Janelle Monáe Says Antebellum 'Shines Light' on 'Horrific' Experiences Black Women Have Faced
"I don't think it should be Black women's jobs to be superheroes," Janelle Monáe said during a conversation with Meredith's :BLACKPRINT
Janelle Monáe wants people to know what it's like to be a Black woman in America.
In her new film Antebellum, the award-winning singer and actress addresses the racist hardships she herself has faced.
In the latest conversation in Meredith's :BLACKPRINT series, Monáe chatted with PEOPLE's Paula Ngon and talked about why it was important to bring Antebellum to the screen during a pivotal time of social unrest in America.
"This is a film that's centered around the Black American woman experience. The themes and what we're talking about ... they're absolutely horrific," Monáe said." But there's also joy though. It's complex like life. There's the celebration of what it means to be a Black woman who is liberating her community."
As an artist with an immense platform and following, Monáe goes on to say that through her work, she likes to "shine a light on" and give a voice to those marginalized groups, who are often silenced — bringing awareness to their stories of struggle and perseverance.
"Through my work, I've always tried to highlight what it means to be othered in America, and I've used the android and science fiction as a vehicle to talk about some of those things. So, I have never been afraid to voice my opinion," the actress said.
"I stand with Black women. I do consider myself someone who lives outside the binary. But I'm always standing with Black women and women in general because they are part of the marginalized community. And that's where I want to lend my voice, and that's who I want to shine light on," she added.
The Antebellum star also discussed the film's timeliness, explaining how it reflects today's current cultural climate amid the Black Lives Matters movement, sparked by the lives lost to police brutality and racial injustice.
"The violence and the silencing that has been happening to Black girls and Black women needs to continue to be talked about and checked," Monáe said. "If you're benefiting from the patriarchy and benefiting from racist policies, my hope is that after you watch this film — and it shouldn't even take this film for you to see that you need to be a better supporter and accomplice to Black women. I don't think it should be Black women's jobs to be superheroes. We deserve peace."
The Grammy-nominated singer goes on to say that while she hopes films like Antebellum help to educate people, her goal for the future of Hollywood is to make sure the Black community doesn’t feel the "pressure to create art that just reflects our whole existence."
"My hope is that we can have some real freedom and won't have to feel like we have to make a film that speaks for all of the Black people and trauma," Monáe said. "We want to make quiet rom-coms and indie films. We want to make big blockbusters, science-fiction trilogy films — We want to see ourselves in the future more. I'm ready for us to not always have to feel so heavy."
The singer and actress also stressed the importance of voting in the upcoming election and being able to use your voice to evoke change in the fight against racial injustice.
"What we do now will determine what kind of future we have. The decisions we make around voting absolutely will play into dismantling those racist policies. Right now, we don't even have an ear that is listening to us," she said. "And it's not just voting, but the amount of pressure that we're going to be putting on even the police is important. I think we got a lot more to fight for."
Talking about how the film touches on the prevalence of systematic racism today, Monáe explained that she hopes the movie acts as a "mirror" for white people so that they can begin to understand and help better the future.
"There's this connection between our ancestors and the Black women today. I think my job is to help protect the future — to lay the facts out, make it raw, make it plain," Monáe shared. "It's going to trigger. You might be upset. If you need to take a break, okay. If you are white: this film is a mirror. Look in the mirror and hopefully, you will start having the necessary conversations to do the work of what your ancestors started. Start protecting Black lives. Start showing up for Black people better than you have been. If you're doing that work, thank you. If not, we're going to hold you accountable."
Antebellum is now available to stream on most major platforms.