Viola Davis is an acclaimed American actress known for her work in film, television, and theater. She is the first African-American actress to achieve the Triple Crown of Acting, with competitive Emmy, Tony and Oscar wins.
However, despite her immense talent and success, Davis has faced backlash and criticism from some people over the years. In this article, we will explore some of the key reasons why certain groups have expressed dislike or hatred towards Viola Davis.
Her Success and Prominence as a Dark-Skinned Actress
One of the main reasons why Viola Davis has faced animosity is her status as a prominent, successful dark-skinned African-American actress in Hollywood.
Colorism in Hollywood
Hollywood has a long history of colorism – the preferential treatment of lighter-skinned people of color over their darker-skinned peers in the entertainment industry.
Light-skinned black actresses have traditionally been given more leading roles and representation on screen compared to darker-skinned black actresses. Viola Davis’ immense success despite her darker skin tone challenges these norms.
Threat to Light-Skinned Actresses
Some argue that Viola Davis’ level of acclaim and status is a threat to light-skinned black actresses, as she is given leading roles and opportunities that may have gone to others before. Her success disrupts the status quo.
Challenging Eurocentric Beauty Standards
With her darker complexion and natural hair, Viola Davis also challenges long-held Eurocentric beauty ideals that emphasize lighter skin and European features. Her confidence and talent threaten notions that darker skin or natural hair are less beautiful or acceptable on screen.
Her Natural Hair and Looks
In line with the point above, Viola Davis also faced criticism early in her career for embracing her natural hair and looks, rather than conforming to Hollywood norms.
Early in her career, critics told Davis she was “not pretty enough”, and needed to change her looks to succeed. Some said she was “difficult to look at” because she did not try to make herself look prettier or more palatable to white audiences.
Refusing to Conform to Standards
However, Davis refused to change her looks to suit others, whether by getting lighter skin or straightening her hair. She broke barriers by wearing her natural hair in Afros, braids, and other styles on red carpets and in roles.
Confidence in Herself
Viola Davis exudes confidence in her talent and ability, not relying on Eurocentric standards of beauty to further her career. This threatens those who believe straight hair or lighter skin are requirements for leading ladies.
Her Outspokenness on Issues of Inequality
Viola Davis is also disliked by some due to her blunt, outspoken comments about racism, sexism, and inequality in Hollywood and society.
Calling Out Racist Industry Practices
Davis has called out the lack of opportunities for black creatives in Hollywood frequently. She highlighted racist industry practices, like darker skinned actresses getting paid less than their lighter counterparts.
Advocating for Equality
The actress is a champion for equal pay and representation of marginalized groups, like women of color, in entertainment. She uses her platform and voice to demand more inclusivity and justice.
Some find Davis too aggressive or accusatory in her advocacy. Her unapologetic tone about systemic inequality makes people uncomfortable or defensive.
Not Staying in Her Lane
As a successful black actress, some expect Davis to be grateful for her individual achievements, rather than critique the system overall. When she steps out of this “lane”, it angers some.
Her Portrayal of Stereotypical Roles
Ironically, another source of animosity towards Viola Davis stems from some of the early stereotypical maid and motherly roles she has played in films like The Help.
Reinforcing Racist Tropes
Some accuse Davis of reinforcing the “mammy” or “magical negro” racist Hollywood tropes by accepting and humanizing such roles earlier in her career.
Validating Black Stereotypes
Her nuanced portrayal of stereotypical characters seemingly validates these versions of black women to some critics.
Bolstering White Savior Narratives
When Viola Davis plays “maid” roles that center white characters as heroes, some argue she enables white savior narratives.
Selling Out for Hollywood
Taking stereotypical roles, some have argued, shows Davis’ willingness to “sell out” in order to succeed in Hollywood. Her early career choices anger those who want black actresses to refuse such parts.
Her Success Relative to Other Black Actresses
Sadly, Viola Davis also faces criticism because some people see her success as coming at the expense or displacement of other talented black actresses in Hollywood.
Replacing Other Black Actresses
When Davis gets high-profile, breakthrough roles some believe should have gone to other black women instead, it breeds resentment.
Unfair Advantage Due to Looks
As a darker skinned actress, some think Davis gets put on a pedestal as a diversity hire. Lighter skinned black actresses may resent her taking roles they could play.
Less Talented than Other Actresses
There is a perception among some that other black actresses like Taraji P. Henson or Kerry Washington are more talented than Davis, yet she gets more accolades.
Undeserving of Success
The sense that Davis leapfrogs other equally or more talented black actresses to jobs and awards makes some feel her success is undeserved or comes at the expense of others.
Her Interracial Marriage
Sadly, another source of criticism towards Davis involves personal attacks regarding her marriage to white actor Julius Tennon.
Betraying Black Men
Davis faces accusations of betraying black men or black pride by marrying a white man. Her interracial relationship evokes anger.
Hypocrisy of Advocacy
Some accuse Davis of hypocrisy for speaking out about racism yet choosing a white partner. They see it as a contradiction.
No Longer Fully Black
Her interracial marriage leads some to claim Davis is no longer authentically black or committed to black interests.
Implicit Bias of Interracial Relationships
Critics argue her marriage reflects buying into white standards of beauty, status and acceptability that devalue blackness.
Her Darker Skin Tone
As mentioned earlier, Colorism also impacts how some black viewers see Viola Davis, envying her success as a darker skinned actress.
Colorism Within Black Community
While racism affects all black people, colorism leads to prejudice against darker skinned black people from within the black community too.
Resentment of Dark Skin Representation
Some argue Davis’ superstardom and acclaim should be reserved for lighter skinned black actresses. They resent the focus on her darker skin.
Not the Right Kind of Black
Colorists believe only light skinned or mixed race black women can represent black beauty. Viola’s darker skin makes her the “wrong” kind of black to some.
Accusations of Reverse Colorism
There are accusations that Davis gets opportunities due to her darker skin, rather than just talent. Some see this as reverse colorism against light skinned black actresses.
Her Weight and Look
Viola Davis has also faced unfortunate criticism and mockery at times regarding her body shape and weight.
Lookism in Hollywood
The extreme emphasis on looks in Hollywood leads to judgment of women who do not fit narrow beauty standards of being slim and shaped a certain way.
Mocking Her Body
Davis has been shamed for being heavier set or not having an exaggerated hourglass figure. She’s been mocked as “fat” or “frumpy” unfairly.
Not Feminine Enough
Along with lookism comes the accusation that Davis lacks conventional femininity in how she carries herself and dresses due to her shape or size.
Resentment of Body Positivity
Viola’s confidence and success acts as a challenge to the notion only thin actresses can make it. This poses a threat to lookism.
In summary, Viola Davis faces unfair hatred and criticism due to a mix of racism, colorism, sexism, and lookism. Her confidence and success as a darker skinned black actress who challenges standards of beauty and speaks out against inequality threatens many norms and biases.
However, the outstanding talent and grace with which Davis handles adversity only serves to further cement her status as an icon. She continues to achieve immense success while pushing back against injustice and discrimination.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is Viola Davis so often portrayed as a maid or “mammy” type character?
Early in her career, Viola Davis was often typecast as maid, motherly “mammy” or sidekick characters like in The Help. This tied into racist Hollywood tropes that limited roles for black women. However, over time and with more prominence, Davis has taken on more diverse lead roles.
Is Viola Davis married to a white man?
Yes, Viola Davis is married to the actor Julius Tennon, who is white. They married in 2003 and have a daughter together. Some criticize her interracial marriage as hypocritical or a betrayal.
How has Viola Davis changed beauty standards for black women in Hollywood?
With her darker complexion, natural hair, and confidence, Viola Davis has challenged Eurocentric and lookist beauty ideals for black women in film and TV. She paved the way for more diversity of appearance on screen.
Why do people say Viola Davis is overrated?
Some argue other lighter skinned black actresses like Kerry Washington are more talented than Viola Davis, but she gets more accolades due to her darker skin. They feel her success is undeserved or comes at the expense of others.
What controversial comments has Viola Davis made about racism or inequality?
Davis has openly called out Hollywood’s treatment of black actresses. She’s confronted biased practices like darker skinned women getting paid less. Davis demands more inclusivity and equality.
How has Viola Davis responded to criticisms about her looks or colorism?
The actress stays confident in herself in the face of critiques about her skin tone, hair, or body. She focuses on being an excellent actor and advocate, not conforming to others’ standards.