The Sapphires new cover: racist, sexist or opportunistic?

I’ve seen The Sapphires and I loved the movie. The acting was great, the story a terrific (and true) story.

Today I read it is being released in the US with this cover:

The Sapphires USA release artwork

The Sapphires USA release artwork

W. T. F?

The movie is NOT about the character played by Chris O’Dowd, the movie is about the four Aboriginal women!

Let’s compare it with the image generally used for the movie:

Notice any difference? For the USA release the women are a backdrop, nothing more, nothing less. What? People won’t buy it if there are black women on the cover? Is this an attempt to appeal to the market? What of when the buyer actually watches the movie? False advertising, much?

I am reminded of my own book – are there people who don’t buy it because there is a black man on the cover? Is this what society is all about?

Am I pissed off about this? YES! On top of my own black family I have just read Am I Black Enough For You? by Anita Heiss so I am feeling very aware of the “invisibility” of our First Nation people.

It seems we have an American living in England,  MaryAnn Johanson, to thank for raising awareness of this travesty on her site: why has Anchor Bay dick-washed and white-washed The Sapphires? MaryAnn – THANK YOU!

MaryAnn’s article was spotted and the battle taken up by Lucy Mann in Melbourne who has launched a petition on Change.org to get the cover changed. I’ve signed it – so should you! Click on that link now!

The Age is also running the story. Not sure about the print edition but it is on the front page of the digital edition this evening. Let’s get as much coverage as we can! This USA release cover is an insult to the real Sapphires as well as the actors in the movie, Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Shari Sebbens and Miranda Tapsell (including Chris O’Dowd, who I read is not happy with the cover either).

I’ll say nothing more – the above linked articles present great cases. As our famous ad line goes, “NOT HAPPY, JAN!”

EDIT: A friend has suggested perhaps the original cover was too similar to Dreamgirls and something different was needed: this is a valid marketing point, but I would hope we could still come up with a black women centric cover different enough from Dreamgirls to appeal to the marketplace.

17 comments on “The Sapphires new cover: racist, sexist or opportunistic?

  1. […] put the whole question to the back of my mind until the other day when The Sapphires USA/Canada DVD cover art blew up. There were essentially two schools of thought: marketing strategically based on […]


  2. That is crazy…there was nothing wrong with the original cover


  3. I see what you mean here. BUT there comes a time when those that are in the power position of change must make a stance. If the actors are not happy, then they can and should make a stand to society that it’s not right. If the film-makers are not happy with the publicity then they should make a stand and say it’s not right, and so on and so forth. It shouldn’t be left to the likes of me and you to do their dirty homework. Each person must take responsibility. Things like this only carry on because we allow it to.

    We are the ones who watch the films, pay the excessive cinema prices and make the films/programmes what they are today. So why not vote with your feet. After all, we are in the majority not minority…


  4. it’s racist, sexist *and* opportunistic in my book…probably organised by someone who knows the market they are selling in to. Sigh.


  5. To me both covers look all right really. The ladies look lovely in both covers. I can’t see that their skin colour is an issue in any of the pictures. I just think they all look great! 🙂


  6. White skin does seem to sell better. If you look at the covers of YA fantasy books, most of them show Photoshopped white girls, even if it’s about a girl of color. Or, they only show a silhouette, so you don’t see whether the girl is white or not. Whitewashing is disgustingly common.


  7. The Australian Cover says it all. We in Australia and elsewhere in the world are or should be all equal.
    Why do they have to change everything. We are now in 2013 now not 1970’s move on move forward.
    Plus the Australian cover is so much more invigorating, compared to the more duller American cover. It is really about the the girls and their experience in life and how they were brave enough to go to Vietnam and do what they were great at, Singing and their Journey ..


    • Thanks Maureen. I am really just trying to spread the word, because I loved MaryAnn’s article about it and I think the petition is worth supporting.

      The USA cover looks like an ad for a Elvis movie or something to me!


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