Thursday, December 11, 2014

Amy Pascal & Scott Rudin: Hollywood Heavyweight's Racist E-mails Offer Glimpse of Why Color Barrier Persists in Film Industry

Scott Rudin and Amy Pascal in happier times.
Sony Pictures Entertainment Chief Amy Pascal and producer Scott Rudin are widely regarded as two of the most powerful figures in the film industry.

But after Buzzfeed released excerpts of a November 2013 e-mail exchange between the two in which they openly mock President Obama's race, both are now under the harsh glare of the opposite side of the media spotlight.

If the massive corporate headache created by the November 24th hack into Sony Pictures database (and the subsequent release of volumes of sensitive internal correspondence and information) was like a bad dream for execs of the film studio; now it's turned into a PR nightmare.

According to Hollywood Reporter, Pascal was set to attend what she described in one of her e-mails to Rudin as a "stupid" Democratic fund raising breakfast hosted by DreamWorks heavy Jeffrey Katzenberg, so she decided to e-mail Rudin and ask for suggestions on what to ask President Obama at the event.

After Rudin jokingly suggested she ask Obama if he would "like to finance some movies", Pascal replied, "I doubt it. Should I ask him if he liked 'Django' (Unchained)?"

And it just got increasingly juvenile, trite and stupid after that, with both hypocritical limousine liberals acting like a couple of dim-witted 9th grade bigots as they joke about the kinds of movies the president would like; including '12 Years a Slave', 'The Butler' and 'Think Like a Man'.

At one point Rudin suggested, "I bet he likes Kevin Hart." 

The story has blown up on social media and both Rudin and Pascal have released their obligatory media mea culpas which were probably written by some nervous hack from Sony's PR department.

Pascal's statement said in part, "the content of my e-mails to Scott were insensitive and inappropriate but are not an accurate reflection of who I am," 

Actually they DO reflect who she is, catching the powerful Hollywood executive during a private moment when she thought no one would read what she wrote; instead of at some charity event with that phony plastic smirk on her face.

British protesters hold a "die-in" in honor of Eric Garner in a London mall.
The sad part of this exchange (besides the fact that it's not even funny) is that it comes at a critical  moment when the nation and the world are expressing outrage over the dehumanizing way in which some members of law enforcement treat men of color.

Over 76 people were arrested at a London shopping mall after holding a "die-in" (pictured left) to protest the Eric Garner decision.

Pascal and Rudin's comments about President Obama reflect the same kind of callous, simplistic, narrow-minded perception of African-Americans demonstrated by those police officers who disproportionately use excessive or deadly force against black people simply because of the color of their skin.

It's insulting for Pascal and Rudin to even jokingly suggest that black people's appreciation for cinema is limited to "black" films.

Attitudes like Pascal and Rudin's are one of the major reasons scripts with black characters or based on African-American stories, issues or themes have a difficult time being greenlit and funded within Hollywood.

Strides have certainly been made with films like director Steve McQueen's 'Twelve Years a Slave' or Lee Daniel's 'The Butler' - but white producers like Brad Pitt had to use their clout to get McQueen's picture made; even though McQueen is highly talented, critically praised and the film was a box office success.

Talented African-American director Gina Prince-Bythewood wrote and directed the excellent 2008 film, 'The Secret Life of Bees'. As she noted in an interview with Rebecca Ford in the November 21st issue of Hollywood Reporter, getting films made with people of color as the leads, "was maddening. The fact that it was two people of color in the leads, it was unfortunate to hear: 'We don't know how to sell this.' Being a black woman (director), you hear that all the time, and you never get used to it."

When asked about the obstacles she faces as a black woman in Hollywood, Prince-Bythewood said: 
"I could work all the time if I wanted, but I want to do my own stuff. So what's discriminated against is what I focus on: people of color, and specifically women. People (in Hollywood) aren't trying to make those films."

After reading the leaked e-mails between Pascal and Rudin, we can certainly understand why.

The online media backlash against Pascal and Rudin is already starting.

In response to news of the e-mails, showrunner/writer Shonda Rhimes ('Grey's Anatomy', 'Scandal' and 'How to Get Away With Murder') Tweeted that the e-mail exchange needs to be called "racist" and not "racially insensitive."

Actor Kevin Hart has already released a statement on Instagram responding to another e-mail between Pascal and another Sony producer calling Hart a "whore" for asking for additional compensation from Sony for asking him to promote his movie on his social media platforms - and for suggesting that President Obama would like him because he's black.

But don't think black folk are the only ones offended by the release of the hacked e-mails from Sony either.

Rudin is notorious for being one of the most difficult film producers to work for because of his abrasive, obnoxious personality and the way he treats people. It may be awhile before the 'Moneyball' producer gets to work with actor/producer Brad Pitt again after calling Pitt's wife, actress/director Angelina Jolie, a "minimally talented spoiled brat" in a leaked e-mail with director David Fincher.

(Minimally talented? Did he see Jolie in the movie 'Salt' or 'The Changeling'?)

I wonder how Pascal and Rudin would react if a black film executive suggested they would only like films like 'Exodus', 'Yentl' of 'Schindler's List' simply because they're both Jewish?

They'd find the conclusion equally prejudiced, offensive and ignorant - which is exactly how millions of people now perceive them both.

Frankly, if Amy Pascal had anything to do with the leaked Sony suggestion that execs actually considered combining the 'Men in Black' films with the two lead characters (played by Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill) from '21 Jump Street', then she's even dumber than those offensive e-mails make her out to be.

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