With Matt Damon’s recent incredibly tone-deaf comments on diversity in Hollywood, a recent interview Tichina Arnold for Rolling Out magazine is right on time. As has been my stance, she thinks it’s not only important for black people to have plenty of content, but that it should actually be good.
“I think it’s important that we as Black people keep good content,” says Arnold. “We’ve got to stay current and staying current is telling truth and what’s going on. We’re watching reality shows and this is almost a different type of reality that’s [being] told in a different way. I think it’s a great time for Black actors to really be able to stretch.”
She also opines that diversity behind the scenes is as important and necessary as it is on the screen:
“We need to own our content and be a part of the content,” she explains. “Where are the black writers in the room? We need them in the room. I’ve been on all black shows where there isn’t one black writer. That’s where it starts. We need to be in positions of power and in places where we’re part of the creative process. If we’re not in that room, it will be the same thing all over again. That’s why it’s very important to have people like Shonda Rhimes and Ava Duvernay and Ali Leroi — we need to be in positions of power to actively and effectively make changes that we want to see. You’ve got to go do it. It’s not coming to you.”
This is what people like Matt Damon fail to get. They think if they simply slap a few people of color in front of the camera, that’s good enough. But it’s not. There needs to be balance, and right now that’s mostly missing.
With the success of shows like Empire, black-ish, How to Get Away With Murder and Fresh Off the Boat, here’s hoping that the bigwigs in Hollywood finally got the hint.
The other day I wrote about Matt Damon’s lame-ass whitesplaining of diversity to a successful black woman producer. After a couple of days as the national punchline, Damon has issued a sort-of apology:
“I believe deeply that there need to be more diverse filmmakers making movies. I want every young person watching “Project Greenlight” to believe that filmmaking is a viable form of creative expression for them too. My comments were part of a much broader conversation about diversity in Hollywood and the fundamental nature of “Project Greenlight” which did not make the show. I am sorry that they offended some people, but, at the very least, I am happy that they started a conversation about diversity in Hollywood.”
Doesn’t sound like he really gets it yet, does it?
First off, the consensus is that any apology that contains a variation on the phrase “Sorry you were offended” is not really an apology at all. And, for the record, if Damon did really have a long insightful discussion about diversity that we didn’t see in the show, why did he give himself the white moron’s edit? Do he really not know at the time he was editing this show that he come off as looking like the clueless white guy? To quote Effie Brown, “Wow, OK.”
For me the worst part of this is how he somehow thinks he and his little vanity project started a conversation on diversity in Hollywood. Dude, that conversation has been going for a while now, where have you BEEN? Even the freaking New York Times got in on the conversation before you did!
I don’t doubt Matt Damon is well-intentioned, but he really needs to get caught up here. Good intentions aren’t going to solve the problems that lead to creation of this site. Damon is in a position to make a difference, the question will he man up and educate himself enough to do it? So far, I’m seeing that the answer is a firm No.
By now you probably have what happened on the season premiere of Project Greenlight, the Matt Damon/Ben Affleck vanity project on HBO where they pick some deserving aspiring director and mentor them through making a feature film using a pre-selected script.
On the season opener, the script was revealed to be rom-com, the story of a white guy who gets left at the altar and winds up marrying black prostitute named Harmony instead. The panel who selected the winning contestant consisted one single WOC and several white guys, one of whom was Damon. The WOC was the highly successful Effie Brown of Dear White People fame. During the discussion, Brown pointed that the script could be problematic in that Harmony could wind up being one big racial trope and they needed to look carefully at who among the contestants could avoid this distressingly common pitfall. She suggested the directing team that consisted of a Asian man and a white woman had a better chance at being sensitive to the material.
White Bro Damon decided that the black woman needed some help understanding the true meaning of diversity and interrupted her. “When we’re talking about diversity, you do it in the casting of the film, not in the casting of the show,” he said. According to him, they were going to decided the winner based on “merit.”
There is so much wrong with this it’s hard know where to start, but we have unlimited disk space on our hosting plan so I’ll give it a shot.
When a key character in the script is a black woman, would it have killed Damon to actually listen to the black woman’s concerns? He interrupted her and dismissed her, twice. That’s a dick move.
Continue reading Merit vs Diversity: Matt Damon Edition