Why Snoop Dogg objects to the critically acclaimed remake of 'Roots'

The singer asked fans not to watch the remake of 'Roots,' which debuted on May 30. Most reviewers have responded positively to the new take on the classic miniseries.

Steve Dietl/History
'Roots' stars Malachi Kirby (l.) and Emayatzy Corinealdi (r.).

Critics may be fans of the current remake of the acclaimed 1977 miniseries "Roots," but one person isn't: rapper Snoop Dogg. 

The new version of the TV miniseries debuted on May 30 and Snoop Dogg posted a video on Instagram the same day, asking viewers to not watch the series. 

"Let's create our own [programs] based on today, how we live and how we inspire people today," Snoop Dogg says in the video. In the clip, he objects not only to "Roots" but to the 2013 film "12 Years a Slave" and the recent WGN America series "Underground," which tells the story of slaves attempting to flee to freedom. 

Snoop Dogg is not the first to speak against recent projects that depict African-American slaves. "Generally speaking, we as black people have been celebrated more for when we are subservient, when we are not being leaders or kings of being in the center of our own narrative, driving it forward," actor David Oyelowo, who played Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 2014 film "Selma," commented on the Oscar race last year.

The discussion of which roles black actors and actresses receive recognition for from the Academy was brought up further last year and this year because of the "#OscarsSoWhite" controversy, in which only white actors and actresses were nominated for the Oscars acting prizes in 2015 and 2016. 

In 2015, Derrick Burnette of Newsweek wrote, "Movies like 'The Help,' 'The Butler,’ ‘Precious,' '12 Years a Slave,' and 'Training Day' all had black people as central characters … Unfortunately, it appears a large majority of our awards are presented to blacks when we play roles where we are servants, slaves, ghetto moms, or thugs."

Meanwhile, Maya Goodfellow of The Independent wrote earlier this year, "People of colour still only win awards in films that portray slavery and its legacy … the danger is they act a marker to show how far America has come, separating the past from the present as if the legacies of slavery don't haunt the present and racism doesn't exist any more, affecting the lives of so many African-Americans."

However, "The Academy-ordained roles inhabited by black actors don't entirely bear our Oyelowo's claims," Stephanie Merry argued in The Washington Post last February. "In the supporting categories, some examples back up Oyelowo's claims, including [Hattie] McDaniel, [Octavia] Spencer and [Lupita] Nyong'o. But there was also Jennifer Hudson in a heartbreaking turn as an aspiring Motown star in 'Dreamgirls,' and Cuba Gooding Jr. hot-dogging football player screaming 'show me the money' in 'Jerry Maguire' … It would be difficult to claim unequivocally that the Academy today only recognizes certain black roles." 

So what about "Roots"? Many critics have given the new version of the miniseries positive reviews and say that they think the TV series reflects our times and concerns.

"The remake is resolute in producing credible historical fiction and presenting it through a slave's perspective," Entertainment Weekly writer Jeff Jensen writes of the new take. "It is also disinterested in assuaging white discomfort … [The] strength [of the characters] is heroic but never phony nor dramatized without thought of cost … A difficult yet rewarding journey."

And Boston Globe writer Matthew Gilbert called the program "a 'Roots' for right now … a miniseries that's as spikily relevant now as the original was back in 1977. It's a technically updated and marvelously acted work for the era of 'Black Lives Matter,' a solid dramatic reminder of the complexity and depth of racism in America."

Not all reviewers agreed that the work was flawless, however. Time writer Daniel D'Addario wrote of the production, "It's exhilarating to see so many actors of color getting work, but it's also troubling: not only do these roles require them to re-enact the debasement of black people, but they do so in the service of a story already well-told. Are there no other great productions that require their talents? … There's real value in seeing, again, the evils of slavery depicted for what they were. But 'Roots'' narrative, so groundbreaking in its time, feels lacking in an era in which activists are forcefully reminding us that black lives matter."

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