Tonight at the Oscars we celebrate the films that, amidst last year’s economic turmoil and general Hollywood sucktitude, managed to get it right. Film-making is a complex, multi-layered process that often takes years of dedication and it’s nothing short of a miracle that so many things went just right to produce so many quality films. Make no mistake about it, all it takes is one false move and what would’ve been an Oscar-winner can easily devolve into…. something much worse.
This year’s front-runner for Best Actress is Natalie Portman, no doubt due in part to being coached by the excellent (if somewhat self-mutilation-obsessed) Darren Arnofsky. Black Swan is up for a bevy of awards thanks to his expertise. But what if his material had fallen into the wrong director’s hands?
Someone who rakes in boatloads of cash by using a boatload of melodrama. Over. And over. And over.
I’m talking about Tyler Perry.
FADE IN from WHITE
INT. NINA’S APARTMENT — NIGHT
A delicate young Black woman sits in front of a mirror, clad in a pink leotard and matching ballet shoes. Her name is NINA SAYERS. She stretches her ankles. Hard. It’s unsettling.
I had the craziest dream last night. I was
dancing the white swan.
She seems to be talking to herself, as if recounting her dream aloud will preserve it before it’s lost to the world.
It was different choreography though,
it was more like —
Honey how many times I got ta tell you
not ta do that in fronta me?
She isn’t alone at all. Her mother ERICA SAYERS, a saucy ol’ gal who may or may not be a tranny mess, stands behind her at an ironing board. She jabs the iron at the air like a dagger of truth. It’s unsettling. But in a funny way.
One of these days you gonna pop them feet
right off them ankles then the only way you
gonna dance is on ya head, spinnin’ like a top,
Sorry. Anyways, I was dancing the white
swan and —
Now why it got to be a white swan?
Because that’s the name of the dance?
That don’t mean nothin’. My momma
called me Horse’s Ass but I don’t answer
Well it was just a dream. Anyways, he
promised to feature me more this season.
Girl doncha know that man’s promise ain’t
Erica spits in her own hand.
Here. Take it.
Nina declines. Obviously.
I tell you what, if he don’t give you the lead role
in the next ballet show, I’ll give him lead fist in
my next one-two punch. And then I’ll give him
the other one too.
Nina gets to her feet amidst the rabble and gets her coat. As she does, Erica notices a cluster of tiny WHITE SPOTS on her shoulder blade.
Girl, what the hell is that?
Erica quickly covers it up and turns to face her.
Erica stares at her for a beat, not buying it.
I don’t belee-dat for a second. Go on, you gonna
be late. Imma talk to ya when you get back.
Nina hurries out the door as Erica continues to ramble incoherent gibberish for two more minutes.
INT. DANCE STUDIO — DAY
Dozens of both male and female dancers line the floor doing some fancy-looking ballet stuff to piano music. Nina stands out from the pack. Because she’s Black. A middle-aged man watches from the back of the studio, THOMAS LEROY. He’s Black too, but more of the fancy-pants White-Black. He’s even got a sweater tied around his neck. What a douche. As the dancers continue their repetitions, he walks among them, giving several girls slight taps on their spandexed butts, seemingly at random.
We all know the story. Virginal girl, pure and
sweet, trapped in the body of a swan.
Leroy gets a handful of some girls rump. She doesn’t like it, but she does. Nina eyes him cautiously.
She desires freedom, but only true love can
break the spell. Her wish is nearly granted, in
the form of a prince.
He harasses another girl, not Nina.
But before he can declare his love, her lustful
twin, the black swan…
Leroy locks his gaze on Nina. He saunters towards her.
… tricks and seduces him.
He walks dead on at her. She holds her breath. He stares her dead in the eye. And then smacks the girl in front of her’s jelly. Nina doesn’t know whether to be relieved or disappointed.
Devastated, the white swan leaps off a cliff,
killing herself, and in death finds freedom.
Leroy claps his hands and the music ceases. The dancers all turn to face him like brainless soldiers.
Good morning company.
We open our season with Swan Lake. Done to
death I know, but not like this. We strip it
down. Make it visceral and raw. Hood, some
The white dancers all share uncertain gazes, unfamiliar with the adjective.
Which of you can embody both swans? The
He looks at Nina once again.
… and the black?
Nina holds her breath, lingering on his every word. He says nothing, reveling in the power he has over the group. Finally:
All the soloists I tapped, go to your scheduled
rehearsals this afternoon. And the girls I didn’t
He pauses, as if to say, “I will soon.”
… meet me in the principal studio at five. Thank
He leaves. Nina is genuinely relieved this time. A couple of the unmolested girls wear haughty smirks. The music picks back up and they continue practice.
INT. PRINCIPAL STUDIO — LATER
Nina dances gracefully in front of the stuck up white bitches and Leroy. The girls are obviously jealous. Leroy gazes at her like she’s a steak. She finishes her dance. It’s perfection. He walks up to her and whispers in her ear.
If I was only casting the white swan, it would be
So ironic. He says the next part out loud to everyone.
But I’m not. Now show me your black swan.
The other girls stare razors at Nina. The music starts and so does she. Her dance is impressive but stiff. He shouts at her.
Not so controlled! Seduce us! Show me your
The pressure builds as she starts doing that thing where she spins on her toe a lot. She’s almost through when suddenly the studio doors burst open. Nina falters. Standing at the door is another Black girl with a ghetto-fabulous booty. She’s jamming on her ipod, not realizing she’s being a nuisance.
Good of you to join us. Girls, this is Lily.
Straight off the plane from Atlanta. Get
This hotness don’t need warming up.
Leroy is captivated by her street-cred. Nina timidly breaks his concentration.
Should I go again?
Leroy is almost disgusted by her verbal intrusion.
No, I’ve seen enough.
Sad and feeling defeated, Nina leaves.
INT. NINA’S APARTMENT — NIGHT
Nina returns home to find Erica chopping up a chicken. Like, a whole chicken. The knife is also comically-sized.
Hey baby, how’d it go?
Nine hesitates to answer at first, choking back tears.
Erica stabs the knife into the bird and lets it stick out.
Oh honey I can read them lies all up and
down ya grill. You know what it is?
She grabs the knife again and continues hacking away.
Ya tryin’ too hard to please a man. Men are
all dogs. Every last one of em. Trash. Garbage.
Filth. Ain’t never been a man didn’t think with
the head on his shoulder, know what I mean?
She keeps chopping. Bits of chicken guts fly everywhere to Nina’s dismay.
What you need to do is sit my fancy-pants
down and tell him you want the part and you
ain’t leavin til he gives it to ya. But you tell him
ta keep his greasy little hands to himself or
there’s gonna be a MAD BLACK WOMAN comin’
ta throw a FAMILY REUNION ‘tween my fists
and his noggin’. I stick my foot my foot so far up
his butt I be like “MEET THE BROWNS!” Ya feel me?
I make sure he GOES TO JAIL if he gets handsy
with DADDY’S LITTLE GIRLS. Bring a HOUSE OF
PAYNE on his ass.
Nina’s long gone. Erica keeps talking.
INT. STUDIO HALLWAY — DAY
Nina still looks sad and defeated. Several girls rush down the hall.
It’s been posted!
Nina hesitates and then follows them. She scans the list. To her amazement, her name is at the top — the Swan Queen. None of them congratulate her. Jealous. She further scans the list. Lily is her understudy. They make eye contact. Lily shrugs like, “It ain’t no big thang.”
Huddling in a corner by herself, Nina struggles to hold back her emotions as she whips out her cell phone and calls home.
What is it baby? Do I need to come down there?
I got a bag full of mace –
No no. He picked me!
For Swan Queen!
There’s a long pause.
That’s good right?
Well that’s good for him, he don’t want me comin’
down there. I may be old, but you know I CAN
DO BAD ALL BY MYSELF when I got a bag of –
She hangs up. Staring into a window, she notices the white spots on her back again. They’re getting bigger.
INT. PRINCIPAL STUDIO — DAY
Leroy watches Nina and some other guy practice the black swan dance. He’s still got the perpetually angry thing going. He motions for them to leave. Nina starts to pack up.
She puts her stuff back down. He starts the dance with her. It’s awkward. He starts getting handsy. It’s more awkward. Finally he pulls her in and lays a sloppy kiss on her. She resists, slipping out of his grasp and rushing away. He yells after her.
You can’t run forever!
She runs for now anyway.
INT. BATHROOM — MOMENTS LATER
Nina breaks down crying in a stall, afraid she can’t get what she wants without giving Leroy what he wants.
Hello? You okay sweetie?
Nina dries up her tears and comes out. Lily’s there looking genuinely concerned.
You know I saw what he did in there. I
wouldn’t put up with that ish if I was you.
You just want me to quit so you can take
Girl it ain’t got nothin’ to do with the dance.
That man don’t need to be puttin’ his hands
on nobody like that.
What else can I do?
Lemme show you something. Grab me.
Lily turns her back. Nina hesitates.
Come on, do it.
Nina grabs her by the elbow. Lily spins around and gives her a haymaker to the babymaker. Nina doubles over gasps for air.
Next time he puts his hands on you, give
him onna those. Only it’ll hurt him more.
Lily bends down to help Nina to her feet. Nina headbutts her in the uterus (somehow). Lily falls back against the wall.
That works too.
INT. THE AUDITORIUM — NIGHT
Nina dances with a fiery passion of a thousand Beyonce’s and wows the audience. She ascends the PROP LEDGE, taking her final motions and leaps off onto the safety mattress.
Madea Erica cat calls from the audience, rattling the stiff white audience members around her save for the OLD ASIAN MAN siting next to her. He’s delighted by her antics.
Get it girl! (to old man) I taught her everything
OLD ASIAN MAN
She shake what her mama gave her!
The curtains close and the audience roars. The other dancers swarm Nina with praise, followed by Leroy.
You were fantastic! I knew you had it in-
He’s cut off when Nina lavishes him with a saucy kiss. It’s so hot. But then she shoves him away. She is totally empowered right now.
You know I was only mean to you because I knew
it was good for the performance.
I know. But the thing is, you should’ve done what
was good for me. Because nobody messes with a
strong Black woman.
Nina snap-snaps in his face. Leroy looks weak and emasculated. He struggles to string his words together.
I did it for you!
No. [beat] I did it for me.
Nina turns to leave the stage and Leroy grabs her by the arm, furious at being humiliated in front of everybody. Nina gives him Lily’s patented haymaker to his babymaker then headbutts him in the face. He falls back onto the safety mattress and spits blood.
You’re gonna pay for that.
The curtains open. The audience and the dancers all look up. At the top of the Prop Ledge is Erica.
She leaps. Leroy cries out like the coward he is. She drops an atomic elbow on his rich face.
Erica gets up and stands triumphant by Nina.
Now that’s what I call THE FAMILY THAT PREYS!
They high five. Everyone cheers.
Fade to STRONG FEMININE BLACK