In Sorry to Bother You, Boots Riley’s directorial debut movie, Lakeith Stanfield plays Cassius “Cash” Green, a Black man down on his luck who eventually lands a job as a telemarketer and adopts the use of a “White voice” to climb the corporate ladder.
Riley, who has worked as a telemarketer, said the actors put on performances of their lives and his film is a reflection of that.
“I think what the movie is talking about is the performance of Whiteness as opposed to … this style that’s Blackness,” Riley told EBONY. “In reality, it’s a performance that we’re all doing.”
The director added that the “White” voice is equated with a comfortable life, and Black people are often blamed for the way they speak because there is a belief that it is the reason why so many live in poverty.
“There really isn’t’ a White voice; there’s this idea that even White folks have of what they’re supposed to sound like. It’s connected to this idea that everything is OK and that things aren’t a struggle,” he continued. “That’s exactly counterposed to racist Black tropes that their culture is lacking, and that causes them to make mistakes that [lead to] poverty. In reality, there’s an economic system that necessitates poverty.”
Check out Riley’s full interview with EBONY above.
Sorry to Bother You is in theaters now.
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Teddy is a multimedia journalist who serves as the culture and political writer for EBONY. His work has appeared in NBC's Owned and Operated stations, as well as DNAInfo, which covered local neighborhood news in New York City. He received his Masters in Journalism from the Craig Newmark School of Journalism at CUNY in 2017.