We thought the recent photo we posted of Mariah Carey from her upcoming film The Butler would shock fans due to the normally high-maintenance diva going barefaced, but it was actually something else that had people up in arms. The photo depicts Mariah as field slave Hattie Pearl in the movie about Eugene Allen, a service worker who served eight presidents from 1952 to 1986. Some were calling it historically inaccurate, as they thought someone of such a light skin tone would be a “house slave”.
However, some Grio readers disputed that, saying that there was a lot of crossover between the house and the field, as many of these slaves grew up with their families.
As women’s history scholar Elizabeth Fox-Genovese noted, many females slaves “regardless of color often grew up around the house, helping older female slaves in the house as well as serving as playmates to the master’s little girls. So, at different points, they could have easily have worked in both the house and in the fields. It was mostly dependent upon need. Also, it is important to note that a large number of house slaves were not mulatto.”
Some also expressed surprise that Mariah would embrace such a role that highlights her status as a black woman, since many thought she hasn’t identified herself with the black culture before this.
The Grio article points out that Quentin Tarantino’s blockbuster film Django Unchained challenged stereotypical slave notions as well, whether it meant to or not. Kerry Washington played a house slave despite her brown skin as well as Leonardo DiCaprio’s slave mistress in the film.
What do you think about the debate over Mariah’s skin tone in The Butler?