Jenna Bush Hager — Golden Globes pre-show host — interviewed Pharrell Williams, who worked on music for “Hidden Figures.” Bush Hager mistakenly called the film “Hidden Fences,” mixing up the “Hidden Figures” with the August Wilson film named “Fences.” Williams’ face fell as Bush Hager fumbled the names — and it’s easy to see why.
“Hidden Figures” is about black women who worked for NASA, while “Fences” is about a man who comes to terms with the impact raising a family has on his life. Since both films have completely different storylines and predominantly black casts, it could be seen as the industry dismissing black actors and directors — especially when the films “The Night Of” and “The Night Manager” were never mixed up, even though the titles were very similar. It wouldn’t be hard to mix up those names, at all. They’re one word apart, and it’s probably something they had to go over a couple times to make sure no one call it by the wrong name. Obviously the same efforts weren’t made for “Hidden Figures”.
After the incident, EBONY Magazine tweeted, “#HiddenFences? Hey, we don’t all look alike. Put some respect on our movies. #GoldenGlobes.”
Michael Keaton made the same mistake when it was time to introduce the Best Supporting Actress in a motion picture, drama, category, which included “Hidden Figures” star Octavia Spencer.
This isn’t the first time Hollywood has mixed up black actors. In an interview with Samuel L. Jackson, Los Angeles reporter Sam Rubin mistook him for Laurence Fishburne. Yes, both actors are black — but they look nothing alike.
Events like this remind me of the times when I was called names like Alisha or Tatiana, who happened to be the only other black girls in the class. The height difference or the different body types never seemed to make much of a difference. Our skin tone was enough to be called the wrong name.
The following Monday, Bush Hager apologized on The Today Show for the mistake by saying, “I’ve seen both movies. I thought both were brilliant.” Bush Hager went on to say she never meant to make anyone feel “lesser than who they are.”
Although Bush Hager’s apology seemed sincere, it doesn’t erase the feeling of not being as significant or clumped together when there is a diverse group. It’s not hard to separate figures from fences. It shouldn’t be hard to be tell the difference between Taraji P. Henson and Viola Davis. They have similar skin tones, but not much else. It’s almost worse that she’s seen both movies and still got the titles mixed up. Maybe she had “Fences” on her mind when she was speaking with Williams — but who knows.
It’s almost like calling your significant other by another person’s name. Let’s say you get dressed up ready to go on a date. You’re ready to have a good time with them and hear how much they appreciate you. And in the midst of everything, their ex’s name slips out. Just think about the feeling you would have. How mad would you be? I know that if that were me, I’d be livid.
So, imagine going to an award show where you’ve put in so many hours and hard work into a film, just for it to be called the wrong name over and over again. It just makes you feel like it wasn’t as appreciated as the other films. It has every right to be held to the same standard, especially since “Hidden Figures” beat out “Rogue One” in the box office.
If you can differentiate between “The Night of” and “The Night Manager”, you can do the same for “Hidden Figures” and “Fences”. Give black films and actors the same effort and respect that you give the others.