Sofia Coppola's New Movie is Starting a Conversation About Representation

June 19th 2017

Almie Rose

Sofia Coppola's latest film is a remake of "The Beguiled," a story about young women during the Civil War—and it's getting some criticism for the removal of a key character.

The Beguiled

The original 1971 version of The Beguiled—based on a novel by Thomas P. Cullinan—included the character of Hallie, a slave. Coppola's version omits the character entirely, with reviews noting that she transferred some of Hallie's lines to the character of Martha, played by Nicole Kidman. 

"I didn't want to brush over such an important topic in a light way," Coppola emailed BuzzFeed news, explaining her decision to remove Hallie.

As she continues, via BuzzFeed, "young girls watch my films and this was not the depiction of an African-American character I would want to show them." She added, "of course I understand that [controversy over this decision] would be brought up. I was clear about my decision — because I want to be respectful to that history."

So, rather than include Hallie's narrative, Coppola, who also wrote the script, cut the character and included a line about how the slaves had already left.

Some agreed with Coppola's decision.

On Saturday, entertainment writer Ira Madison III tweeted:

Writer Vann R. Newkirk II tweeted similar sentiments:

But some think by removing Hallie, Coppola is erasing black women and changing the story.

beguiled tweets

beguiled Facebook comments

beguiled facebook comments

After telling BuzzFeed that she was, "interested in stories of groups of women together," Coppola was then asked if she was potentially removing an important perspective in a story.

"I feel like you can’t show everyone’s perspective in a story," she explained. "I was really focused on just this one group of women who were really isolated and weren’t prepared. A lot of slaves had left at that time, so they were really— that emphasized that they were cut off from the world. [Hallie’s] story’s a really interesting story, but it’s a whole other story, so I was really focused on these women."

She added, "I would love to have a more racially diverse cast whenever I can. It didn’t work for this story, but of course I’m very open to stories about many different experiences and points of view."

Which some people didn't buy.

Even some who defended Coppola realized that perhaps another type of representation—from behind the camera—would have led to a different outcome. As Newkirk followed up to his own tweet, "granted, that's why you hire black women, but I think at least this way the potential badness is limited lol." 

To which writer Nyasha Junior responded, "Then let someone else do it." 

[H/T BuzzFeed]