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Scarlett45

Self Made: Inspired By The Life Of Madame C. J. Walker

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 A chronicle of the incredible story of Madam C.J. Walker, who was the first African American self-made millionaire.


 

This dropped on Netflix today. I won’t spoil but I enjoyed it. People have to remember it’s a dramatization. I thought they addressed the intersectionality of sexism, racism and colorism very well, without demeaning Madame Walker and her ingeninuity. I also appreciated that they gave Octavia Spencer (an appropriate actress to play the character) fine ass Blair Underwood as a husband and they were shown to have an active sex life. 
 

I found this podcast really fun today if anyone is interested. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-history-chicks/id415983183?i=1000468717991

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On 3/20/2020 at 8:37 PM, Scarlett45 said:


 

This dropped on Netflix today. I won’t spoil but I enjoyed it. People have to remember it’s a dramatization. I thought they addressed the intersectionality of sexism, racism and colorism very well, without demeaning Madame Walker and her ingeninuity. I also appreciated that they gave Octavia Spencer (an appropriate actress to play the character) fine ass Blair Underwood as a husband and they were shown to have an active sex life. 
 

I found this podcast really fun today if anyone is interested. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-history-chicks/id415983183?i=1000468717991

Thanks for the podcast recommendation. As a Canadian, I knew of her, but knew very little about her. I really enjoyed the series, and quickly binged it.

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I had very, very mixed feelings about this.

On one hand, I'm very glad that there's a high-profile miniseries about Madame Walker, and I'm glad she was played by someone who looks like Octavia Spencer and not Halle Berry. It certainly highlights some important issues. I liked that they weren't afraid to show the tensions between Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois.

But on the other hand, it felt sort of like the writers were more concerned with beating us over the head with woke messages than telling an accurate - or especially entertaining - story. (I mean, the "Walker Girls" coming to life and dancing around in a circle and taunting her? Did anyone need that spelled out for them?)

There were some strange choices, like the boxing sequences. And was it really necessary to make every light-skinned black woman seem like the devil himself?

I can't say I cared for the casting of Tiffany Haddish. She didn't seem comfortable somehow. And it was hard to believe that she'd be so open about her lesbianism in those times. The whole character seemed like she'd stepped out of a different series.

And while Octavia Spencer is a very talented actress, I don't think she did anything here besides give us her usual schtick.

 

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1 minute ago, Blakeston said:

I had very, very mixed feelings about this.

On one hand, I'm very glad that there's a high-profile miniseries about Madame Walker, and I'm glad she was played by someone who looks like Octavia Spencer and not Halle Berry. It certainly highlights some important issues. I liked that they weren't afraid to show the tensions between Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois.

But on the other hand, it felt sort of like the writers were more concerned with beating us over the head with woke messages than telling an accurate - or especially entertaining - story. (I mean, the "Walker Girls" coming to life and dancing around in a circle and taunting her? Did anyone need that spelled out for them?)

There were some strange choices, like the boxing sequences. And was it really necessary to make every light-skinned black woman seem like the devil himself?

I can't say I cared for the casting of Tiffany Haddish. She didn't seem comfortable somehow. And it was hard to believe that she'd be so open about her lesbianism in those times. The whole character seemed like she'd stepped out of a different series.

And while Octavia Spencer is a very talented actress, I don't think she did anything here besides give us her usual schtick.

 

I understand where you’re coming from. Octavia did the best she could with what she was given, I thought the dream sequences were supposed to make us connect more with her, insight into her most vulnerable feelings. 
 

Tiffany Haddish doesn’t have the best range, as an actress but I can see the character being open with her lesbianism as depicted. She wasn’t THAT open even her Mom was surprised. Also Harlem was a very avante guard place, and lesbians, given the invisibility of female sexuality under most patriarchal societies have always had more freedom than gay men have had- some people didn’t even think they existed. 
 

I thought Carmen Ejogo did the best with what she was given. (The makeup department made her look older and rougher) I would’ve prefered a more historical Annie Turnbo Malone than the Addie character, but the scene with her Mom was well done. You know she’s an awful spiteful person but the look in her eyes when you see she’s ALWAYS tried to support her mom and make her proud, while always being reminded that she was a product of rape and a woman and she’s failing her Mom by not making enough money- that was deep. 
 

The relationship between Christopher and Sarah. Couples still have issues like this in 2020 much less at the turn of the century- yes he did love her and care about her (unlike her second husband who was an abusive drunk), but his ego, insecurity and her priorities with the business drove a wedge between them. As depicted in the story I think she would’ve forgiven him for cheating but when he showed up drunk to the investor walk through....

Booker T Washington was a genius and a visionary but he was sexist and shortsighted. If he had a crystal ball to see how much money there would be in cosmetics and the notion that “black men have to rise first” will make white society respect us was faulty. 

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I wanted to love this, but the story telling was so cringeworthy at times and the stereotypical scenarios were aggravating.   Carmen, Octavia, and Blair Underwood deserved far better than this script. This series unfortunately highlighted Tiffany's limitations. I'm honestly glad it was 4 episodes because Tiffany was like nails on a chalkboard for me.

At least Madame Walker's story was finally told.  It's a shame that her story wasn't taught in history lessons (at least not when I was in school).

 

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On 3/22/2020 at 4:20 PM, Scarlett45 said:

Tiffany Haddish doesn’t have the best range, as an actress but I can see the character being open with her lesbianism as depicted. She wasn’t THAT open even her Mom was surprised. Also Harlem was a very avante guard place, and lesbians, given the invisibility of female sexuality under most patriarchal societies have always had more freedom than gay men have had- some people didn’t even think they existed. 

My biggest issue was the way she was blatantly eye-fucking her girlfriend while performing in front of a crowd, and her husband was standing there. People had to be careful back then!

I think they could have accomplished the same effect by having the husband notice a quick glance between the two.

I guess they were trying to make a point about how free-thinking and ahead of the times she was, but they could have done that without making her completely reckless.

Maybe it's just me, but Fairy Mae didn't look like a child in need of adoption to me. She looked like a stunning young adult, and with her being Lelia's model, I assumed the two were lovers.

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1 hour ago, Blakeston said:

Maybe it's just me, but Fairy Mae didn't look like a child in need of adoption to me. She looked like a stunning young adult, and with her being Lelia's model, I assumed the two were lovers.

She looked very much like a child to me. An older child but I believed her to be 13-15 years old (I think in real life the girl was 14 when Lelia adopted her and educated her). The girl is beautiful but looks very much like a young girl still growing, not an legal adult woman (18/19). 

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For the most part, I liked the show.  From what I've read on other sites, they really did play fast and loose with the supporting characters, especially Addie.  That's disappointing, because it seems that Madam's true bio would be interesting enough without embellishment.  I loved the costumes and the sets, I felt they really paid attention to detail.  And, with one exception (below) I thought they cast the supporting roles really well.  I loved Ransom, and Sweetness.  And, oh, Blair Underwood...  can't go wrong there.

I liked the dream sequences, and how they changed theme with each episode.  I also really liked the music - both the choice to use modern music over period music, and the specific songs they chose, too. 

I did not like Tiffany Haddish in this role.  I thought she was a weird choice based on both age and appearance.  I just never bought her as Sarah & CJ's daughter.  And, I felt her acting hit a very odd tone.  I don't know what they were going for there. 

I do wish they made it more than 4 episodes.  The first 3 episodes were well timed, but the fourth was just rushed.  And so much didn't make sense.   The whole "stealing the formula" plot totally contradicted the first episode, where they spent a lot of time showing Sarah trying to come up with her own product, and being proud of that, especially that it smelled much better than Addie's. 

I do want to learn more about Madam Walker, and I'm putting her (real) biography on my reading list for this year. 

 

 

 

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20 hours ago, Scarlett45 said:

She looked very much like a child to me. An older child but I believed her to be 13-15 years old (I think in real life the girl was 14 when Lelia adopted her and educated her). The girl is beautiful but looks very much like a young girl still growing, not an legal adult woman (18/19). 

If she adopted a teenager, that makes more sense to me.

That seemed very thrown much thrown together at the end - by the way, I have a new heir now! And I know I was pushing you to get married and give birth, but you looked unhappy talking to that one man, so never mind!

I think they could have used at least six episodes. We barely got to see Madam Walker actually enjoying her newfound wealth.

18 hours ago, chaifan said:

The whole "stealing the formula" plot totally contradicted the first episode, where they spent a lot of time showing Sarah trying to come up with her own product, and being proud of that, especially that it smelled much better than Addie's. 

I guess the idea was just that she tinkered with the basic formula to give it a better smell?

In real life, they were both using an old formula (petroleum jelly and sulfur) that had been around for ages. It seems kind of unfair that the miniseries presents it as Madam Walker "stealing" something from a rival.

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1 hour ago, Blakeston said:

If she adopted a teenager, that makes more sense to me.

Yes she was a teenager. IRL her family had fallen on hard times, and this wasn’t an adoption in the sense that she wouldn’t have contact with her bio family any more, but a chance to be educated and given opportunities she wouldn’t have had otherwise. Also Leila never had biological children of her own so this was her chance to love, nurture someone as well as carry in her Mom’s legacy. That young ladies’ granddaughter is the person that wrote the book the miniseries was based on. 

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I haven't watched the last episode yet, but my biggest gripe so far is the Addie Munroe character. I realize this is a fictionalized account, and that she's probably a mixture of Mrs. Walker's competitors, but I just don't think they really needed this 'nemesis' character. Especially since I'm sure, as a black woman trying to grow a business at the turn of the century, she had enough struggles, so they didn't need to invent any.

Love the production design: costumes, wigs, sets. Casting is good, with Haddish as a weak spot; but she did fine in general.

Definitely going to check out the book this is based on.

 

(Also, I thought this would be in the Specials forum since it's a one-time mini-series.)

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On 3/22/2020 at 3:08 PM, Blakeston said:

I can't say I cared for the casting of Tiffany Haddish. She didn't seem comfortable somehow. And it was hard to believe that she'd be so open about her lesbianism in those times. The whole character seemed like she'd stepped out of a different series

Tiffany was so 21st century in her acting. I was recasting with Tika Sumpter or Aja Naomi King in my head. Also, Tiffany is only 6 years younger than Octavia. I know Madam CJ was a teen mom, but the actress should have been 15 years younger than Octavia.

Dora, the woman CJ leaves Sarah for, was wearing her hair curly... again very 21st century. Regardless of hair style or curl pattern, black women didn't wear their hair air-dried with a little hair gel and a single bobby pin in 1901. She would have blown it out. Just another reason I never bought the time period.

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22 minutes ago, BoogieBurns said:

Dora, the woman CJ leaves Sarah for, was wearing her hair curly... again very 21st century. Regardless of hair style or curl pattern, black women didn't wear their hair air-dried with a little hair gel and a single bobby pin in 1901. She would have blown it out. Just another reason I never bought the time period.

Yes that style was TOO modern. All women also wore their hair UP outside of their homes. 

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