Chris Rock has been making the rounds for his new movie Top Five, but what he’s doing is no ordinary press tour. He’s been doing in-depth, politics-heavy, lengthy interviews. And now he’s written an essay for The Hollywood reporter, a diatribe against the ingrained racism of the Hollywood system, which you should definitely take the time to read in full. It’s pretty spectacular and it pulls exactly zero punches. Speaking of Hollywood, he says,
It’s a white industry. Just as the NBA is a black industry. I’m not even saying it’s a bad thing. It just is. And the black people they do hire tend to be the same person. That person tends to be female and that person tends to be Ivy League. And there’s nothing wrong with that. As a matter of fact, that’s what I want for my daughters. …But how many black men have you met working in Hollywood? 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.
But he goes beyond what you might expect this essay to be: a black man talking about the black experience. He expands his view to cover wider prejudices, of which there are many.
But forget whether Hollywood is black enough. A better question is: Is Hollywood Mexican enough? You’re in L.A, you’ve got to try not to hire Mexicans. It’s the most liberal town in the world, and there’s a part of it that’s kind of racist — not racist like “F— you, n—-” racist, but just an acceptance that there’s a slave state in L.A. … You’re telling me no Mexicans are qualified to do anything at a studio? Really? Nothing but mop up? What are the odds that that’s true? The odds are, because people are people, that there’s probably a Mexican David Geffen mopping up for somebody’s company right now. The odds are that there’s probably a Mexican who’s that smart who’s never going to be given a shot. And it’s not about being given a shot to greenlight a movie because nobody is going to give you that — you’ve got to take that. The shot is that a Mexican guy or a black guy is qualified to go and give his opinion about how loud the boings are in Dodgeball or whether it’s the right shit sound you hear when Jeff Daniels is on the toilet in Dumb and Dumber. It’s like, “We only let white people do that.” This is a system where only white people can chime in on that. There would be a little naivete to sitting around and going, “Oh, no black person has ever greenlighted a movie,” but those other jobs? You’re kidding me, right? They don’t even require education. When you’re on the lower levels, they’re just about taste, nothing else. And you don’t have to go to Harvard to have taste.
Setting aside the fact that I really want the job where you judge the appropriateness of Dodgeball’s “boings,” he talks about the essential element of representation in film, and how it affects your appreciation of a movie or a TV show (or a book or ANYTHING, really). This is something that is really hard to wrap your head around if you grew up seeing protagonists that look like you.
I really don’t think there’s any difference between what black audiences find funny and what white audiences find funny, but everyone likes to see themselves onscreen, so there are some instances where there’s a black audience laughing at something that a white audience wouldn’t laugh at because a black audience is really just happy to see itself. Things that would be problems in a world where there were a lot of black movies get overlooked. The same thing happened with those Sex and the City movies. You don’t really see that level of female movie that much, so women were like, “We’re only going to get this every whatever, so f— you, f— the reviews, we’re going, we like it.”
Now, when it comes to casting, Hollywood pretty much decides to cast a black guy or they don’t. We’re never on the “short list.” We’re never “in the mix.” When there’s a hot part in town and the guys are reading for it, that’s just what happens. It was never like, “Is it going to be Ryan Gosling or Chiwetel Ejiofor for Fifty Shades of Grey?” And you know, black people f—, too. White women actually want to f— black guys, sometimes more than white guys. More women want to f— Tyrese than Jamie Dornan, and it’s not even close. It’s not a contest. Even Jamie would go, “OK, you got it.”
But Rock does end on a hopeful note.
But there’s been progress. When I was on Saturday Night Live a few weeks ago, we did a sketch where I was Sasheer Zamata’s dad and she had an Internet show. Twenty years ago when I was on Saturday Night Live, anything with black people on the show had to deal with race, and that sketch we did didn’t have anything to do with race. That was the beauty: The sketch is funny because it’s funny, and that’s the progress.
Read the entire piece here.