Bullshit by the Sea

General | Jun 23, 2017 | Carlos Castillo

Saw this tweet a few days ago. The sentiment was shared at Amplify, an invitation-only event sponsored by talent agency CAA. The event was billed as a way “to accelerate the growth, value, and visibility of diversity” in the entertainment industry.

I’ve seen this movie before.

Doc Rivers’ quip is a twist on something I’ve heard for years emanating out of Hollywood. Heard it spoken by a studio executive at a Latino-oriented film event in Los Angeles in the 1990s. “The only color Hollywood cares about is green,” was the refrain I recall. Whether it’s a pro basketball coach or a studio executive, the sentiment implies a color-blind meritocracy. This, of course, is a fallacy.

The entertainment industry is disproportionately white, a fact borne out empirically and anecdotally. And when you start talking about the shot-callers such as owners of pro basketball teams and studio executives (in the case of Warriors owner Peter Guber, one and the same) the disproportion widens.

That’s why the entertainment industry has these diversity events: to trot out the exceptions and give the impression of an egalitarianism that clearly doesn’t exist. Call it racial P.R.

Like the industry they serve, talent agencies are bereft of blacks and browns, especially in the c-suite. In promoting the event, CAA calls attention to its global internship program being 43% ethnically diverse. Key word: internship.

None of this carnival barking about bringing minorities into the tent fazes me in the least other than to occasionally call out the hypocrisy. Fool me twice, shame on me.

I’ve been following the minority thing since the late 1970s. Got on my radar because of the Latino backlash against Hollywood exploiting the gang problem in Los Angeles. (Remember Robbie Benson playing a Chicano in “Walk Proud”?)

Year after year, I hear the industry vowing to clean up its act, hire more minorities and back more projects. At the American Film Market in November, I heard a studio executive make the same pronouncements at a diversity event sponsored by Pepperdine University. I wonder if these guys get together and draw straws to see which one has to go out and shovel this shit.

The whole argument that Hollywood only concerns itself with the best and brightest—that skin color is irrelevant—is pure mythology. (“Baywatch” anyone?) Not to mention that Hollywood is rife with nepotism, always has been. Sure, exceptions such as David O. Selznick abound.

Yet I find it funny when Deadline Hollywood or one of the other trades runs a bio of a newly hired executive and fails to mention that daddy or uncle once ran a studio. Pure happenstance, of course!

I’m not mad at Doc Rivers, just sad that he’s inadvertently (I’m assuming) giving cover to an industry that clearly doesn’t practice what it preaches at an invitation-only affair in tony Laguna Beach.


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