Lifetime is moving forward with its movie about the Flint Water Crisis, and news has started to emerge about what the cast will look like. Specifically, iconic performer Cher will be in the starring role. She will also be executive producing with Craig Zadan, Neil Meron, and Katie Couric. Lifetime is clearly prioritizing the movie — they just bought it last year and in true Lifetime fashion have plans to air it before the topic is too far out of public consciousness. With these early details, though, the question can officially be raised whether Lifetime is planning on committing to accuracy for this project or will it more closely resemble the celebrity biopics and ripped-from-the-headlines larks the network is known for?
Not that there’s anything boring or wrong with Lifetime’s typical fare. Sometimes there is nothing better than relaxing and binge-watching four or five “psycho babysitter stalks a hot husband and his family” movies in a row. They never get old! And Cher is an Oscar and Golden Globe-winning actress so her talents should not be denied. But with Zadan and Meron producing things could get tricky. For better or for worse, their film and telefilm work usually prioritizes flashiness or camp, not the subtleties of a city-crippling water crisis that has still not been solved. Cher is also reportedly portraying “a Flint resident whose family is severely affected by the disaster.” The crisis itself affected a diverse population and much has been made of the fact that this specific city has a larger African American population than many surrounding areas.
With questions still swirling as to whether this water contamination was directed towards Flint because of the population itself — versus the state changing a wealthier or less at-risk city’s water supply — it will be important that one of the first films about the ongoing catastrophe respectfully addresses all sides and gives due screen time to the actual lives at stake. There’s more than a chance it will veer into a white-savior narrative taking place in court rooms and government offices in Michigan rather than on the streets where the problem is still negatively affecting real lives for the foreseeable future. Of course, Cher has been supporting the residents of Flint from the very beginning of the problems there so if anyone knows the right way to take the story to the screen it might be her.