Matt Damon got himself in hot water in the fourth season of his reality show, Project Greenlight. Damon and his male judges were discussing a contestant’s script when the panel’s sole female judge, noted producer, Effie Brown, a woman of color, voiced concern that the only black character in the film was “a prostitute getting beaten by her white pimp.” US Magazine reports “Ms. Brown urged the all-white team to make sure the character doesn’t fall into a racist stereotype,” in part by ensuring diversity behind the camera. In what was widely referred to as #Damonsplaining on Twitter, Mr. Damon talked over Ms. Brown, telling her that casting alone would achieve the desired result. So are we to assume Ava duVernay or Lee Daniels need not apply for the directing job?
Matt Damon shut her down, interrupting her in front of her peers not once but twice, exerting his authority…he seemed a bit threatened by her point. But he’s wrong. Who directs the film does matter. As an actor, you can bring whatever you want to a part. If those in charge don’t see it that way, it’s never going to wind up on the screen.
Imagine how hard it was for Ms. Brown to be chosen to be a part of this “room” in the first place. To have her voice dismissed makes more flagrant that white males still control so much of the narrative in the film business and elsewhere. That Mr. Damon didn’t seem to see the problem in the moment tells us how far we have yet to travel.
Media strategist and author Shawna Vercher stated, “We each have areas of ignorance. But there is ignorance and then there is willful ignorance. You have this amazing resource in front of you in the person of Ms. Brown. Why are discounting her perspective?”
Don’t miss their exchange as Shawna Vercher and I offer our take on this controversy in our latest edition of Dare We Say.