After “Green Book” won three Golden Globes, including the coveted best picture award, fans were quick to complain about the controversial film’s rise to prominence, arguing that it’s problematic both for its handling of the issue of race and because of the animosity it created among the family members of its real-life subject, the late jazz pianist Don Shirley.
The film tells the story of Shirley, played by Mahershala Ali, as he goes on tour in 1962 through the Deep South accompanied by his bodyguard, Anthony “Tony Lip” Vallelonga, played by Viggo Mortensen.
Since premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival, "Green Book" gained both praise from movie buffs and criticism from audiences, who argue the film simply retreads old stereotypes about race in America.
Vanity Fair noted that it’s been called a “white savior” film and that Ali’s portrayal of Shirley is simply a “magical negro” character designed to solve the problems of the story’s white protagonist.
The film was reportedly based on conversations the real Vallelonga had with his son.
Shirley’s nephew, Edwin Shirley III, and his 82-year-old brother, Maurice Shirley have spoken out against the film arguing that, despite the stories told by Tony Lip, he was never considered a close friend by Shirley.
Maurice went as far as to call the film a “symphony of lies” in an interview with Shadow and Act. The duo even revealed that Ali called them to personally apologize for any offense his portrayal of their relative may have caused them.
Despite all the controversy and criticism, the film was nominated for five Golden Globes and took home wins for best picture, best supporting actor and best screenplay. However, fans were quick to lash out at the movie’s accolades on social media.
“Anyone call up Don Shirley’s family to ask them what they think about GREEN BOOK winning the Golden Globes?” one user mused.
“BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY and GREEN BOOK are definitely the best movies of the year unless you ask the communities those movies were supposed to represent,” another posted.
“Pretty bold for that Green Book speech to hinge on how INSPIRING Don Shirley's story was when Don Shirley's family keeps insisting that wasn't his story at all,” another user chimed in.
Some users went as far as to note that the people accepting the award for “Green Book” were mostly white men.
“Green Book? More like White Pages,” wrote one, accompanied by a picture of the stage at the Globes.