NBC’s The Wiz Live! was a massive success for the network Thursday night, drawing an estimated 11.5 million viewers for the special live broadcast of the 1974 Tony-winning musical — however, some social media users, apparently unaware of the musical’s history, called the show racist for its use of an all-black cast.
Thursday night’s live remake of the musical (and of the 1978 movie of the same name starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson) featured an all-star cast including Queen Latifah, Common, Ne-Yo, Mary J. Blige, and Uzo Aduba.
But some social media users, apparently unfamiliar with the long-running play, were unhappy about the program’s casting.
The Wiz looks…racist.
— Chris Maldonado (@C_DUBYouKnow) November 23, 2015
This is how I feel. Remaking something with an all-black cast seems…a tiny bit racist. #TheWiz
— Jessica (@90s_Jess) November 19, 2015
I just learned there is a black version of The Wizard of Oz called "The Wiz" – how is this not racist?
— Evan (@MJTM) November 23, 2015
Many users defended the program’s casting and suggested critics read up about the old production.
"it's an all black cast in The Wiz smh if white people did that they'd be racist" …..Did you not see the Wizard of Oz?
— FOUND DEAD IN CALI (@astrog1rll) December 4, 2015
There's already a "White Wiz." It's called the Wizard of Oz & there were no blacks in it..So they made the Wiz! The Wiz isn't racist,stop it
— Maya Beatty (@_mayamia12) December 4, 2015
So ppl are mad that this is an all black cast.. But the original The Wiz was too.. I'm confused.
— Zandra Mackey (@I_am_zee_M) December 4, 2015
Uproxx’s Marky Mark similarly reprimanded those who criticized the casting.
“If you run into any racists today yelling and moaning about this all black version of The Wizard of Oz that NBC seemingly pulled out of its ass and you really want to piss them off? Just tell them the movie was directed by the late great Sidney Lumet. Possibly the whitest white man who’s ever lived,” he wrote.
The Wiz Live! will have an encore presentation on NBC Saturday, December 19 at 8pm. Check out “He’s The Wiz” from last night’s show below.