Matt Damon’s politically incorrect standpoint on diversity has added to the ongoing conversation of racial inequality and White privilege in Hollywood.
HBO premiered the fourth season of Project Greenlight Sunday night, a reality TV-esque show that gives first-time filmmakers the chance to helm their own project. The Matt Damon, Ben Affleck-produced enterprise also features several producers and other filmmakers throughout the show to help determine a finalist. One of the assisting filmmakers during the premiere happened to be Effie Brown, a Black producer of 17 feature films, including (ironically) the Sundance favorite, Dear White People.
While discussing the presented film, Brown explained that the only Black character in the project — a woman who is slapped by her pimp — proves problematic in perpetuating racist tropes. Brown stated that someone who understands not to exploit stereotypes should be hired to find a nuanced way to tell the character’s story.
Enter Damon, who rudely cut Brown off to dive into a whitesplaining lecture about diversity in Hollywood, saying diversity should be tackled at casting, not with the people making the film.
Because who needs actual Black filmmakers? Right?
“When we’re talking about diversity you do it in the casting of the film, not in the casting of the show,” Damon said.
Damon’s statement was heard loud and clear by viewers:
He also explained the heart of his argument was that if they focused on hiring people based on diversity, it would take away the integrity of the project. Merit, he said, was much more important.
But if the box office is any indication, hiring a filmmaker of color (or a woman) doesn’t mean sacrificing integrity, merit, or success. In fact, filmmakers like Gary F. Gray (Straight Outta Compton), Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity), Ava DuVernay (Selma), and Steve McQueen (12 Years A Slave), are continuing to break box office records while authentically and responsibly telling compelling stories.
And most recently, the David M. Rosenthal-directed romantic-thriller The Perfect Guy dominated the box office with African-American actress Sanaa Lathan as lead, proving that stereotypes are useless in pushing a Black movie or Black characters.
At the end of the episode (and as a testament to Brown’s argument), Jason Mann, who is White, was hired to direct the film. It’s unclear if he’ll take Brown’s concerns into consideration, but either way, Damon’s unsolicited lesson on diversity successfully highlights the real problem in Hollywood.