Britta (Gillian Jacobs) in Community saying "I can't excuse the racism, but I draw the line at animal cruelty."

‘The Hollywood Reporter’ Admits to Plagiarism, but Not the Racist Diatribe?

With Hollywood semi-locked due to studios (represented by the AMPTP) refusing to bargain fairly with the WGA and SAG-AFTRA, many live events have been canceled or delayed. This includes award shows and convention panels. However, the Venice film festival will continue—even if it means inviting the most famous alleged pedophiles and sex pests to do it. In their coverage of the director-lineup there, entertainment trade publication The Hollywood Reporter initially published some editorial criticism of one of the directors—not any of the actually eyebrow-raising directors, though. Instead, they plagiarized a racist article about Black filmmaker Ava DuVernay.

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The THR article has since been corrected to remove the plagiarized material, with a disclaimer at the top. It initially discussed DuVernay like this:

Ava DuVernay’s Netflix movie ‘Origin’ is about to start filming in the Southern United States. The film was initially reported to be called “Caste” but the title seems to now be “Origin” …

It sounds like another preachy sermon from DuVernay, who has really decided to completely destroy the promising filmmaking of “Middle of Nowhere” and “Selma” with rather bland projects.

As it turned out, that text—despite appearing in an article by THR’s Europe Bureau Chief Scott Roxborough—actually came from a 2022 World of Reel article, the rest of which continues to frame the way DuVernay calls out injustice (in the legal system and Hollywood) as petulant and unwarranted. This is not only a wildly out of pocket statement in general, but racist given the context of DuVernay’s catalog of work. She has (mostly) made films about the plight of the Black experience in the United States.

DuVernay has produced a documentary about mass incarceration replacing slavery (13th). Also, there’s the mini-series about five Black/brown children locked away for years for a crime they didn’t commit, (When They See Us) a.k.a. The Central Park Five. While there’s nothing wrong with this, I should note that she’s also worked on upbeat projects, too. DuVernay adapted the children’s sci-fi classic A Wrinkle in Time and the teen superhero show Naomi. Additionally, she created the adult romance anthology Cherish the Day.

Sites like World of Reel reserve “preachy” for marginalized people telling stories in a way that allows our identities to play a central role. The terminology isn’t quite as lazy as just writing things off as “woke,” but serves a similar and yet distinct purpose. Stories from any writer/director can be preachy (regardless of race), but that phrase has societal baggage not dissimilar from calling a woman “naggy.”

The Hollywood Reporter removes DuVernay criticism

Despite having two monitors, I’ll sometimes copy-paste something I’m referencing into the article page and delete it after I write. It helps with organization and flow to see reference text on the same page. Roxborough likely did the same and forgot to remove it, despite the claims by some forums that AI was the culprit. Still, he and a number of other journalists noticed no issue with the actual wording or meaning of the plagiarized text, all the way through to publication.

Some time after publishing the article with these comments, THR updated it with a correction (standard in journalism) to remove the copied content and acknowledge the mistake. The main problem is that they failed to acknowledge the glaring issue with the material no matter its origin. It’s a very reminiscent of the (since memed) scene of Britta from Community taking more issue with animal cruelty than racism:

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story contained a sentence of criticism about Ava DuVernay from another website and was never intended for inclusion in this article. THR regrets the error.

This isn’t the first time readers have caught the publication making some disturbing comments about Black women. Just last year, in an article about how personal baggage may influence 2022 Oscar bids, the publication treated troubling vaccine comments as if they were as problematic as serial abuse and bigotry. THR equated Will Smith’s slap and Letitia Wright’s vaccine comments to performers with abuse allegations (and videos), racism, and antisemitism. Black journalists recounted similar experiences with the writer and executive editor involved, Scott Feinberg.

This publication frequently finds … “interesting” ways to make sure its articles are very diverse. We’re rarely represented in list articles highlighting heroines, directors to watch, etc. However, let there be something controversial, and Black creatives (and other POC) will be overly represented. When inadvertently revealing the sources these journalists look to for perspective, it’s not surprising that they’ll be less adept at hiding their bigotry.

This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the work being covered here wouldn’t exist.

(via The Hollywood Reporter, featured image: NBC)

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Alyssa Shotwell
(she/her) Award-winning artist and writer with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. She began her career in journalism in October 2017 when she joined her student newspaper as the Online Editor. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 & Oxygen Not Included.