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‘Project Greenlight’ descends further into racial controversy with new episode: ‘Hot Ghetto Mess’

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It’s undisputed that the goings-on on Sunday’s episode of HBO’s “Project Greenlight” were a mess. The reality show, a Matt Damon-Ben Affleck sponsored effort in which newbies compete for a chance to make a $3 million movie, has descended into racial controversy since Damon, in the season premiere, dismissed concerns about diversity in Hollywood as African American producer Effie Brown looked on with horror.

[Matt Damon faces online backlash after dismissing diversity behind the camera in Hollywood]

What about the episode was a “hot ghetto mess,” however, was unclear — yet, that was its title, sparking some hard questioning online.

Was the show implying that Brown, who continued to raise questions about diversity on the show, is a hot ghetto mess? That could be interpreted as at worst, racist. At best, it would be … well, it’s hard to imagine a “best.”

“Why was tonight’s show called ‘Hot Ghetto Mess’?” comedian W. Kamau Bell tweeted — and Brown retweeted. “Signed, Every Black Person Watching Tonight.”

The answer was unclear. But on Sunday’s episode, Brown had a lot of negative feedback about extras on the set of “The Leisure Class,” the project being filmed on the show, of which Brown seems a very, very reluctant producer.

[Effie Brown challenged Matt Damon. Now she’s ready to challenge an entire industry.]

“Was there any talk about racial make-up of the extras?” Brown asked as the crew prepped to shoot an elaborate wedding scene. “… I just want to make sure, just because there’s no black people, so I just was curious. I want to go on record: I will not have a black person in this movie as anything in some sort of servant position at all.”

She added: “This is a movie about the 1 percenters being made by the 99 percent. It’s about rich white people’s problems.”

Indeed, “The Leisure Class” isn’t exactly “Precious” or “12 Years a Slave.” It’s about, well, the leisure class — and a white man trying to marry into it.

Brown seemed resigned to the source material, and said she had worked hard to make the crew diverse. But: “What I will not have is stereotypical choices in casting,” she said.

So, when Brown learned that a black man — one of the few that appeared to be on camera — was to play a chauffeur, she was not thrilled. Indeed, she demanded a change.

“There are no people of color in this movie,” she said. “So when you do see someone of a non-dominant culture, they stand out. The only black person in the movie is not going to be a chauffeur.”

She added: “I have said on more than one occasion that I wasn’t going to have a person of color be in a subservient position supporting this 1 percent. A butler, a chauffeur — these are tropes that we have seen time and time again, and I think that those images are done. It’s time for us to tell a different narrative.”

Brown’s prescription was specific.

“So this is what’s going to happen now,” she said. “I want another person dressed up as a chauffeur, and I do not want it to be a black man.”

The change was made.

“I get it,” another (white) crew member said. “I understand it. I just don’t want to spend a lot of time on it. And there’s unneeded drama here.”

While one might wonder whether the word “drama” has a racial subtext here, it’s clear that Brown is miserable. On “Project Greenlight,” Brown, with a history of producing films featuring minority groups and women, appears to be the only person of color in a position of power. What is she doing here?

In an “Inside the Episode” featurette, she explained.

“I had to take this opportunity because I was going to be able to hire qualified people of color, women, and people who are underrepresented in this industry,” she said. “That’s why I did the television show.”