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Ahead of Oscars, NAACP President Criticizes ‘Green Book’ for ‘Negative Stereotype’

Derrick Johnson says the Oscar-nominated drama is a "setback" when it comes to depicting nuanced black characters in film.

“Green Book”

Universal Pictures

Green Book” might be the co-frontrunner to win the Oscar for Best Picture, but the drama was not named in the Outstanding Motion Picture category when the nominees for the 2019 NAACP Image Awards were announced earlier today. The Peter Farrelly-directed film only earned one Image Award nomination, Mahershala Ali for Best Supporting Actor, which is a far cry from its five Academy Award nominations. In an interview with The Wrap, NAACP president Derrick Johnson called “Green Book” a “missed opportunity” to tell a nuanced story about race relations.

“Mahershala Ali’s portrayal, I mean, his skills were great. So I see [the film] as a missed opportunity to have great content that’s more accurate than not,” Johnson said. “So for me, it was great acting skills for Mahershala, with a false storyline that’s masquerading to be true.”

Johnson was referencing how the film’s script, co-written by Nick Vallelonga, takes liberties in telling the story of pianist Don Shirley. Family members of Shirley have condemned the movie as a “symphony of lies” and Johnson was critical of the film’s “false storyline” as well. The NAACP president also criticized “Green Book” for relying on a “negative stereotype” in portraying a black man being enlightened by a white man. Johnson said the movie is a “setback” in terms of depicting nuanced black characters in film.

“When you create a movie like ‘Green Book’ and you project as if there’s a white guy introducing a black guy to fried chicken — a traditional African American dish — which is patently wrong,” Johnson said. “The family says that there was never any conversation with the family about the uniqueness of the character. So as a result of that, none of the quality nuances of the character came through and it fell on a very myopic, negative stereotype that should no longer exist.”

“Green Book” is now playing in theaters. The 2019 NAACP Image Awards are set to take place March 30.

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