Gather ‘round, cowpoke and cowpoke-ettes!
Netflix has just dropped the official trailer for the upcoming Western-centric film, The Harder They Fall, and BOY DOES IT LOOK LIKE A DARN-TOOTIN’ GOOD TIME!
As previously reported by The Root, the film boasts some of the best of the best of contemporary Black talent, featuring the always amazing Regina King, Idris “Better Be James Bond” Elba, Jonathan Majors, Delroy Lindo, LaKeith Stanfield (aka #Weird Bae), Zazie Beetz, Deon Cole and Damon Wayans Jr.
The film’s official synopsis, per a press release sent to The Root:
When outlaw Nat Love (Jonathan Majors) discovers that his enemy Rufus Buck (Idris Elba) is being released from prison he rounds up his gang to track Rufus down and seek revenge. Those riding with him in this assured, righteously new school Western include his former love Stagecoach Mary (Zazie Beetz), his right and left hand men — hot-tempered Bill Pickett (Edi Gathegi) and fast drawing Jim Beckwourth (R.J. Cyler)—and a surprising adversary-turned-ally. Rufus Buck has his own fearsome crew, including “Treacherous” Trudy Smith (Regina King) and Cherokee Bill (LaKeith Stanfield), and they are not a group that knows how to lose. Directed by Jeymes Samuel, written by Samuel and Boaz Yakin, produced by Shawn Carter, James Lassiter, Lawrence Bender and Jeymes Samuel, and featuring a red hot soundtrack and a stunning all-star cast, including Jonathan Majors, Zazie Beetz, Delroy Lindo, LaKeith Stanfield, Danielle Deadwyler, Edi Gathegi, R.J. Cyler, Damon Wayans Jr., Deon Cole with Regina King and Idris Elba revenge has never been served colder.
While most of the online buzz surrounding the forthcoming film was overwhelmingly positive, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the other chatter simultaneously happening concerning the film’s choice in casting—particularly that of Zazie Beetz as Stagecoach Mary. As several social media users have noted, Mary “Stagecoach Mary” Fields was the first African-American star route carrier, an independent contractor who carried mail using a stagecoach. Going from town to town with a rifle and revolver, according to History.com, Stagecoach Mary was a force to be reckoned with, due largely in part to her no-nonsense attitude and her tall, intimidating demeanor.
Additionally, pictures captured of Stagecoach Mary during that time depict her as a tall, heavier-set dark-skinned Black woman, so it really begs the question of why the folks in charge of casting would lean towards someone like Zazie instead of a darker-skinned actress (Viola Davis, Danielle Brooks, Leslie Jones, Aisha Hinds, etc.) who could’ve arguably played the gun-slinging protector with a bit more aesthetic accuracy.
“I’ve been whining for so long about wanting a Stagecoach Mary western, and then they go and cast her? Zazie Beetz looks nothing like Mary Fields, and she’s a half a foot too short. If they wanted a known actor, they should have cast Leslie Jones, who’s at least tall enough,” said one Twitter user.
“Stagecoach Mary could’ve been BODIED by Danielle Brooks,” wrote another. “Nothing against Zazie Beetz because I love her but a lot of these actors/actresses need to start pulling a Zendaya and start turning down roles that are meant for a darkskin actor.”
“Zazie Beetz owes the Black community an explanation cuz wtf is this. We needa start draggin tf outta these lightskint actresses for even auditioning cuz they willingly participating in the erasure of darkskin Black women in Hollywood. They know exactly wtf they doin they guilty 2,” said another.
This stark contrast also calls into question the responsibility, if any, light-skinned actresses have when it comes to accepting or denying roles that would be better fit for their equally talented dark-skinned counterparts. (See: Zendaya and Amandla Stenberg.)
Of course, we know this problem isn’t specific to any one actress or any one film—it’s an industrywide, systemic problem called colorism that unfortunately loves to rear its ugly head more often than not. But hopefully, as people become more aware and intentional, that problem, much like the villain at the end of any good Western film, will get kicked out of Dodge fairly soon.
The Harder They Fall hits select theaters Oct. 22 and Netflix on Nov. 3.