Matt Damon Should Never Have Tried To Explain Diversity To A Black Woman

When I think of Matt Damon I think of Boston. When I think of Boston, I think of white people (trust me, I lived there for four years – I’ve never lived in a whiter city). And when I think of white people, diversity isn’t the first thing that I’m thinking of. Or even the eighth…or twenty eighth.

Still, that didn’t stop Matt Damon from taking the time out an episode of Project Greenlight, an arty reality television program he runs with fellow white Bostonian Ben Affleck, to explain the delicate subject of diversity in Hollywood to a successful black film producer named Effie Brown.


Project Greenlight operates on the premise that it’s giving filmmakers with no connections a chance to make a film with guaranteed financing and distribution.  In practice, all it really does is give one director a chance to make a film with guaranteed financing and distribution that absolutely nobody outside the Project Greenlight audience will even think of seeing.

But before the one lucky director can be selected, first the finalists have to fly to L.A. to sit down with a group of esteemed producers. Unsurprisingly, Effie Brown was the only person of color in that group.

The film Matt and Ben had gathered everybody to talk about was a comedy written by the Farrelly Brothers called Not Another Pretty Woman which featured a black prostitute in the leading role. Naturally, as a person of color, Effie Brown expressed her concerns about how the script should be handled. If things weren’t done carefully, the character could easily become a stereotype and Effie urged Matt and Ben to consider hiring a director who wasn’t a white man to tell a black woman’s story.

And that’s when Matt Damon decided to let Effie Brown in on a secret about how diversity works in Hollywood: it’s only applicable to casting actors, not filmmakers.  Diversity in Hollywood is a problem, but it’s not their problem .

Although Damon later goes on to clarify what he meant by saying that choosing a director based entirely on diversity instead of merit “would undermine what the competition is supposed to be about,” I can’t help but think the opposite is true. If the premise of the show is really to give filmmakers who wouldn’t have a shot at directing a feature film a chance, why not give that chance to a director of color who statistically has a much lesser chance of directing a feature film than a white director.

But then again, what do I know?


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