At HelloBeautiful, our stance on being pro-Black woman and pro-Black girl are definitely loud and clear, but we do know how to share the love as well. We appreciate any woman who aspires to be great and has made the moves to achieve their dreams to its full potential. And it’s not like we’re not counting the days ’til Hillary announces that 2016 campaign too! But with that being said, former Sony Pictures co-chair(wo)man Amy Pascal‘s deplorable emails about Black stars and their films in Hollywood were just another example of the uncouth tendency of treating Black people as comedic bait. Thus honestly, we were disappointed in Pascal and we’ve got some specific reasons why.
When it was announced she would be stepping down from Sony Pictures, “Good riddance” or “Yeah! Get that *&^#$ outta here!” weren’t exactly unleashed. Instead, slanted shrugs, a tightened mouth, and (to paraphrase) our thoughts concluded, “Oh well. We can’t even root for her because look at what she did.” The incriminating materials that we’re referring to came from the Sony email hacking scandal that revealed mountains of business talks and gossip from Hollywood’s behind the scenes elite. Included were disrespectful comments Pascal made about celebrities, and her peers, yet most principally, the Black celebrities and racist jokes she thought no one would ever know of.
From those infamous chats, Pascal referred to TV stars as the “the new black baby” (mocking how trendy it was for wealthy, White celebs to adopt African children) and prior to attending a DreamWorks fundraiser where President Barack Obama was also scheduled to appear, she had a disgraceful exchange with film producer Scott Rudin, as they both joked about what his favorite films would be. Mentioned were Black subservient roles, comedies, and two prominently revered Black films, including 2013’s Best Picture winner:
R: “Would he like to finance some movies.”
P: “I doubt it. Should I ask him if he liked Django [Unchained]?”
R: “12 Years [a Slave].”
P: “Or the butler. Or think like a man?”
R: “Ride-along. I bet he likes Kevin Hart.”
Is this is what Hollywood really thought of Black people? Black celebrities avow all the time how hard it is to break into the industry and how few roles of substance are offered to them. To see it in an email, how comfortable Pascal (and Rudin) were in ridiculing and dragging on stereotypes, it was alarming. This White woman, saying all these things…and she’s in such a powerful position. Making seven figures in an overly male-driven environment. Normally, because of her mantle, a woman (regardless of race) would empowered at the thought of a woman leading the pack. But Pascal? She seemed as vindictive as any White male ruling the roost. She didn’t have a Black actress’ back any more than Ridley Scott did. Yet it may help to consider she was just playing along to stay alive in the boys club of Hollywood. They’ve probably been making jokes like these for years.
A few Black filmmakers like John Singleton and Tyler Perry offered Pascal a branch in saying she was supportive of their work and was misunderstood. One email did reveal that she was very gung-ho about having Black English actor Idris Elba as the new James Bond. While Oprah Winfrey questioned whether it was fair to lambast her because the emails were stolen. But here’s why Pascal’s contribution to the racism in Hollywood, and how it was done on such a high platform as hers, was so SMDH-worthy.
Her remarks offended because it represented what so many Black people have felt and worried about before they’d even stepped into a room. Whether you’re auditioning for a TV spot or submitting a resume for Silicon Valley, sometimes when you see that the encounter you’re about to have is with a White person, and the vibe is instantly off or feels insincere, you picture how they’re really responding to you–in their head–which is with a pursed smile while thinking: “Look at this little Black girl”–or “boy”–“trying to be a star.” Or a writer. Biochemist. Paralegal. It’s a really crappy feeling to walk into a room and before you’ve had a chance to talk are judged and pre-labelled as “no.” That’s what it felt like reading those racist emails from Pascal, Rudin, and whoever else that pressed send. It’s not as if Black people need Whites to succeed, but it felt like those emails confirmed the above nightmarish thoughts that these incidents do occur, which is Black people subjected as inferior behind closed doors.
Pascal released a typical apology once the hacking became a worldwide newsbreak, but the damage was done. Her behavior was insulting. For people like her, who are so influential and powerful, they should sincerely acknowledge why such behavior would be considered insulting and how after 15 years of building a legacy, you had to throw in the tainted towel because you thought closeted racism and prejudice was an unspoken acceptance. We hate to see a woman leave behind such a powerful position in her field, but with comments like that Pascal had to go.
As she stated in her goodbye letter, she has plans to build her own studio and company, so she’s still as ambitious and passionate about film as ever. Clearly she’s a woman that doesn’t give up and that can be admired. What we know is that after the Sony hacking scandal that put her racist humor on blast, that she learned a real lesson about practicing professionalism behind closed doors and on electronically. Hopefully when that new studio of hers open, Amy Pascal will be introducing us to the next Ava DuVernay.