During the Golden Globe Awards last night, more than just La La Land and Meryl Streep caught people's attention. On more than one occassion, white celebs confused the titles of two predominantly black films, Fences and Hidden Figures.
Fences, starring Viola Davis and Denzel Washington, is the movie version of a play by August Wilson. Hidden Figures, starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe, tells the story of three black women that were integral to NASA in the 1960s.
Today Show host Jenna Bush-Hager first confused the two movies when interviewing Pharrell about his nomination for Best Original Score for Hidden Figures. His reaction was priceless, but also upsetting, because you can visibly see his disappointment. The video went viral over multiple social media platforms, and #HiddenFences began trending on Twitter.
— Karen Civil (@KarenCivil) January 9, 2017
Later actor Michael Keaton mixed up the films as he read the nominations for Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture.
Since this seems like an honest mistake anyone could make (the titles are very similar, after all), you might be wondering why it caused such an uproar. Refinery29 writer Sesali Bowen believes that the "Hidden Fences" flub is another example of white privilege. She writes, "Make no mistake about it, there is really nothing funny about the fact that two very different Black films are so easily reduced to unidentifiable versions of the same thing. This kind of microaggression is an erasure."
While there might not have been any racist intent behind Keaton and Bush-Hager's confusion, it's clear that we need to take more notice of diverse projects in Hollywood and pay attention to the details, big or small. Fences and Hidden Figures are two extraordinary films and should be recognized separately, not sloppily lumped together with other black films. Hollywood, do better.