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‘It’s a White Industry’: Highlights From Chris Rock’s Essay Dismantling Systemic Racism in Hollywood

'It's a White Industry': Highlights From Chris Rock's Essay Dismantling Systemic Racism in Hollywood

This week is shaping up to be quite a big week for Chris Rock. It started yesterday with the publication of a lengthy interview with New York magazine’s Frank Rich, followed this morning by the release of a new, acerbic piece on the topic of race in Hollywood, penned by Rock himself, for The Hollywood Reporter.

Rock’s latest film, “Top Five,” which opens next week and is being pushed as an awards contender by its distributor, Paramount, serves as the launchpad for his trenchant look at Hollywood’s race problem. We’ve outlined a few key points from the essay below. You can read it in its entirety here.

“Top Five” was never Hollywood material.

“I couldn’t have made ‘Top Five’ at a studio. First of all, no one’s going to make a movie with a premise so little and artsy: a star putting out a movie and getting interviewed by a woman from The New York Times. I would have had to have three two-hour meetings explaining that black people also read The New York Times. A studio would’ve made it like ‘Malibu’s Most Wanted.’ And never in a million years would they have allowed a scene where the rich guy comes back to the projects and actually gets along with everybody. No way. In most black movies — and in most black TV shows and even in most black plays — anyone with money or an education is evil, even movies made by black directors. They have to be saved by the poor people. This goes back to ‘Good Times’ and ‘What’s Happening!!'”

READ MORE: Watch: Chris Rock Doesn’t Feel Funny Anymore in ‘Top Five’ Trailer

The casting process doesn’t abide by the notion of “equal employment opportunity.”

“When it comes to casting, Hollywood pretty much decides to cast a black guy or they don’t. We’re never on the ‘short list.’ We’re never ‘in the mix.’ When there’s a hot part in town and the guys are reading for it, that’s just what happens. It was never like, ‘Is it going to be Ryan Gosling or Chiwetel Ejiofor for ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’?'”

Case and point: Black women weren’t even part of the casting conversation around season two of “True Detective.”


“How about ‘True Detective’? I never heard anyone go, ‘Is it going to be Amy Adams or Gabrielle Union?’ for that show. I didn’t hear one black girl’s name on those lists. Not one. Literally everyone in town was up for that part, unless you were black. And I haven’t read the script, but something tells me if Gabrielle Union were Colin Farrell’s wife, it wouldn’t change a thing.

READ MORE: Is Chris Rock’s ‘Top Five’ An Awards Contender?

There is no diploma in taste.

“There would be a little naivete to sitting around and going, ‘Oh, no black person has ever greenlighted a movie,’ but those other jobs? You’re kidding me, right? They don’t even require education. When you’re on the lower levels, they’re just about taste, nothing else. And you don’t have to go to Harvard to have taste.”

READ MORE: Toronto Review: Was Chris Rock’s ‘Top Five’ Worth the $12.5 Million Price Tag?

It’s not just the big decisions that minorities need to weigh in on, it’s the smaller ones too.

“You’re telling me no Mexicans are qualified to do anything at a studio?
Really? Nothing but mop up? […] The odds are that
there’s probably a Mexican who’s that smart who’s never going to be
given a shot. And it’s not about being given a shot to greenlight a
movie because nobody is going to give you that — you’ve got to take
that. The shot is that a Mexican guy or a black guy is qualified to go
and give his opinion about how loud the boings are in “Dodgeball”
or whether it’s the right shit sound you hear when Jeff Daniels is on
the toilet in Dumb and Dumber. It’s like, ‘We only let white people do
that.’ This is a system where only white people can chime in on that.”

The less you have of something, the more you start to expect from it.

“I think [black films] been better in the last few years, too — a little more daring, a little funnier. But look, most movies suck. Absolutely suck. They just do. Most TV shows suck. Most books suck. If most things were good, I’d make $15 an hour. I don’t live the way I live because most things are even remotely good. But when you have a system where you probably only see three movies with African-American leads in them a year, they’re going to be judged more harshly, and you’re really rooting for them to be good a little more so than the 140 movies starring white people every year.”

READ MORE: Chris Rock Tells Frank Rich: “‘Lost in Translation’ Is a Black Movie”

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