Chris Rock's argument that Hollywood is a "white industry . . . it just is" just got some high-profile confirmation, with leaked e-mails from Sony about President Obama and race.
First reported by BuzzFeed, the exchange between Sony executive Amy Pascal and producer Scott Rudin involves Obama's presumed taste in movies:
Rudin, a top film producer responsible for movies such as "No Country for Old Men" and "Moneyball," responded, “Would he like to finance some movies.” Pascal replied, “I doubt it. Should I ask him if he liked DJANGO?” Rudin responded: “12 YEARS.” Pascal quickly continued down the path of guessing Obama preferred movies by or starring African Americans. “Or the butler. Or think like a man? [sic]”
Rudin’s response: “Ride-along. I bet he likes Kevin Hart.”
Get it? The first black president must like movies about black people and starring black people because he's black. Is anyone really surprised that high-level Hollywood executives would make racist -- yep, racist -- jokes?
Rock's assessment, detailed in a must-read essay about Hollywood's race problem in "The Hollywood Reporter," is worth considering. Here's one snippet from Rock that seems particularly appropriate: "They don't really hire black men. A black man with bass in his voice and maybe a little hint of facial hair? Not going to happen. It is what it is. I'm a guy who's accepted it all."
Obama, along with his wife, have been the most-Hollywood White House occupants since Ronald and Nancy Reagan, hobnobbing with all manner of stars, fundraising at their homes and bringing a certain pop culture currency to his administration. Michelle Obama appeared at the Oscars in 2013, beamed in from the White House to present an award. And the president has often relied on stars to get his message out, particularly around health care.
He also has heaped praise on the industry. At the fundraiser at Dreamworks Animation, Obama had this to say:
Hundreds of millions of people may never set foot in the United States, but thanks to you, they’ve experienced a small part of what makes our country special. They’ve learned something about our values. We have shaped a world culture through you.
And the stories that we tell transmit values and ideals about tolerance and diversity and overcoming adversity, and creativity that are part of our DNA. And as a consequence of what you've done, you helped shape the world’s culture in a way that has made the world better.
Obama was absolutely right. Movies have exported American values and ideals around the world. Unfortunately, the people making the movies -- or at least some of them -- seem to carry a very antiquated view of what black people like.