Does anybody even bother to think about what racism is any more before accusing people of it? Do journalists think about the circumstances before they parrot knee-jerk accusations of racism from the likes of Sharpton and others? Based on the evidence of reaction to the infamous memo from a Sony honcho regarding the performance of Denzel Washington pictures abroad, apparently not.
Everywhere, this screed by an unnamed Sony executive is being called “shocking,” “unbelievable,” and, of course “racist.” It is nothing of the kind. In a scenario that reeks of the surreal Samuel L. Jackson fiasco where Ethics Alarms was virtually alone in noting that Jackson’s on-air accusation that a white TV host had confused him with fellow black star Lawrence Fishburne because “all blacks look the same to him” was unfair and completely meritless, the news media is just running with a demonstrably false accusation.
Here are the relevant portions of the e-mail exchange based on what has been reported in the media:
“I am not saying The Equalizer should not have been made or that African American actors should not have been used (I personally think Denzel is the best actor of his generation.) [But] Casting him is saying we’re ok with a double if the picture works. He’s reliable at the domestic [box office], safe, but has not had a huge success in years. I believe…the non event pictures, extra ‘bets’ should have a large inherent upside… Here there isn’t a large inherent upside….I believe that the international motion picture audience is racist – in general, pictures with an African-American lead don’t play well overseas…Sony sometimes seems to disregard that a picture must work well internationally to both maximize returns and reduce risk, especially pics with decent size budgets.”
Let’s examine this “unbelievable” e-mail, line by line and then as a whole, for ethical misconduct and incipient racism:
“I am not saying The Equalizer should not have been made or that African American actors should not have been used (I personally think Denzel is the best actor of his generation.)”
No problem there, right?
“[But] Casting him is saying we’re ok with a double if the picture works.”
The baseball analogy, a “double” over a “home run,” is a conclusion based on Washington’s films’ grosses and hard facts, not racism. It is a legitimate opinion, and one that in a business context must be made as a matter of fiduciary duty. Foriegn box office is about half (or more) of a typical film’s profit. If a star isn’t as popular in foreign markets as in the U.S., then metaphorically speaking, a “home run” is more difficult, and maybe impossible. Continue reading