The Black father is often maligned and the myth of the absent Black father prevails, yet there is sometimes backlash when a strong Black father is portrayed in the media. The new film “King Richard,” starring Will Smith as Richard Williams — father of tennis greats Venus and Serena Williams — is receiving accolades and criticism for focusing on the father instead of his daughters.
Venus and Serena Williams were actually the ones behind the film about their father. They were executive producers for the movie, which portrays the brashness and bold nature of Richard Williams. Isha Price, one of their half-sisters, was also an executive producer. The film shows how Richard urged Venus and Serena not just to be tennis legends but to become confident women who are secure in their Blackness.
But there is fallout on Twitter, some of it sparked from a tweet by radical feminist author and psychologist Dr. Jessica Taylor, who tweeted, “Did they seriously make a film called ‘King Richard’ about the success of Serena and Venus Williams – but it’s about their dad, Richard?”
U.K.-based Taylor is a psychologist and the author of a recently-published book, “Sexy But Psycho: Uncovering the Psychiatric Labelling of Women and Girls.” In 2017, Taylor launched VictimFocus, a company that works to eradicate victim blaming. According to its website, it’s “dedicated to challenging poor practice, discrimination and oppression of victims of abuse, trauma, and violence.” Taylor’s writings and work are feminist based, according to her bio.
“I get this has annoyed people but I genuinely didn’t expect a film about two of the most powerful, successful and amazing black female athletes to be named after a man, or centre a man” Taylor tweeted. “I would have loved this film to be all about them, and not a man. That’s it really.”
Many clapped back.
Actress Mikayla Lashae Bartholomew, who portrays Venus’ and Serena’s sister, Tunde Price, tweeted “As one of the sisters in ‘King Richard’, I hope you get a chance to watch our work & take some time to look into the Williams family role in making this film. Without them, this wouldn’t be possible. The origin stories of Black icons deserve space & to be told as they desire.”
Others pointed out that a white feminist cannot relate. “Venus and Serena were literally executive producers. Whew. It’s nothing quite like non-Black people telling Black people, especially women, how to tell their own stories about their own lives,” tweeted Preston Mitchum, director of Advocacy and Government Affairs with the Trevor Project, a suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ youth.
“You didn’t want to see them. You wanted to see yourself” tweeted Vince Crypto.Com @EvelKneidel. “This is the story they’ve told. And you’ve rejected it, because your own values were not represented. You don’t value black women for themselves. You covet them as a vehicle for your own white redemption”.
But others sided with Dr. Taylor. “Not surprised to hear the accusations of hagiography in the ‘King Richard’ film” tweeted Black feminist journey to the past @femfilmrogue. “Sounds like it almost erases the contributions Oracene Price, a tennis coach, made to her successful daughters— Venus and Serena. Plus the male centric film title gives it away anyway.”
“Black Fathers Matter” tweeted SportsNet New York Anchor Chris Williamson.
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