The campy-yet-poignant 1989 tearjerker Steel Magnolias earned a pre-Pretty Woman Julia Roberts her first Oscar nomination and grossed $96 million at the box office. Now the film, which also starred Sally Field, Dolly Parton, and Olympia Dukakis as a close-knit circle of friends in rural Louisiana, is being remade as a Lifetime TV movie — this time with an all-black cast. The project will be directed by Kenny Leon, who directed the TV-movie version of A Raisin in the Sun starring Sean "P. Diddy" Combs. Some commentators are questioning the new Steel Magnolias' all-black casting treatment, considering that race relations play little part in the film's plot (none, really). Still, could this work?
No, this makes no sense at all: Of all properties to remake with an all-black cast, says Megan Angelo at Business Insider, why this? Other productions that have gone this route, like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Hamlet, had themes, time periods, and plots that resonated in new ways when the cast was uniformly black. "Not ditto for Dolly Parton and armadillo cake." Considering that the script will likely have to be re-written, "why not just start from scratch altogether, instead of awkwardly calling it an all-black remake?"
"An all African-American remake of Steel Magnolias is on its way"
This also signals a sad state of affairs for black actresses: With "leading roles available to black actresses" in such short supply, Hollywood is sadly resorting again to its "insufferable penchant for remakes" to attract top talent, says Megan Gibson at TIME. While African-American actresses will likely leap at the opportunity to portray complex lead characters "that aren't maids or ghettoized in some way," it's unfortunate that the opportunity comes in the form of a Lifetime television movie.
"Lifetime remaking Steel Magnolias with an all-black cast"
Regardless, it'll be a hit: Anyone who's seen Steel Magnolias can attest to its status as a "funny, lady-centric tearjerker" full of "sharply drawn" characters, says Dodai Stewart at Jezebel. And "the popularity and success of Tyler Perry's sudsy family dramas" has laid the groundwork for this re-formulation to work.
"Steel Magnolias remake will have all-black cast"