I watched the trailer for Step Sisters twice. Quickly, with no interruptions.
I had to see what was up with what seemed like another in a long line of inappropriate appropriations -- there should be an entire, recognized movie genre -- after I read the list of actors involved. You see, Megalyn Echikunwoke (Arrow, Vixen) stars. If the very self- and socially aware actress is involved, that means there has to be a message in this madness. Right?
Echikunwoke's character Jamilah is basically bribed, which is problematic in itself, into teaching a mostly white sorority how to step to ensure her entry into Harvard. They've been up to shenanigans and need to "look like positive contributors to the community."
She feels she must teach them in secrecy so that her sorority sisters won't know and some nebulous entity won't take away her "black card." This, too, is problematic; my sorors would have been all over helping another sororal organization learn how to step, especially if it meant giving a leg up to a sister trying to do it for herself.
First, a bit of history: Stepping, rooted in African tradition, has been kept alive by black Greek-lettered organizations as a way to connect them to their heritage and teach unity.
It may look like a lot of fun -- it is. But it's also a way of storytelling and can be as transformative as any other type of dance. As I was told when stepping for the Gamma Alpha chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc. on the campus of Florida A&M University, "stepping is a privilege, not a right."
So, I approached the announcement of the trailer and Jan. 19 as the movie's premiere date with enough side-eye that I probably reached my quota for this brand new year. To be fair, these are heavy things to place on the shoulders of what appears to be a slight movie.
But, about 1:51 into watching the trailer, I found what I was looking for. It was only a line, but enough of one to let me know that the filmmakers, which include director Charles Stone III (Drumline) and writer Chuck Hayward (the very good Dear White People) may know what they're doing.
Jamilah inspires the team with some pre-step show speechifying: "You guys feeling out of place, like maybe they're judging you before you've had a chance to express yourselves? You're in this position for 10 minutes! Are you gonna drown in a pool of white-girl tears or are you gonna cowgirl up?"
This film, for that moment, seems to be aware of those of us who are ready to say nay. Not to mention that there have already been whispers as early as 2016 on the internet winds that some were already offended by the suggestion of the film.
Even so, though the initial premise is shaky and the catalyst to the story even more so, I'll probably watch. Sideways.
If only to see the script flipped, with a black woman in the role of hero/savior and hopefully some lessons learned about true sisterhood across a racial divide.