Jean Barker

Hollywood exposed

2014-12-19 15:23

Jean Barker

The recent revelations via North-Korea sympathetic hackers regarding top Hollywood studio Sony Pictures, and the release of the CIA Torture Report have one thing in common: They're both essentially full of information we already knew.

I mean, it's not like anyone's going: “WHAT? The CIA tortured people?!” or “WHO KNEW? Studio execs trash talk stars?!”

The truth is useful

Although I would hate to be Sony right now, the Sony revelations allow us to have discussions – about race and celebrity – that are way overdue.

We shouldn't make this about demonising one or two individuals. Co-CEOs Scott Rudin and Amy Pascal's e-mail exchanges sound exactly like what you'd expect stressed, overly-empowered studio execs' private e-mails to sound like.

Cynical about the business, they seem to be blowing off steam at difficult stars. Amy Pascal called Kevin Hart a “whore”. Scott Rudin referred to Angelina Jolie as a “minimally talented spoiled brat,” and a "camp event celebrity".

Also Pascal, discussing a fundraiser she didn't want to attend, and joking about meeting Obama, asked whether she should ask him what she thought of various African-American themed films, as if, being black, Obama would mostly be interested in these.

Pascal and Rudin's comments are embarrassing, and somewhat racist at times. But my instincts tell me that none of them are actually hateful. What this leak has exposed is not that Amy Pascal is a bad person (she's not - we all say the occasional stupid thing when chatting to close friends, and John Singleton, Oprah and Tyler Perry, among others, know this, and have leapt to her defense). It's also not proof that Sony is The Evil Studio (it's not - Sony probably gives more attention to black stars and projects than the other majors).

What the leak shows

What the leak really shows is that  Hollywood, and the movie and TV business in general, is pretty racist. I'm glad this is out in the open and indisputable. The leak has become a crack in the dam wall, and people feel safer saying it like it is.

A Facebook friend, and successful Hollywood writer said they get told frequently, by studios, that “black doesn't sell overseas”. It's rare to see black people working in the business, as actors, camera crew or directors. Black extras I've worked with complain that they're merely token – one per scene at most unless the story is set in Compton or Harlem.

A New York street in a Hollywood film usually looks nothing like a real (ethnically diverse) one. TV shows are wall to wall white people, and often for no good story reason.  I recently worked a sitcom shooting at a middle school. The whites-only cast of background kids bore no resemblance to the mostly black and Hispanic kids who actually attended classes in LA.

We have to hope that now that everybody knows there's a problem, at least a few people will make an effort to do something about it.

Getting their money back

And before you feel too sorry for Sony as scapegoat for all of Hollywood's wrongdoing: don't. I suspect they will find a way to make the world pay.

They may have cancelled the scheduled Christmas release, but they spent $44m and years developing this, and The Interview pictures and posters and murals are still all over LA.

You can barely turn your head without seeing the bright orange promotionals.

The movie, whose trailer suggests it is merely a goofball satire, has gained enough buzz and street cred, thanks to the Guardians of the Peace hack and subsequent terrorism threats, that some kind of release is inevitable. I predict massive VOD revenues, if the studio is able to keep it off Piratebay long enough to do the deals, and do them fast.

From idiocy to activism

The holiday blockbuster has now also been elevated to the status of a populist protest movie. Capitalising on this, an activist group called “Fighters for a Free North Korea” plan to drop “bombs” on North Korea - let's call them Hollywood Bombs, or Ho'bombs. The planned  attack will consist of giant balloons launched secretly from South Korea containing copies of the film that are sent up 2 miles high, and designed to explode, emptying their cargo into North Korea.

So if Americans can't see The Interview, for fear they'll be blown up in a movie theater for making fun of Kim Jong-Un, it seems North Koreans might be in for a much more dangerous sneak preview.  

- Jean earned an MFA in Directing and Screenwriting and works in the LA film industry. She tweets as @jeanbarker and blogs pictures of signs and more, here. She will be back.

Send your comments to Jean


News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.


SHARE: publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.