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Why We Need to Leave Hating POC Women in Hollywood Behind

It should be a given at this point to not be racist, yet POC women in Hollywood constantly face racist and sexist attacks.

(Left) Shutterstock/Kathy Hutchins, (Right) Shutterstock/DFree

The constant bombardment of society’s unjustified hatred toward POC women in Hollywood is a struggle that has been far too long and disgusting to witness.

It is always shocking to see people online receive death threats and untoward negativity over nothing, but it’s even more appalling when the outcry stems from continuous disgusting ideology just repackaged under different reasoning. 

POC women in Hollywood from Rachel Zegler to Halle Bailey and more face just that.

This colorism has a long-rooted history within a racist past and continues to weed its way into the public eye, as seen by the unwarranted commentary online. 

Sure, it’ll be cloaked as a “validated” critique, but at the end of the day, call it what it is: just downright racist and/or cruel. 

In general, we’ve become too comfortable on social media, forgetting that there’s a real person sitting on the other side of the screen, especially when it comes to celebrities. 

Credit: YouTube/Variety

Halle Bailey commented on this in her 2023 Variety “Actors on Actors” interview with Rachel Zegler, stating, “People start taking you away from being a real human being that has feelings and reacts to things.”

Just One Question: Why the Hate?

Did we all forget that Rachel Zegler is so beyond talented and literally only 22? That Halle Bailey is just one year her senior? 

These women are young and yet face so much cruelty in their everyday lives. 

Zegler was only 17 when she starred in Steven Spielberg’s remake of the classic musical, West Side Story. If that doesn’t set you in stone as a formidable actor, I don’t know what does. 

Rachel Zegler on the red carpet for Shazam! Fury of the Gods. Credit: Shutterstock/Loredana Sanguiliano

But it wasn’t until Shazam 2 that she faced serious backlash with her comments of taking the role because of a need for a job. 

Let’s be real: Robert Pattinson was never over the moon to play the leading love interest in Twilight, which continues to be his biggest role to date. Yet there were no “crazy super-fans” going up in arms about his gripes. 

In the wise words of Taylor Swift, “women can only overreact.” 

On top of that, Zegler had a few controversial comments to say on her upcoming Snow White remake, arguing that Snow White would not need a man to save her in the film.

According to a 2022 interview with ExtraTV, Zegler said, “The original cartoon came out in 1937, and very evidently so. There’s a big focus on her love story with a guy who literally stalks her. Weird!”

Many accused her of “pseudo feminism” with TikTok user @CosyWithAngie commenting in a now viral video, “It is not anti-feminist to want to fall in love…Criticizing Disney princesses is not feminist.”

The backlash from what are clearly Disney PR-fed lines towards her was so unnecessary. This remains a reflection of the bandwagon of picking women apart for the most minuscule of remarks. 

On top of that, Zegler faced condemnation for her casting for the princess since she is of Latin descent.

Luckily, with the release of Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes in November, she certainly has garnered much more (well deserved) popularity. 

Halle Bailey on the red carpet for The Little Mermaid. Credit: Shutterstock/Loredana Sanguiliano

But the same could not be said for Halle Bailey who starred in Disney’s remake of The Little Mermaid, which released in May of 2023. 

This time, the controversy was more upfront as people took to social media in a storm, raging about how Bailey didn’t have the “correct” skin color to play Ariel.

After the trailer’s release, #NotMyAriel trended on Twitter ,just adding to the layers of hate toward Bailey, another insanely talented actor and singer.

It’s literally a mermaid. Grow up.

There is no “right” skin color for Ariel because she’s a fictional character in a fictional place.

What’s made even worse is when people start attacking literal children.

Leah Jeffries attends the Queen Charlotte premiere. Credit: Shutterstock/Micheal Mattes

In 2022 Leah Jeffries, now 14-years-old, known for her role as Annabeth in the Percy Jackson series, faced the same backlash as Halle Bailey for not looking like the original character. 

Percy Jackson is an insanely popular book series, turned show, and has a devoted fanbase so unfortunately that equals backlash when things don’t look their way.

Annabeth, a traditionally white, blonde, blue-eyed character sparked debate with Leah Jeffries casting. Once again, people disliked a Black actor playing someone who was described originally as white.

Author Rick Riordan quickly stepped into the scene to shut down these racist remarks calling out naysayers as they are.

“You are judging her appropriateness for this role solely and exclusively on how she looks,” Riordan said. “Friends, that is racism.”

The Issue

Women have always faced higher standards in the media, and this is only elevated when you’re a woman of color. 

Male counterparts, especially when white, don’t seem to face this much “controversy” from the public.

But to this day, women are still facing backlash for not having the “ideal look” of a character. With the release of Mean Girls in 2024, Renee Rapp, though a white actor, faced body-shaming for playing Regina George, which exasperated her eating disorder.

These are all an unwarranted rampage. The internet just gives too many people unlimited power of thought.

We become so disconnected as a society, we forget that these are people behind the screen reading every negative thought you put out. The lack of empathy is quite scary.

While the internet isn’t completely to blame as there has always been racism and sexism prevalent in media, it certainly hasn’t made it any better.

Sure, they’re just trolls, but that doesn’t stop the impact it has on one’s mental health.

I have to acknowledge that I’m writing this with the privilege of being a white woman. With that, I will never experience or fully know the hardships one has to face as a POC woman in society, nor will I face such scrutiny in the media. I also have to acknowledge that as a white person, I have a plethora of people and characters who look like me in Hollywood, which is not the case for POC. I am so beyond grateful I get to even have a platform to share my thoughts when so many POC writers don’t have the same.    

As much as people continue to bring coverage to this issue, it seems like every year there’s more and more names dragged under the dirt for the same racist and sexist beliefs. 

But the responses to racist individuals online has seemingly gotten better. More people have been calling out these remarks and haters for what they truly are. This energy is definitely one that needs to continue into the rest of 2024. 

It’s simple: stop being racist and/or sexist. 

Written By

Kaitlyn Mahan (she/her) is currently a freshman at Columbia College Chicago double majoring in creative writing and journalism. She predominantly focuses on prominent news coverage both nation and world wide and hopes to pursue a career in news publication writing.

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