Where do we begin?
Twitter users wasted no time telling Cher and the Lifetime network how foolish they look producing a made-for-TV movie about a human rights disaster that isn’t even close to a resolution.
We trust that Cher, her co-producers (Katie Couric, Craig Zadan, Neil Meron) and Oscar-nominated director Bruce Beresford started this project with good intentions. But the lack of self-awareness and cultural sensitivity they have already shown in their casting and promotion makes it hard to imagine the film being anything more than a White-washed retelling of this crisis that turns real time human suffering into melodramatic empathy porn.
Beyond the fact that Flint’s victims will probably still be cooking and bathing with bottled water while unaffected American housewives try to use Cher’s familiar face to empathize with them, the most glaring issue with this film is the fact that its producers, star and director are White and wealthy.
Yes, the water crisis affected people of all races and classes. But Flint is one of the ten Blackest cities in America. And almost 42 percent of residents live below the poverty line. Those fact can’t be minimized or overlooked, especially in pop culture’s first re-telling of this story.
We all know that if Flint’s residents were as White or well-off as the cast and crew trying to representing them, their water would have never been poisoned in the first place. But we also know that if a Black woman were starring in Cher’s place, much of America wouldn’t take the time to watch.
To attach any narrative to this story beyond racism and capitalism is offensive to victims and misleading to viewers. And whether this movie miraculously makes mainstream White Americans care about their long-suffering neighbors or not, it will certainly reinforce the racist values that caused this disaster in the first place.
Cher is the pretty White woman America was created to protect. Pretending to be a victim of America’s systematic negligence is not productive, empathetic or heroic. It directly contributes to the root issue of Flint’s crisis: America doesn’t care about Black people.
Cher and her partners know that just as well as we do. That’s why she is starring. But they should realize they are not doing anyone any favors by playing further into this country’s deeply racist dynamics, even if it’s all under the guise of the greater good.
In reality, every penny spent on this movie and every second spent producing or watching it would be better spent directly helping the people of Flint. Every bottle of water they drink on set should be shipped to victims. And every ounce of creativity needed to squeeze a full-length movie out of an incomplete tragedy could be used brainstorming immediate solutions.
To her credit, Cher has done more than her fair share of donating and volunteering to Flint. But no one should think that her genuine efforts give her free reign to co-opt this story and expand her IMDB catalog.
Good intentions and all, Lifetime and its filmmakers look like textbook culture vultures to everyone truly invested in and affected by this crisis.
Even donating the profits, spiking fundraising and raising awareness can’t cancel out the fact that everyone involved in this project will be furthering their careers and personal interests with this film. All while Flint’s residents continue to pray for a true savior.
As a human being, I’m genuinely confused by Cher and her partners’ decision to make this film. But I’m even more puzzled as a filmmaker. I know from experience that it’s possible to bullshit your way through a film without a solid resolution. But why try? Why not document yourself actually solving the problem?
I could very well be wrong about this entire project. It might raise all the money needed to save Flint and wake the entire world up to an urgent human rights crisis. But even if a Lifetime movie starring Cher is the magic formula that will make finally America care about poor brown people, where does that leave us?
Next, maybe Julia Roberts could option the rights to the Sandra Bland story and spark a mainstream movement towards police reform.
But no. Who am I kidding? Not even Hollywood would buy that shit.