Mindy Kaling, Eva Longoria, and More Reveal What Hollywood Is Really Like If You’re Not a Straight White Man
A piece went up on the New York Times, today titled “What It’s Really Like to Work in Hollywood* (*If you’re not a straight white man.),” which features 27 writers, actors, producers, and directors talking about their experiences being underrepresented on and off-screen.
The various quotes reveal how the overwhelmingly straight white males-ness enters every level of Hollywood. We begin in the first section, “School Years,” where Ken Jeong was given well-intentioned advice to “stay the hell out of L.A…Go to Asia” and Sam Esmail (creator of Mr. Robot) thought “white male was the norm, the default character in every story.”
When we move on to “Getting a Foot in the Door,” America Ferrera talks about bleaching her hair and painting her face white for an audition and Eva Longoria being told she needed an accent. In “Talking to the Suits” Karyn Kusama talks about pressures from marketing to make Megan Fox talk to porn sites for Jennifer’s Body and screenwriter John Ridley brings up executives asking him “Why does she have to be black?” about a female lead.
There are so many anecdotes, but Justin Lin’s quote in “The Money Issue” was probably one the one that really sticks to my head.
With my first film [Better Luck Tomorrow], I was working three jobs [to help pay for it]. I was meeting with potential investors, and right away everybody’s like, “It’s an Asian-American cast. It’ll never sell.” And a lot of them were Asian-American investors. A guy offered $1 million for the budget, and he said, “We’ll get Macaulay Culkin to be the lead.” If I would have said yes, I would have gotten $1 million and I would have gotten to make the movie with a white cast, but it didn’t interest me.
Not only was Better Luck Tomorrow one of the only movies I’d ever seen with an Asian-American cast when I was younger, it was also based on a real incident that happened at my high school. It was a pretty important movie for me and a lot of my friends, and the thought of a white-washed version is pretty horrifying.
In “On the Set,” Queen Latifah talks about sets not knowing how to put makeup on black women and in “Sounding the Part” Teyonah Parris recalls being told not to “talk ghetto.” Mindy Kaling discusses struggling with asserting herself in “Internal Struggles.”
The countless micro and macro-aggressions we see in this article show that bias and discrimination is alive and well. It shouldn’t be a universal experience for people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, and women in the industry to deal with harassment, ignorance, or erasure. These stories are frustrating, upsetting, and discouraging, but telling them is an essential part of the solution. I’m very happy this article came out because not talking about these issues allows them to fester. It allows people to point at successful individuals and say “what are you talking about? Mindy Kaling made it! John Cho has a career!” It yells at people with real struggles finding, writing, and directing roles and dismissing them with “If you work hard, that’s all it takes. You should feel bad for not trying hard enough.”
By talking about the realities of Hollywood, we can identify those problems and begin addressing them. In “Helping Hands, and Faces” Hari Nef says “something clicked” when she saw Laverne Cox on Orange is the New Black. Priyanka Chopra recalls a crying girl giving her a hug and telling her “Thank you for making us relevant” in “Victories to Savor” and in “Facing the Challenge,” producer Lori McCreary says there’s a lot of “great storytelling waiting to happen.”
You can read the full article over at the New York Times, I highly recommend it.
(image via Shutterstock/Fer Gregory)
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