When it comes to knowledge about diversity and its need, Matt Damon is your guy. Yeah…if pigs could fly.
Unfortunately, on September 13th during the fourth season premier of HBO’s Project Greenlight, Matt Damon accurately represented the way Hollywood sees the issues of diversity in the film industry. It doesn’t see any.
First, a little context.
Project Greenlight is Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s project that gives first time filmmakers the chance to make a film with the aid of a group of producers. The group this season consists of all white men with the exception of one white woman and one black woman – Effie Brown – our leading lady in this story.
Brown is a successful producer who has completed seventeen feature films including the recent hit, Dear White People. In the season premier of Project Greenlight, Brown ironically found herself in a “Dear White People” kind of situation with surprise guest star, Matt Damon.
Brown was stating the obvious when she spoke up about concerns over one of the films on the show that featured only one black character. I should probably add that this one black character plays a prostitute slapped by a white pimp.
The Dear White People producer warned that the film was all too familiar to the ones she watched growing up and the films before that. The history of black people in Hollywood is a painful and backwards history of blackface (played by both white and black actors) and black actors casted as gangsters, criminals, prostitutes, and rapists, to say the least.
In 2015, I ask, is it really too much to expect that at the least our black actors and actresses can be more than prostitutes slapped by a white pimp without having to argue why this is not okay?
Brown rightfully attributes this lack of diversity on screen in Hollywood as the result of the lack of diversity within film crews. In this case, the all-white directing team and their token producer Effie Brown.
Calmly – and I emphasize calmly because I refuse for Brown to be casted and tossed aside as an angry black woman – the producer explained to Damon, Affleck, the directing team and all those tuning in that diversity is needed both on and off-screen to eliminate racist and offensive film projects and progress.
Like a true champ in this episode of “Dear Matt Damon,” the actor bestowed his non-existent expertise on racial relations and history to silence Brown’s concerns. Damon explains to Brown what diversity is and what it is meant for.
Interrupting Brown, Damon explained, “When we’re talking about diversity you do it in the acting of the film not in the casting of the show.” Now I’m an angry black woman.
In other words, sprinkling a few people of color on screen meets the quota of the representation of women, black characters, and other people of color and should remain at the hands of white Hollywood filmmakers like Matt Damon.
Can this really be our reality in 2015?