ByRob Harris, writer at
Sometimes I play video games.
Rob Harris

The latest hashtag to take aim at cultural hegemony has also rallied incensed clicktivists against one of Hollywood's brightest stars, Matt Damon, who's taking some serious flak for telling a black, female film producer that diversity means whatever white men say it means.

began trending after the latest episode of Project Greenlight - Damon and Ben Affleck's reality/documentary series that gives an unknown director the chance to helm their own feature project - aired on Sunday. The show followed the initial selection process as the panel struggled to settle on a director to award funding to.

The cast of Project Greenlight
The cast of Project Greenlight

Damon's fellow judge, Effie Brown (who produced last year's racially charged drama Dear White People), voiced concerns that Harmony - the only black character in the proposed script, who gets beaten by her white pimp - might be represented in a harmful, sterotypical light if not handled with care. After suggesting that the almost all-white panel of judges think carefully about their selection of a white, male director, Matt Damon responded like this:

After which, Twitter responded like this:

The vitriolic response hasn't been all that surprising when you consider the fact that Damon basically said as long as you make sure to hire a racially diverse cast, you don't need to worry about having a diverse crew.

“When we’re talking about diversity you do it in the casting of the film not in the casting of the show.”

Now, I understand Damon's argument for picking a director based purely on individial merit, leaving “all other factors out if it.” But if all other factors other than pure talent are indeed left out of it, why is Hollywood still so heavily dominated by white men?

According to UCLA’s 2015 Hollywood Diversity Report just 16.7% of 2013 films starred non-white actors in lead roles. Looking at Damon's Project Greenlight itself reveals some other intriguing numbers:

  • Season 1: All-white, all-male judging panel selected a white male winner.
  • Season 2: Mostly-male, all-white judging panel selected a white female writing winner and a white male directing winner.
  • Season 3: All-white, all-male judging panel selected an all-white, all-male writing team and white male winner.

If the winners of the show have consistently reflected the panel judging them, why wouldn't the cast of a movie also reflect the individuals hiring them? Diversity is paramount throughout the industry, not just in front of the camera, which was the exact point Effie Brown was making.

To be fair to Damon, he did later acknowledge that "film-making should throw a broader net, and it’s high time for that to change." I just wonder if he's willing to take a more active role in instigating that change.

What do you think? Was Matt Damon way out of line, or has this been blown way out of proportion?

[Twitter, YouTube]


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