Re-making Rosemary’s Baby: I am totally overthinking this

So I watched Rosemary’s Baby sometime during senior week- because my boss kept telling me we needed to watch it to compare with the remake better. I wouldn’t ordinarily allow to watch a 1968 movie that was two hours long. But 1) They were adapting a film into serialised TV, and 2) The main character in remake was going to be a woman of color. (Zoe Saldana)

I should be slightly ashamed to say this but when I was told the film was about a woman who is carrying a devil’s child, I asked “This was by a white woman?” Mia Farrow was cast in the 1968 movie. The entire time I watched it, I kept saying “Oh mehn.. they gonna make a woman of color do this shit?” The whole carry-Satan’s-baby after-rape-by-blue-eyed-devil business seems more real and more dangerous when you cast a black woman for the role. And by dangerous, I mean everyone is going to be looking at the black woman like she actually does have potential of giving birth to Satan’s spawn. In real life. Or am I just over thinking this?

Anyway, so I went to Google today and searched “Rosemary’s Baby TV show” expecting to find some articles addressing the color issue. Eventually, a more specific “Rosemary’s Baby TV show black woman” brought up some interesting articles. I am quoting the parts that stood out to me- you might want to click on the entire articles because I am obviously narrowing my lens. I was looking for everyone else who was happy to have a woman of color play in a lead role but was also uncomfortable about this.

Bless Neil Drumming of Salon for making me feel like I wasn’t going crazy with his piece ““Rosemary’s Baby” stars a black woman. Why isn’t anybody mad?

A new, miniseries version of “Rosemary’s Baby” premieres on NBC this Sunday, starring Zoe Saldana as the titular mother of Satan’s spawn. I am almost ashamed to admit this, but my first thought after hearing about this production was not, “How will it be different than the 1968 Roman Polanski classic?” or “Why is it a miniseries?” or even “Will it be any good?” No, my first thought was, “Oh, man, white people are going to freak out over a black Rosemary.” As the series’ air date neared, I began to search for instances of outrage on Internet comment boards and, of course, on the most obvious incubator of frivolous beef, Twitter. Ultimately, I found little objection to Saldana’s casting. Though I am embarrassed to have gone looking for controversy where there appears to be none, a brief, not-at-all exhaustive survey of recent public response to black actors cast in traditionally white roles proves why I expected the worst. [Source: Salon]

But that was about it. Not even Zoe Saldana was thinking about being a woman of color cast in a role where her character got raped by a blue-eyed devil and carried Satan’s child.

ESSENCE: Was there always the idea the new Rosemary would be a woman of color? Was it always planned?

Zoe: No, I think that the people they had gone to before were Caucasian. They tossed my name and they all said, “Sure.” They sent me the script; I said no. They said, “Read it. We’ll talk with Agnieszka. These are the changes I want.” I met the NBC executives. I had dinner with the Lionsgate executives and with my sisters, and that was the last thing we ever covered.

The fact that it was one of the last things for us to go, “By the way …”, and it was after the second glass of champagne, it felt right to me that it wasn’t that we were making an affirmative, active decision. It was just based on people respecting my body of work, and me respecting the network and the studio.  I did like them a great deal. [Source: Essence]

I know I am making it about race, because for me that was the most important thing. The other things, I probably would have enjoyed more if I was not too busy stressing about race. Changes to the script like the fact that they are in Paris not NYC. It would also be fascinating to watch the two mothers- 1968 Rosemary and 2014 Rosemary.

Mr. Polanski’s version was made “before the feminist revolution, really,” Ms. Holland said, sitting in her trailer during a break in filming. Back then, Rosemary “was in some ways a victim — to the men’s world, to the world of power and Satan,” she said. “My Rosemary is much more willful and stronger.” But she added that Rosemary remains a victim to the nature of motherhood, “dependent on the people who decide, instead of her, what to do with her body.”

In her rendering, Ms. Holland said, she used Rosemary to explore “how complex and complicated motherhood is, and pregnancy, and how difficult it is for women to accept this growing thing inside her body.” She continued, “The notion of postnatal and prenatal depression, and the feeling that you don’t own yourself anymore, that you’re not yourself anymore, it’s a quite important subject of ‘Rosemary’s Baby.’ ” [Source: New York Times.]

Obviously you have all realised by now that I have not watched the NBS remake. I watched the 1968 one, all the while imagining it remade with a black woman and it put the fear of the remake in me. I don’t think I have enough in my spirit to watch it. And since no one who has watched it will address the race issue, I can’t even know if I dare.



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