 2014

The Controversy Surrounding "Annie"

I recently found out that apparently there is an upcoming re-interpretation of Annie. For those of you who aren't familiar with the story, it originated as a series of newspaper comics in the 1920's titled Little Orphan Annie, but it is probably better known for the broadway musical adaptation which was later adapted into the 1982 movie of the same name by John Huston. Yes, the John Huston

Yes, believe it or not it turns out all these films were made by the same person. I was also quite surprised.

The basic premise is fairly straightforward: a little girl named Annie is living in an orphanage during the Great Depression. She lives a miserable life, as she and the other orphans present are constantly harassed and practically enslaved by the owner, Miss Hannigan. However, she is eventually allowed to spend Christmas with a lonely millionaire named Warbucks, who becomes exceptionally touched by Annie and decides to adopt her. Complications later arise when Miss Hannigan tries to stop them and joins two of her old friends (who also happen to be newly-released crooks) in an elaborate scheme to make a fortune for themselves.

Now, on with the point of this article. This isn't ground I would normally trend but it was an area I found particularly surprising. Recently I learned that there is a new treatment of Annie coming out. The controversy doesn't have much to do with the movie itself. As far as I can tell it's still the same basic story (though from the few still images I've seen they might have modernized it). It has to do with a somewhat more drastic change.

So those of you who are familiar with the 1982 film, the comics, or the stage version, you'll probably know Annie has a very distinct image. She's usually depicted as a redhead, with her hair cut short and curly. Well, the directors of this film decided to do something a bit different.

This has been the subject of discussion on numerous IMDB threads and I have heard that there has been a lot of negative backlash towards this choice. Yes, the controversy stems entirely from the fact that a black actress was cast in the role. Some people are supportive, others insist that Annie should always be a redhead. Now I personally am not a huge fan of Annie and I don't expect to be seeing this version in theaters, but I'll confess I was surprised and not sure what to think by this choice, as well as the controversy.

I'm in no position to judge the actress playing Annie, nor will I assume one way or another the quality of this film or whether she'll be able to pull it off. I guess what it really all comes down to is whether or not it works within the story. If it were to use the original setting of the Great Depression it might be harder to pull off believably, given this was a period where racism was a lot more common, but on the other hand it could add a new layer of depth if that were to be taken into account. In the present day, however (which appears to be what it's going for), the idea of an orphanage of mixed-race children does seem more likely.

As I said, I won't make any assumptions about this film. I won't claim I'm super-hyped to see it as I'm not a fan of the source material, but I thought it might be interesting to address this controversy and try to share some of my thoughts on it. I'll confess I was surprised by this choice if only because I was used to the more traditional image, but I can't see anything particularly wrong with it, and if you have any problems with it... well, the 1982 version isn't going anywhere.

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