I awoke this morning to the news that Ava DuVernay, a brilliant and talented director of many amazing films (who happens to be an African-American woman) was nominated for a Golden Globe. I have followed Ava’s directing career since the release of her documentary, This is the Life. She provided an insight into hip-hop culture that I had never seen before—she opened my eyes to all the cinematic possibilities. I have eagerly watched her talents blossom and her scope widen over the years. With the release of Selma next month, DuVernay stands to break even more ground by becoming the first African-American woman to receive an Oscar nomination and, God willing, an Oscar in March 2015. It will not be a “pity-Oscar” or an “affirmative action Oscar,” no, she will win because she provided the best direction of a film and because she is one of the best working directors in the world today—male, female, white, black, or otherwise.
I floated while eating my bowl of oatmeal this morning. She’s one step closer. I was a proud fangirl flipping through my tablet to see what other movie news had transpired when I came across this headline:
“Scott Rudin Apologizes After Leak Of Sony’s Hacked Racially Insensitive E-Mails On Barack Obama”
Racially insensitive? Nice wording. That’s the tidiest PR way of saying:
“Hey guys, the execs of our billion dollar company just got caught insulting the leader of the free world with some blazing hot racism and we’re kind of hoping an apology will shut up all YOU PEOPLE who might take offense at our casual racism and continue to give us your hard earned dollars for such upcoming gems as “Jump Street Meets the Men in Black” and “Spiderman Reboot #4.”
And below that headline was the statement that Rudin released:
“Private emails between friends and colleagues written in haste and without much thought or sensitivity, even when the content of them is meant to be in jest, can result in offense where none was intended,” he told Deadline. “I made a series of remarks that were meant only to be funny, but in the cold light of day, they are in fact thoughtless and insensitive — and not funny at all. To anybody I’ve offended, I’m profoundly and deeply sorry, and I regret and apologize for any injury they might have caused.”
Things are a bit too racially charged in this country for us to pretend that the email hacking is a bigger deal than the content of the email. Amy Pascal and Scott Rudin just got Donald Sterling’d. We took The Clippers away from him, post-haste, so why should Pascal and Rudin not feel some heat? I wonder if they were thinking of the fact that some of the biggest grossing releases for their studio are movies with African-American leads like Kevin Hart, Jamie Foxx, and Denzel Washington.
If you operate so casually using the company email, I’d hate to hear the punch lines of your dinner party conversations. You are in positions of power, not as great as Obama, but positions that affect the public’s entertainment. I wonder how long you’ve been scared that this info would be released? Was it an afterthought? Is the worst yet to come? I shudder on your ignorant behalf.
The recent candid interviews from Chris Rock have only shown a brighter spotlight on the race problem in Hollywood. He doesn’t believe that things will change in our lifetime, but I hold onto hope. As long as the DuVernay’s and Shonda Rhimes’ of the world continue to dominate and uplift then we may actually seem some change. It doesn’t matter that commercial Black films are making big money and that the Black movie-going audience is growing. There is an appalling lack of respect for us that is ubiquitous in Hollywood. We don’t only watch “Black movies” we watch movies, in general. We support “our movies” as it is the only chance we have to see people who look like us represented on the big screen. I’m going to watch “Top Five” tomorrow and I’m going to buy 2 tickets because I want more movies like that to get made.
We are not just the reflection that reality TV has created of us. We are not just looters on the nightly news. We are not illiterate. We are not only knowledgeable about our own cultures. We are innovative, intelligent beings who balance the immeasurable eternal weight of negative public perception on our backs. Like every culture, our people are bad, good, and in between.
Amy and Scott, like my beloved sitcoms from the ‘80s and ‘90s, I want to end with this personal anecdote that doubles as a moral conclusion. Cue the saxophone slow-riff.
I’ve kept a journal since I was 9 years old. One day, I was writing a very explicit paragraph chastising my mother for not letting me watch “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” (I wanted to watch a non-minority movie * gasp *) until I finished watching the dishes. My dad (Yes, my dad, stereotype de-mythed!) walked into the room to talk to me and I threw my journal to the opposite side of the room.
“Why’d you do that?” he asked me. “I don’t know.” My general response to all potentially bad situations when I was 9.
He walked over to the journal and picked it up as my heart nearly thumped out of my chest. I looked around feverishly. I could probably jump out of the window and make a run for it.
He passed the journal back to me and said, “I know you like to write but don’t write things you wouldn’t want others to read. You never know who your audience might be.” I shook my head in understanding and he walked out of the room. I cried because I thought about how my mom might feel if she had read the terribly defamatory things I wanted to write about her. This was 1991, long before the days of social media and NSA wire-tapping. My empathy wrecked me. I’m not sure if my dad’s advice applies to all situations (I actually think he may have been admitting to reading my journal) but it definitely always makes me think of others before I character assassinate.
Today, I operate under the notion that my words could be read by the Queen of England or the head of Sony Pictures. This keeps the writing honest and responsible. Be responsible and leave the jokes to the comedians. Outrage is so exhausting. I wish we could have a break.
It’s almost 2015—can we just try to do better?
*This article by Danger Bowie was previously ran on blackgirlnerds.com on December 12, 2014*