Hollywood Denies Role in Racism
When the hackers, “Guardians of Peace,” broke into Sony’s servers, hundreds of thousands of the entertainment network’s private emails became public.
In the most recent email, an unnamed executive lamented that Denzel Washington should not star in anymore of their movies.
“I am not saying ‘The Equalizer should not have been made or that African-American actors should not have been used. I personally think Denzel Washington is the best actor of his generation. I believe that the international motion picture audience is racist — in general, pictures with an African-American lead don’t play well overseas,” the person wrote.
“But Sony sometimes seems to disregard that a picture must work well internationally to both maximize returns and reduce risk, especially pictures with decent size budgets.”
By shifting blame to the international audience, the unnamed producer who sent the email to executive Michael Lynton ignores the fact that Sony and other U.S.-based studios have contributed significantly to the global spread of racist attitudes directed at Black people. President Barack Obama unintentionally confirms this while praising Hollywood in a speech at a DreamWorks fundraiser, saying:
“Hundreds of millions of people may never set foot in the United States, but thanks to you, they’ve experienced a small part of what makes our country special. They’ve learned something about our values. We have shaped a world culture through you.”
No Matter How Famous or Acclaimed, Black Actors Are Devalued in Hollywood
Though the author of the aforementioned email says that in his or her mind Washington is the best actor of his generation, that is not enough to make up for his Blackness.
“Casting him [Washington] is saying we’re OK with a double (referencing baseball terminology) if the picture works. He’s reliable at the domestic [box office], safe, but has not had a huge success in years,” the producer wrote.
“I believe whenever possible the non-event pictures, extra ‘bets’ should have a large inherent upside and be made for the right price. Here there isn’t a large inherent upside.”
African-American economist Boyce Watkins wrote on the subject, “It’s unfortunate that an actor as successful and talented as Denzel Washington must endure such a scathing and unfair critique. Based on what we’re reading, it seems that Denzel’s only mistake is being born with black skin.”