At HelloBeautiful, our stance on being pro-Black woman and pro-Black girl are definitely loud and clear, but we know how to share the love too. We appreciate any woman who aspires to be great and has made the moves to achieve their utmost dreams. And don’t think we’re not counting down the moment ’til Hillary announces that 2016 campaign! With that being said, former Sony Pictures co-chair(wo)man Amy Pascal‘s deplorable emails about Black stars and their films in Hollywood was just another example of the uncouth tendency to treat Black people as comedic bait, and honestly, we were disappointed in Pascal.
When it was announced she would be stepping down from Sony, “Good riddance” or “Yeah! Get that *&^#$ outta here!” weren’t exactly unleashed. Instead, slanted shrugs, a tightened mouth, and (to paraphrase) our thought concluded, “Oh well. We can’t even root for because look at what she did.” And the incriminating reference we’re using are those disrespectful comments she made about White celebrities, some of her peers, and principally, Black celebs and racist jokes. The Sony hacking scandal revealed mountains of emailed business talks and gossip of Hollywood’s behind the scenes elite.
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 would be present, 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? You Black celebrities discuss all the time how hard it is to break into the industry and the few roles of substance are offered to them. But to see it in an email, how comfortable Pascal (and Rudin) ridicules and drags 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, women of any race would feel encouraged at the thought of a woman leading the pack. We’re always here for such victories, but Pascal? She seemed as vindictive as any White male in 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 step into a room, eager for a fair opportunity. Whether you’re auditioning for a TV spot or submitting a resume for Silicon Valley, 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 even begin to talk feel as if you’ve been judged and pre-labelled “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.
Pascal released a typical apology once the hacking became a worldwide newsbreak, but the damage was done. For people like her, who are so influential and powerful, it’s not about recognizing poor little Black folk and our dreams of stardom or “wanting” to be accepted. It’s about sincerely acknowledging why you were wrong in the first place and how after 15 years of building a legacy, you felt so embarrassed and ashamed, you had to throw that tainted towel in order to start over.
As she stated in her goodbye letter, Pascal 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. We know she learned a real lesson about practicing professionalism behind closed doors and hopefully when that new studio of hers open, she’ll be introducing us to the next Ava DuVernay.