Gabrielle Union has said it is “strange” that people consider her character in Bring It On to be a villain and added that “it is perceived very differently in communities of colour and (among) white folks”.
The actress starred opposite Kirsten Dunst in the 2000 cheerleading film about rich white cheer squad the Rancho Carne Toros, led by Dunst’s character Torrance, who found out that they had been stealing routines from black squad the Compton Clovers, led by Union’s Isis, in a poorer part of town.
Taking part in a video reunion with Dunst, director Peyton Reed and writer Jessica Bendinger on The Oscars’ YouTube channel to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the film’s release, Union said: “It’s a strange read but it’s so common, it turns out.”
She added: “In pop culture, Isis was the villain and I thought how wild it is. Over the years I’m asked about it constantly, but it is perceived very differently from communities of colour and from white folks.
“Nobody has said it to my face that they thought I was a villain. They said ‘I thought the Toros should have won’ or ‘You were such a hard ass’, but I never thought of her being a villain for wanting equality and accountability and an equal playing field, and to be recognised for her squad’s contributions.
“It never occurred to me that anyone could be demonised for that, I don’t know why, because that’s actually life.
“It is very interesting how different ethnicities, and if you’re a marginalised group, how you receive the Clovers versus the Toros and why. It’s very different.”
Reed said: “With the language of 2020, you can look at Torrance very clearly as the poster girl for white privilege.”
Asked how people have spoken to her about the issues of race in the film over the years, Union said: “We get a lot of kudos for being ahead of the curve and dealing with it head on and not in a soft way, especially the idea of Torrance, even after she apologises for Big Red (the former captain) stealing form the Clovers, that doesn’t absolve her. Her naivete, her innocence, her apology does not absolve her from the consequences and people still marvel at that.
“In the last 20 years we have seen bits of this topic covered to varying degrees of success but we stand the test of time.”