Chris Rock has penned a frank and honest indictment of race in modern show business.
In addition to talk show appearances and photo calls to promote his new film “Top Five,” the comedian submitted an essay to The Hollywood Reporter under the headline, “It’s A White Industry … One Black Man’s Big Hollywood Adventure.”
Here are the seven most compelling insights that he shared.
1. The Studio System is inherently white
“It’s a white industry. Just as the NBA is a black industry. I’m not even saying it’s a bad thing. It just is. And the black people they do hire tend to be the same person. That person tends to be female and that person tends to be Ivy League,” Rock noted.
But the real atrocity? The industry’s treatment of Mexicans.
“But forget whether Hollywood is black enough. A better question is: Is Hollywood Mexican enough? You’re in L.A, you’ve got to try not to hire Mexicans. It’s the most liberal town in the world, and there’s a part of it that’s kind of racist … an acceptance that there’s a slave state in L.A. There’s this acceptance that Mexicans are going to take care of white people in L.A. that doesn’t exist anywhere else,” he writes.
2. Comedy cliques (also mostly white) still wield influence, making it hard for upstarts of color
Rock said he helps young black comics in the same way Eddie Murphy gave Rock his start, because “someone’s going to help the white guy. Multiple people will. The people whom I’ve tried to help, I’m not sure anybody was going to help them.”
Rock points to Leslie Jones, whom he recommended to Lorne Michaels two years ago when “Saturday Night Live” was under fire for a lack of diversity. She was hired as a writer then promoted to featured cast. “She’s about as funny as a human being can be, but she didn’t go to Second City, she doesn’t do stand-up at The Cellar and she’s not in with Judd Apatow, so how the hell was she ever going to get through unless somebody like me says to Lorne Michaels, ‘Hey, look at this person?'” Rock wrote.
3. Black movies aren’t underdogs anymore, they’re expected to perform
“In the world of black film, everything was judged on a relative basis — almost the same curve that indie films get judged on … now, not only are black movies making money, they’re expected to make money — and they’re expected to make money on the same scale as everything else.”
4. Women don’t have it much easier in terms of representation
“The same thing happened with those ‘Sex and the City ‘movies,” Rock said, relating the thrill of black audiences seeing themselves on screen to that of female ticketholders. “You don’t really see that level of female movie that much, so women were like, ‘We’re only going to get this every whatever, so f–k you, f–k the reviews, we’re going, we like it.'”
5. Success is viewed through a racial lens
“Kevin Hart is the biggest comedian in the world,” Rock said, “If Kevin Hart is playing 40,000 seats in a night and Jon Stewart is playing 3,000, the fact that Jon Stewart’s 3,000 are white means Kevin has to cross over? That makes no sense.”
6. Casting really is a matter of black and white
“Hollywood pretty much decides to cast a black guy or they don’t. We’re never on the ‘short list’ … It was never like, ‘Is it going to be Ryan Gosling or Chiwetel Ejiofor for “Fifty Shades of Grey”?’ … White women actually want to f–k black guys, sometimes more than white guys.”
And for black actresses? Forget it. In saying how his “Top Five” costar Gabrielle Union would never be in contention to play Colin Farrell’s wife on the new season of “True Detective,” Rock points out: “there are almost no black women in film. You can go to whole movies and not see one black woman. They’ll throw a black guy a bone. OK, here’s a black guy. But is there a single black woman in “Interstellar”? Or “Gone Girl”? “Birdman”? “The Purge”? “Neighbors”? I’m not sure there are.”
7. Change is real, but change is slow
“Whatever Kevin Hart wants to do right now, he can do; I think Chiwetel is a really respected actor who is getting a lot of great shots just because he’s really good; if Steve McQueen wants to direct a Marvel movie, they would salivate to get him. Change just takes time. The Triborough Bridge has been the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge for almost 20 years now, but we still call it the Triborough Bridge. That’s how long it takes s–t to change,” he concluded.
“Top Five” hits theaters in wide release on Friday, Dec. 8.