'Green Book': Everything Wrong With Divisive Oscar Nominee

Green Book is a prominent contender at the Oscars on Sunday night, but there are a lot of complaints about the movie for a lot of different reasons.

Green Book is one of the most divisive movies of the year, especially as it pertains to the Oscars. The film is a nominee for Best Picture, but music enthusiasts, history buffs and civil rights activists take issue with its portrayal of Don "Doc" Shirley (Mahershala Ali).

For starters, there are the comments of Green Book star Viggo Mortensen to contend with. The Lord of the Rings alum plays Frank "Tony Lip" Vallelonga, a New York City bouncer who takes a job driving Shirley around the U.S. for a number of tour dates.

Mortensen took liberties when discussing the movie's dealings with race. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Mortensen used the N-word out loud at a panel promoting the movie. At the time, he sat beside Ali, and said: "For instance, no one says n— anymore." He later apologized.

There is also the issue of Doc Shirley's family's reaction. The late musician's brother, Maurice Shirley, told Black Enterprise that he feel Doc's relationship with Tony was misrepresented as overly friendly.

"This is why context and nuance are so important," he said. "The fact that a successful, well-to-do Black artist would employ domestics that did NOT look like him, should not be lost in translation."

Ali apologized to the Shirley family later. Meanwhile, in January, the movie's co-writer and Tony's son, Nick Vallelonga, told reporters from Variety that he had written Green Book the way Doc Shirley himself had wanted it.

"There's a lot of information [the Shirley family] doesn't have," he said, "and they were hurt that I didn't speak to them. But to be quite honest with you, Don Shirley himself told me not to speak to anyone. And he only wanted certain parts of his life. He only allowed me to tell what happened on the trip."

Vallelonga himself drew criticism for the film last month when an Islamophobic tweet from 2015 resurfaced. In it, Vallelonga agreed with President Trump's unsubstantiated claims that "Muslims in Jersey City" were "cheering when towers went down" on Sept. 11, 2001.

All in all, the movie has been accused of harboring a "White Savior Complex," in which a white protagonist is goes through a journey grappling with the racism projected onto a black character, while the black character is static. Writing for Esquire, critic Gabrielle Bruney called Green Book a "white savior road trip movie that uses fried chicken as its leitmotif."


On the other hand, many critics agree that Green Book features sterling performances from both Mortensen and Ali. Whether the movie wins or loses in the categories it was nominated in, the grumbling amongst critics will likely be the same.

The Oscars air live Sunday night starting at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.