*Minor spoilers below*
When the trailer for Ma dropped back in February, I couldn’t help but be excited.
I was equally part thrilled, part disturbed, and part humored. For two and a half minutes, I wanted to suspend any race and gender analysis I had and just enjoy Octavia Spencer terrorize these kids in a scary and slightly hilarious way.
After seeing Ma this past weekend, however, I left the theater feeling conflicted. On one hand, I couldn’t shake the fact that Spencer was playing a grown woman who abused minors as a way to get back at her high school bullies. But on the other hand, I was thrilled that Spencer was playing someone who wasn’t a maid, the funny fat Black woman, or the emotional mule used to carry a White person’s burdens.
With Ma, I witnessed Spencer’s full emotional range — from joy, to rage, to sadness — in a role that’s usually reserved for White women (Kathy Bates in Misery comes to mind). Even the things that disturbed me about the film led to a great discussion with my friend about the themes of the movie, the role of the horror genre, and what worked well vs. what didn’t.
More roles like this for Octavia please.
Done are the days where the Black woman of size is relegated to the supporting role and then she gets a pat on the back with a few Oscar nominations. Spencer continues to prove she’s ready for the spotlight in the trailer for Luce, which dropped on Tuesday.
In the flick, Spencer plays Ms. Wilson, a teacher who calls a star athlete student into question after she makes a shocking discovery in his locker. With the trailer, Spencer seems to be taking on another psychological thriller where the moral lines are blurred and the intensions of Spencer’s character are up for debate.
Once again, Spencer seems to be playing a character not intended to make people comfortable. This can be a big deal for Black actors, especially in a world where we’re already criminalized, over-sexualized or considered crazy (especially Black women). Why take on roles that can further enforce these narratives or worse, disrupt the work being done to advance Black equity.
However, Spencer’s decision to grab these roles allows her to delve deep into the dark spaces for a tale that could be cautionary, revelatory or just plain fun to watch. Controversy might follow in the end, but Spencer is a brown-skinned Black woman of size leading a movie.
She’s already controversial.
Let’s find out where she takes us and we’ll talk about it afterwards.