Why Hollywood doesn’t care who its action heroes actually are.
Michael Solomon cast the GOP primaries for us and found some striking similarities. Ian McKellen as Ron Paul?! Yes. Ed Helms as Rick Santorum? Of course! And Cuba Gooding Jr. could play a mean Juan Williams. See the rest.
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.
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.
If folk watch the video - Viola Davis’ point was not about being hot or not, was not about comparing her looks to Halle Berry. It was about (as she said if Theron hadn’t have interrupted her and someone making this into a .gif) that she understands the identity standards that Hollywood commodifies for particular roles and reproduce then disseminate to the masses. Regardless of Theron or me or anybody thinking that Viola Davis is the biznez, the structure couldn’t give two warm damns about what we think. Like Clooney said in the video, Hollywood uses very simple ways to decide what the audience does/doesn’t want … of course all of this is a microcosm for how the larger society actually work - and in that there’s a system, a hierarchy, racism, colorism, classism, intellectual elitism, etc. an exclusion based on who is in charge & who runs the business. Those ppl look more like Theron than Berry or Davis, and they look especially like the majority of folk sitting in the room in that clip - white males.
yeah, way to miss the point, newsweek. as usual.
I know this is already tumblr famous and everyone is like OMG I LOVE CHARLIZE THERON FOR TELLING THE DARK BLACK LADY SHE’S PRETTY TOO. All I saw was a thin, attractive white lady who is where she is because she is thin and attractive completely not getting the point a black lady was making about her own authentic experience and redirecting the whole conversation and making it about herself. And look she succeeded, it’s all “Amen Charlize” instead of “Amen Viola.”
Today in lessons learned from contextual lapses in non-animated gifs—it sounds like Charlize (and us, by proxy) may have missed the point Viola was trying to make. Thanks for all the reblogs, guys—your point is noted. Check the full clip for those who haven’t and share your thoughts of the exchange.
UPDATE: Allison Samuels weighs in on what Charlize just doesn’t get about Black Hollywood.