Everything, Everything: A Review

I always liked Amandla Stenberg. As Rue from The Hunger Games, she was convincing, sweet, strong and cute. Her beauty was and is both striking and comforting. So when she blossomed into what appeared to be an intellectual and activist, she seemed a stroke of hope for the post-millennial generation. But in hindsight, I see that I was supposed to feel this way. Stenberg, functions as a mulatto cast to play both sides— to reel in black woman convincing us that she is “one of us”—to convince us that we are seen, heard and thereby represented. Stenberg is a strategy of the white world–designed to do exactly what she’s done –change up when we’re not looking.

Therefore, it seems only fitting that her first starring role feeds the contemporary fascination with interracial romance and biracial women. What makes the feature a tad more interesting is that Everything, Everything, a film designed to pollute the young black female’s mind with thoughts of interracial romance, is an overt product of black women. Namely, the book is written by Nicola Yoon, a black woman of Jamaican descent, and the film is also directed by Stella Meghie—a black woman. The black female presence associated with the film is undeniably a plot of the western world designed to validate the portrayal of a young black woman in her coming-of-age tale by suggesting the ones pulling the strings are black women themselves. This however is false, because the depths of systemic oppression program the black psyche solely with self destructive thoughts and images. It also imperative to note that the black author and producer, much like Stenberg, value visibility over the quality of portrayal. Their role is not to incite the masses to change the world,  but to convince an oppressed people that the antidote to their cyclical disenfranchisement is opening their heart to a white man.   Thus, the “everything” referenced in the film’s title has little to do with the actual story and everything to do with the carefully selected ingredients mixed together to feed the black female collective a poisonous cake designed to diminish the power of black love.

Amanda Stenberg, stars as Madelyn (Maddy), in the film adaptation of Nicola Yoon’s novel Everything, Everything. The novel and film function as a nuanced Rapunzel, where the sheltered princess longs to know the world beyond her window after falling in love. The twist on this age old story is that “Rapunzel” does not have long blonde hair, but 4a curls, because Rapunzal is a biracial black girl. The film predictably ends with the princess running into the sunset with her white prince—freed from her controlling mom—the story’s villain.

The film is an interesting “coming out” film for young actresses Amanda Stenberg, who in recent years has become a sort of contemporary activist. Her 2015 Youtube video “Don’t Cash Crop on my Cornrows” made waves for calling out white appropriation of black culture. Despite its resounding and well articulated thesis, Stenberg’s purpose was lost to many that could not get past her straight style worn during the video. These days Stenberg is natural and has seemingly traded in her processed locks for a processed mind. As the star of yet another means to incite interracial romance between white men and black women, Stenberg, a body that once seemed an ally to the black female plight to liberation, is now being used against us—a pattern entirely to familiar to the black collective. Namely, Stenberg as the film’s protagonist— a “kind of” black girl “freed” by a white man, paints her previous acts as reactionary not revolutionary. Her current actions are undoubtedly ones of survival, but demonstrate that she wishes not to be the artist but the art—open to be molded and interpreted as desired.

In the film, Maddy tells her beau that “I cannot think when I am around you.” To which her white lover states “Thinking is over rated.” This bit of dialogue was most likely an attempt at wit, but unveils the true nature of interracial dating. To date outside of your race is to suspend yourself into a thoughtless state, where the same subconscious inundated with ideas of black inferiority guides your body to America’s fictive prince.

The Maddy’s mother, Dr. Pauline Whittier, (Anika Noni Rose) is perhaps the most fascinating character in the film. After losing her husband and son in a car accident, Pauline shields her daughter from the cruel world by confining her to their house. Pauline is a wealthy doctor who has the means to craft this fictive world where she controls with whom her daughter interacts. The mother is portrayed as obsessive and delusional— attributes that are not untrue but incorrect in application. She is not mentally unstable for attempting to shield her daughter from the hurt she believes exists in the world. She is mentally ill for misunderstanding the depths of her oppressed state. As a wealthy and accomplished professional, it seems the mother either forgot or perhaps was never aware of how white supremacy hypnotized her into believing her conventional success alleviated her status as a white supremacist victim. The world was not its most cruel in seizing her loved ones, because the sole promise in life is death. The world was cruel in nurturing this black woman to fall in love with this white man and conversely fall out of touch with the world around her. In the end, the mom shields her daughter from the world, but can not shield her daughter from herself. Namely, Pauline still manages to breed her daughter in the image of her subconscious enslavement. Just as she sought to free herself from the cage of blackness, her daughter was simply not fulfilled in the world of black femininity where just she and her mother co-existed.

The film portrays black femininity as the dark, lonesome, restrictive tower to which Rapunzel is confined in before setting eyes on her prince. Similar to Ariel in The Little Mermaid’s wish for legs when she sees humans on the shores, when Maddy sees pale skin and straight hair she eventually develops a longing to be where the white people are, for even her latin caretaker’s olive skin and dark hair does not supplement the desire to pale skin and blonde hair.

Color plays an interesting role in the film, as the fictive prince dons nothing but black and our unconventional princess wears nothing but white-to illustrate the dichotomous desire of the film’s protagonist to be in each other’s worlds. This aligns the film with the teachings of the late Dr. Francis Cress Wesling. For example, Dr. Wesling asserts the following in The Isis Papers:

Acutely aware of their inferior genetic ability to produce skin color, whites built the elaborate myth of white genetic superiority. Furthermore, whites set about the huge task of evolving a social, political and economic structure that would support the myth of the inferiority of Blacks and other non-whites.

In short, the black plight to an illusive whiteness operates as a means to distract blacks and keep them consumed with a fictive inferiority. By programming the black psyche to internalize a fictive inferiority,  whites remain free to bask in  racial envy–desiring to be like those who they’ve hypnotized to be what they do not even want to be: themselves. Thus, it is not Olly that saves Maddy but Maddy who saves Olly.  Notably, Maddy enables Olly to exist in a fictive superiority by way of binary opposition. What is a prince without a princess? What is good without the bad? Up without a down? Black without white? Or power without the powerless? Freed from the protection of her mother, Maddy is free to take her place as the back for which her white lover will stand for the duration of their relationship.

In totality, the film incites a series of images depicting binary opposition as producing “a happily ever after,” simultaneously luring the contemporary slave back to the plantation with the promise of romance.