Design duo Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough of Proenza Schouler recently unleashed a controversial short film/advertisement called “Act da Fool”:
In the four minute video we hear the profanity-laced narration of a young black Southern girl who appears alternatively drinking a 40 or hanging with her friends who she says, “can act like wild animals.” All the while, she talks about smoking cigarettes, doing ‘messed up $hit,” and “Acting da Fool”
The video is chock full of ebonics–and negative stereotypes about African-Americans (the girls wear large, unkempt afros, play basketball, and give the camera the finger):
The film’s motives and point seemed unclear at first, so I looked to this interview by Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough, where they discussed how they came up with their concept:
In sum they said they were trying to, “find the beauty in something society has refused” and tell the story of girls who have been, “beaten down and disenfranchised, but still find something to believe in.” Apparently the short film was inspired by the movie Kids and was conceived by Kids writer, Harmony Korine:
Kids, which had a multicultural cast including Chloe Sevigny and Rosario Dawson, focused on the struggle of poor teenagers and skaters in New York City. Writer Korine went to NYU’s Tisch School of Arts, and perhaps used the people he met and his experiences in New York as a skater in Washington Square Park to inform his writing.
What empirical research did he conduct for his latest ‘masterpiece’?
He told the New York Times that while in Nashville, he, “used to hang out with this gang of black girls that were really hardcore delinquents, and I always loved them.” He continued, “Sometimes we would walk home from school and I would just watch them like set stuff on fire. Some of them would sleep in tree-houses and things. I used to always just think they were so terrific. In some way I just kinda tapped into that story.”
Ok, but aside from the young girls used as models in the film–one cast member worked at the local zoo, another at a school for the blind, one is a double dutch champion–was anyone involved with the creation of the film African-American?
I went through the credits to see if anyone listed–from stylist, to editor, to production assistant–could have lent a bit of input to this African-American portrayal. Behold, the pictures I could find of the team behind the scenes: Mel Ottenberg, Scott Pierce, Adam Robinson, Lauren Edelstein, Lauren Taylor. I also searched for photos of the people given special thanks: Jen Brill, Bryan Boone, Ruth Inouye, Marisa Pucci, Mary Pierson, Aaron Rose, Shea Steele, Rachel Korine, Charles-Marie Anthonioz, Jeff Rudes, Shirley Cook, Alejandro Cardenas, Stephanie Dane, and Justinian Kfoury:
Not one black face.
With seemingly no African-American input, the film didn’t and couldn’t offer a fair or accurate portrayal of the African-American experience.
I’m all for creating art and making people think, but when it comes to sensitive issues like race, you would hope that the people responsible would go over and above to properly do their homework.
Perhaps Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough’s had good intentions, but the final product, instead of “finding the beauty in something society has refused,” gave society more reasons to continue to refuse the disenfranchised.
They did admit to the New York Times that they live in a closed, insular world. Lazaro said, “What’s great is that we don’t have anyone telling us what to do. This job is like a cultural- territorial- thing, you put your finger up to the wind and see what you’re thinking and go with it. That’s just a result of our living and our experiences. Our collections are very autobiographical, I guess, our references are our own life.” Harmony added, “I just do what I want to do. I don’t really ask too many questions. I drink lots and lots of malt liquor and snort white-out and just follow the rainbow.”
It’s obvious they don’t know what they’re talking about and don’t really care to know.
Unapologetic ignorance. I see no beauty in that.
What do you think?
*My Twitter buddy Erica Kennedy (@Feminista09) said that, ” They want a reaction, they got it. The FEEL of it is great. They can’t offend black customers. They don’t have any.”
I’m not so sure they don’t have black customers: