Matt Damon explains to black female producer how 'behind camera' diversity isn't important
[UPDATE 9/16/15 - 2:50PM EDT] Matt Damon has issued an apology. It’s not a very GOOD apology though.
After getting heat for his statements about diversity behind the camera on the HBO reality show “Project Greenlight,” Damon issued an official statement clarifying his belief we “need […] more diverse filmmakers making movies.” So far, so good. But then Damon falls into the common trap of “sorry you got your feelings hurt.” From an official statement obtained by The Wrap.
“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. That is an ongoing conversation that we all should be having.”
While it’s understandably human nature to deflect responsibility, putting the onus on the offended party is not a good look. Let’s allow Louis CK explain!
Most people would agree with Damon that conversations about diversity in all aspects of the film business are worth having. Maybe next time a dialogue can start without silencing minorities to explain to them why they’re wrong.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE BELOW
WARNING: SPOILERS AT THE VERY END!
On the Season 4 premiere of HBO’s “Project Greenlight,” the production team gathered round the camera to have a group debate on which lucky contestant(s) would get to film this year’s project: a comedy entitled “Not Another Pretty Woman.” If the title is already sending up red flags, your “Tired Trope” senses are tingling. The film is about a man who is left at the altar and winds up marrying a prostitute instead. Wacky* hijinks ensue when it turns out Harmony — the only black character in the script — has a white pimp who slaps her around.
*Highly problematic and
Producer Effie Brown (“Dear White People,”) had the unenviable task of being the only PoC in the room while the horror that is this concept unfolded. The rest of the production team includes Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly, and Jennifer Todd. As such, Brown made a valiant effort to explain why it was important to choose a director who would treat the character of Harmony with respect instead of turning her into an exploitative trope.
Matt Damon was having none of that.
Matt Damon speaking over the only black person in the room so he can explain diversity to her is SO WHITE it hurts pic.twitter.com/iaQStYZ0ij— Glen Coco (@MrPooni) September 14, 2015
Did you catch it? Just in case you didn’t, here is Damon’s quote in all it’s facepalm glory:
“When we’re talking about diversity, you do it in the casting of the film. Not the casting of the show.”
To recap: Matt Damon, white man, INTERRUPTED a black female producer to explain to her how diversity behind the camera isn’t important. Merit is the only thing directors should be judged by. A pleasant yet naive ideal.
In 2011 — which is the most recent year we have data for — only 12.2% of films were directed by minorities. Women of all ethnicities fared even worse, directing a paltry 4.1% of movies that year. You cannot look at those statistics and believe in a meritocracy where 87.8% of the most qualified directors just HAPPEN to be white and 95.9% of them are — by sheer COINCIDENCE — male.
If merit were the coin of the realm, why would you not want to hire someone who could bring their own life experiences to a character? Yes there are white men out there who can (and do) direct women well. But Damon’s knee-jerk reaction to even the idea that a woman or a PoC director could be a better fit? That he dismisses how they could bring more necessary empathy needed to ground Harmony as a three-dimensional character and not a racist/sexist caricature?
Spoiler: A white dude named Jason Mann won the director’s chair.