On Charlize, Viola, and the Plight of Black Women in Hollywood

Yesterday we posted two frames from our Oscar Roundtable in which Viola Davis, alluding to the fact black women who are not exactly Halle Berry have it hard in Hollywood, was silenced by Charlize Theron’s well-intentioned, “Stop saying that…you’re hot as shit.” It kinda blew up. So we asked Allison Samuels, a senior writer at Newsweek, to take a stab at what it is, exactly, Charlize doesn’t get about black Hollywood.

An excerpt:

Charlize Theron surely meant no harm. The actress genuinely thought she was complimenting fellow thespian Viola Davis during this year’s Newsweek Oscar roundtable when she told Davis, “You’re hot as sh-t.’’

Their exchange revolved around Davis’s comments on finding work as an African-American actress. Davis, who has won praise for her starring role in The Help, was attempting to explain the difficult plight of being black and female in the movie industry. “I’m a 46-year-old black woman who really doesn’t look like Halle Berry, and Halle Berry is having a hard time,” said Davis.

No doubt hoping to forge a sisterly bond, Theron rushed in to reassure Davis that she was indeed “hot’’ and naively implied that a simple change of attitude would make a world of difference. Her exact words—“You have to stop saying that, because you’re hot as sh-t.’’

How sweet of Theron to say, and how thoroughly misguided and offensive as well. Davis was honestly confronting a number of painful and complicated issues faced by many women of color in Hollywood today—issues Theron (who was born in South Africa to parents of European descent) more than likely has never encountered and would have done well to listen to. The Oscar roundtable was the perfect forum for such a discussion, and yet Theron’s verbal charity managed to downplay the importance of Davis’s point. What difference does it make if Davis stops speaking a truth if the reality remains?

Keep reading, What Charlize Theron Doesn’t Get About Black Hollywood.