- In an interview with Joe Rogan, Robert Downey Jr. defended his decision to act wearing blackface in the film Tropic Thunder, arguing that it was satire.
- Former talk show host Megyn Kelly responded in a tweet, suggesting that NBC Universal gave him a free pass while she was “canceled” by the company for comments previously made defending blackface.
- Some Twitter users criticized Kelly, pointing out that the movie was a parody while her comments were serious, while, others agreed that she was treated unfairly.
Robert Downey Jr. Interview
Former news anchor Megyn Kelly accused NBC Universal of practicing a double standard regarding discussions of blackface after Robert Downey Jr. defended his decision to play a character who wears blackface in the movie Tropic Thunder.
The 2008 satirical action-comedy centered around four actors who were filming a Vietnam war movie. In the film, Downey plays Kirk Lazarus, a method actor who got “pigmentation alteration” surgery to darken his skin so he could play a black character for the movie.
While the character drew some criticisms, the film was still quite well-received by critics, many of whom felt the movie was a satire of Hollywood and that Downey’s character fit that narrative. Downey was nominated for an Oscar, a Golden Globe, as well as other awards for the role.
The topic was recently rehashed again when podcast host Joe Rogan asked Downey Jr. if he believed Tropic Thunder could be made today. Downey said that he initially thought the role was “a terrible idea.”
“And then I thought, ‘Well hold on dude, get real here, where is your heart?’” he continued. “And my heart is, a) I get to, I get to be black for a summer in my mind, so there’s something in it for me. The other thing is I get to hold up to nature the insane, self-involved hypocrisy of artists and what they think they’re allowed to do on occasion. Just my opinion.”
Downey Jr. went on to praise Ben Stiller, who co-wrote, directed, and acted in the movie.
“He knew exactly what the vision for this was,” he said. “He executed it. It was impossible to not have it be an offensive nightmare of a movie. And 90% of my black friends were like, ‘Dude, that was great.’”
When asked about the other 10% Downey Jr. admitted that he couldn’t disagree with them.
“But I know where my heart was,” he explained. “And I think that it’s never an excuse to do something that is out of place and not of its time, but to me, it was just putting a, it was a blasting cap on.”
Rogan then circled back to the question of whether or not the movie could be made today.
“There’s a morality clause here on this planet, and it’s a big price to pay,” Downey Jr. said. “And I think having a moral psychology is job one, so sometimes you just got to go, ‘Yeah I effed up.’ Again, not in my defense, but ‘Tropic Thunder’ was about how wrong that is, so I take exception.”
Megyn Kelly Responds
After the clip went viral, many people took to Twitter to respond. Some criticized Downey, saying that blackface is never acceptable, while others agreed with the actor that the film was meant to satirize those who actually do blackface.
Kelly, however, had a different take altogether. In October 2018, Kelly drummed up controversy after comments she made on her NBC talk show about wearing blackface on Halloween.
“But what is racist?” she asked in the segment. “Because you do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface on Halloween, or a black person who puts on whiteface for Halloween. Back when I was a kid that was OK, as long as you were dressing up as, like, a character.”
Kelly publicly apologized for the comments on her show the next day. But three days after making those remarks, NBC canceled her show, and her contract with them was terminated in January 2019.
In a tweet on Wednesday, Kelly went after NBC Universal, which produced Tropic Thunder, accusing them of a double standard.
Response to Kelly
Twitter users responded to Kelly’s post with the expected mixed reactions.
Some argued that the movie was a satire and that Downey was just an actor playing a role, while Kelly was a journalist speaking as herself on her own talk show.
Robert Downey Jr. parodied racists who choose blackface in “Tropic Thunder”. Your personal and career failings are of your own making and can’t be attributed to a racist character you were playing (that’s Alex Jones’ weak defense).https://t.co/yK5Sae0G96— the inverted pilcrow. ¶ (@dlnodots) January 23, 2020
Robert Downey Jr – satire. Megyn Kelly – racism. Big difference, which you obviously still cannot get over. You must be missing that paycheck. Oh and we haven’t forgotten about your white Santa BS too.— Suzie O’Shea (@oshea_suzie) January 23, 2020
Did you see Tropic Thunder? His character was a parody of an idiotic, egomaniacal actor who thought he was making some kind of deep point. In other words, his character was a parody of people like you.— Dave Zirin (@EdgeofSports) January 23, 2020
On the other side, some people agreed with Kelly, arguing that she was right and it was and that she was treated unfairly.
Complete double standard. They didn’t treat you right.— Eric Coleman (@EricSColeman) January 23, 2020
NBCUniversal did you dirty. The way you were treated was absolutely disgraceful. Excited to see what you do next.— Tyler Cardon (@TyCardon) January 23, 2020
You got a raw deal there. It has nothing to do with “blackface”. They used it as an excuse.— gypsy_sol77 (@GypsySol77) January 23, 2020
See what others are saying: (IndieWire) (Fox News) (Vanity Fair)
Hollywood Figures Back John Boyega After Powerful Black Lives Matter Speech
Photo: Twitter/The Nikki Diaries
- Star War’s actor John Boyega gave an emotional speech in support of the Black Lives Matter movement at a protest in London.
- In it, he stated that he might lose his career for speaking out but didn’t care.
- Many pointed to the white privilege of other stars, like Ariana Grande and Harry Styles, who can protest without the same fears.
- Soon after, directors, actors, and Disney’s Lucasfilms showed support for Boyega, promising to have his back or expressing a desire to work with him.
Boyega’s Emotional Speech
Star War’s actor John Boyega is one of the many celebrities supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and calling for justice over the killing of George Floyd.
Since protests first broke out last week, he’s made headlines for speaking out against racism on Twitter and Instagram.
Now he’s in the news again after giving a powerful speech during a demonstration at Hyde Park in London.
Clips of his speech have spread on social media that show him getting emotional when talking about the struggles Black people face. “I need you to understand how painful this shit is…to be reminded every day that your race means nothing!”
“We are a physical representation of our support for George Floyd!” Boyega continued “We are a physical representation of our support for Sandra Bland! We are a physical representation of our support for Trayvon Martin! We are a physical representation of our support for Stephen Lawrence! For Mark Duggan!”
He also fought back tears when pleading with Black men to take care of Black women. “They are our hearts. They are our future. We cannot demonize our own.”
Along with that, Boyega talked passionately about fighting for Black people around the world to live in freedom.
He also encouraged protesters to keep things peaceful, saying “because you know what guys, they want us to mess up.”
Boyega Notes Career Risk
Tons of different segments from his speech have been praised, but one moment that seemed to capture a lot of attention was this: “I’m speaking to you from my heart. Look, I don’t know if I’m going to have a career after this, but fuck that.”
That was a very striking comment for people who pointed to the white privilege of celebrities like Ariana Grande and Harry Styles, who don’t have to worry about losing their careers for protesting.
Hollywood Shows Support
It’s hard to deny that the risk is real for Boyega when you considering the fact that Colin Kaepernick lost his football for fighting the same fight. So in response to that, several Hollywood figures made sure to pledge their support for Boyega.
“BlacKkKlansman” producer Matthew A. Cherry tweeted, “I would work with John Boyega and I urge other Non-Black creators to affirm that they have his back as well.”
Jordan Peele, the Oscar-winning writer behind films like“Get Out” and “Us”, then follow up with “We got you, John.”
Others like Olivia Wilde and Elizabeth Banks said they would be honored to work with Boyega, with similar praise coming from people like Lin-Manuel Miranda, Paul Feig, and dozens of other industry players.
Oh god I WISH, Ojalá! From Attack The Block to this day! pic.twitter.com/sB7eJqF0sy— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) June 3, 2020
As far as his Star War’s team, actor Mark Hammil said he had “never been more proud,” while Directors JJ Abrams and Rian Johnson also backed Boyega.
But the biggest display of support came from the Disney-owned Star Wars Twitter account, which shared a photo of Boyega from the protest along with a statement that said Lucasfilms stands with him. “John Boyega, you are our hero,” it added.
The flood of statements are major signs of solidarity for the fight against racial injustice. They show that key figures in the entertainment industry not only trying to ease Boyega’s fears but are also encouraging him and others to use their celebrity for a greater purpose.
See what others are saying (Vanity Fair) (Insider) (The Hollywood Reporter)
Emma Watson Responds to Backlash After Blackout Tuesday Post
- Emma Watson faced backlash when she participated in #BlackoutTuesday by sharing three black squares with white frames, seemingly to match the style of her Instagram profile.
- Some thought this was a form of fake allyship, but others fought back saying Watson has engaged in activism for longer than most celebrities.
- Watson later posted more, noting that she was waiting for #BlackoutTuesday to end in the U.K. before speaking.
- Her new posts included statements on how she has examined her white privilege, art and writing from Black activists, and resources for people to become better allies.
Watson’s Posts Spark Backlash
Emma Watson’s participation in #BlackoutTuesday caused a divide amongst her followers after, prompting backlash from some who thought they were a display of lazy allyship.
On Tuesday, many Instagram users posted black squares on their feed as a show of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Watson followed suit but posted three black squares, each with a white frame surrounding them.
Her most recent three photos before this were a row of all white squares, prompting her followers to think her blackout posts were more about aesthetics than activism.
Because Watson has such a far reach with her audience, many criticized her for not taking more advantage of that in calling for justice following the death of George Floyd.
“She thought the best idea was sharing (three black squares)?” one person asked, noting the size of her platform. “…Open your purse, SPREAD INFORMATION”
Fans Defend Watson
However, some fans did rush to Watson’s defense, explaining that she has a longer history of being an activist and ally than most celebrities who are participating in #BlackoutTuesday
“Emma Watson’s done more than most of you all and she’s been doing it since 2015,” said one person on Twitter. “And most of you have been doing it for like… 2 days? And you think you have the right to call her out?”
“She’s been campaigning against inequality and racism for years,” another person added, noting that there are plenty of other public figures who could be called out for “virtue signaling.”
Many brought up Our Shared Shelf, a book club Watson founded that often selects works by female authors of color. Watson has also advocated for gender equality on the global stage in work with the United Nations and G7.
She has also been very open about her feminism and its growth. In 2017, she wrote a post about examining her own white privilege, how that played a role in her feminism, and how she could make sure it does not prove to be a blind spot.
However, a lot of people thought that because she has such a long history with activism, she should be more vocal during this moment.
Emma Adds More to Conversation
A few hours after posting the controversial black squares, Watson posted three more photos on Instagram.
“I was holding off posting until #blackouttuesday ended in the UK.,” Watson explained in the caption of her first post, which featured art by Dr. Fahamu Pecou. She also shared a poem and quote Pecou wrote as part of a Black Lives Matter series.
View this post on Instagram
I was holding off posting until #blackouttuesday ended in the UK. The Artwork of my brilliant dear friend @fahamupecou “White Lies, Subtleties, Micro-Aggressions, and Other Choking Hazards” B R O K E N O P E N (poem + text from the series BLACK MATTER LIVES) by Dr Fahamu Pecou broken broke and hoping broke in, hoping broke. end. hoping… bro! kin hopin’! broken… hopin. broken. open. broken open! (Break) “We can not be broken. We do not break. For too long we’ve been afraid that their violence would end us. But we are still here. Some they took, but they’ve all come back. They never truly left. We never truly leave. Like the police and other systems they’ve weaponized against us, the names of those they tried to silence go off in their ears like nuclear bombs. Names that swell in their throats and linger until they can no longer breathe. So let us haunt their dreams and their waking moments alike. Say their names: Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd. Let them see us. Let them hear us. No friends, we have nothing to fear. An army of Egungun warriors walk amongst us. They have tried, and for centuries they have failed to violate us… to silence us. This is not breaking. This is opening. The cracks are windows. The holes are doors. Shine your light through.” – Dr. Fahamu Pecou Say their names #AhmaudArbery #BreonnaTaylor #GeorgeFloyd
“Like the police and other systems they’ve weaponized against us, the names of those they tried to silence go off in their ears like nuclear bombs,” Pecou’s quote read. “Names that swell in their throats and linger until they can no longer breathe. So let us haunt their dreams and their waking moments alike. Say their names: Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd.”
In the following post, she expressed some of her own thoughts.
“There is so much racism, both in our past and present, that is not acknowledged nor accounted for,” she wrote. “White supremacy is one of the systems of hierarchy and dominance, of exploitation and oppression, that is tightly stitched into society. As a white person, I have benefited from this.”
“Whilst we might feel that, as individuals, we’re working hard internally to be anti-racist, we need to work harder externally to actively tackle the structural and institutional racism around us,” she continued. “I’m still learning about the many ways I unconsciously support and uphold a system that is structurally racist.”
She then promised to share information and resources that she has found useful in examining race and privilege herself. Her Instagram bio now links to a Google Doc of anti-racism resources that includes guides on how to talk to children about race, as well as podcasts and books that discuss race.
Her Instagram story also encouraged her followers to sign petitions and donate to organizations fighting for justice for George Floyd and other Black victims of police brutality. On Twitter, she has been retweeting articles, allyship guides, information on violence against black women, and other projects demanding justice.
“I see your anger, sadness and pain,” Watson wrote. “I cannot know what this feels like for you but it doesn’t mean I won’t try to.”
While some were upset that it took Watson so long to speak up, some were glad she user her voice more and did research on the matter.
See what others are saying: (Entertainment Tonight) (Fox News) (Metro)
Star Samantha Marie Ware Says Lea Michele Made Glee Set a “Living Hell”
- Lea Michele was called out by former Glee co-star Samantha Marie Ware, who said Michele made the set a “living hell” and once said she would shit in Ware’s wig.
- Some of Michele’s former colleagues shared this tweet with messages supporting it, while others echoed Ware’s statement with stories of their own.
- The topic of racism in Hollywood also made its way to Twitter after someone said Josie and the Pussycats were written off Riverdale because actress Ashleigh Murray was a diva who did not like working with talented women.
- Both Murray and co-star Vanessa Morgan denied this. Morgan also made a statement condemning stereotypes being portrayed on television, as well as black characters being sidelined in plots while white characters get more screen time.
Former Co-Stars Call Out Lea Michele
Actress Lea Michele was called out by former co-stars for alleged racist behavior on the set of Glee.
Michele, who appeared on the show for the duration of its run from 2009-2015, tweeted about the death of George Floyd on Friday. On Monday night, Samantha Marie Ware, who starred alongside her for a duration of season six, shared that tweet and said Michele made her time on the show “a living hell.”
“I believe you told everyone that if you (sic) had the opportunity you would ‘shit in my wig!’ amongst other microagressions that made me question a career in Hollywood,” she added in her all-caps tweet.
After she shared this, many of Michele’s other former co-stars made posts that either directly or indirectly indicated that they agreed with Ware or had a similar experience.
Amber Riley, who was also a lead on Glee, shared a gif of her sipping from a coffee mug.
Alex Newell, who was on the show for several years shared Ware’s tweet along with a gif of a RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant saying “Get her, Jade!”
Musician and actor Dabier, who appeared on one episode of Glee claimed that Michele told him he could not sit at a table with the main cast because he did not “belong there.”
“Seeing her message brought back bad memories of being less than on set of glee. Ain’t goin stand for her being fake like she care,” he later added.
Actors who worked with her on other projects also responded, including Yvette Nicole Brown, who worked with Michele on the short-lived comedy The Mayor.
“I felt every one of those capital letters.” she said in response to Ware’s tweet.
Brown posted several tweets inr response to this, but never called Michele out on any behavior or detailed a specific experience she had. In one tweet, she emphasized that every person on any set should be respected, and that this starts with main cast actors creating a welcoming environment.
Riverdale Cast Speaks Out
Michele has not yet responded to the tweets. However, these claims were not the only reason people online were discussing racism in Hollywood. Actors from the cast of Riverdale also spoke out against racial stereotypes often depicted on television.
This discussion started Sunday when someone tweeted about Ashleigh Murray. Murray played Josie of Josie and the Pussycats for several years on Riverdale and now plays that same character in Katy Keene, another show in the Archie Comics Universe.
In the now-deleted post, someone alleged that Josie and the Pussycats were written off of Riverdale because Murray is a “known diva” and didn’t want to share the screen with other talented women. They also claimed that in Katy Keene, Josie has few scenes with women because of this.
“You clearly have me mixed up with someone else,” Murray responded. I love the Pussycats more than any show ever did. If it were up to me, we’d have our own show.”
Vanessa Morgan, who plays Toni Topaz on Riverdale, also stepped up to Murray’s defense.
“You don’t know what the fuck your talking about and don’t talk about my friend like that,” she wrote. “Another thing i hate BLACK women being called DIVAS for sticking up for themselves. Maybe the show should write for her like the white characters.”
She also sent another tweet criticizing the the way Black people are represented on television.
“Tired of how black people are portrayed in media, tired of us being portrayed as thugs, dangerous or angry scary people,” she wrote. “Tired of us also benign used as side kick non dimensional characters to our white leads.”
On Riverdale, Morgan’s character usually only has plotlines related to the character she dates, who is a white lead that gets more screen time.
These Riverdale stars were not the only ones creating an open dialogue about race in Hollywood. Lesley-Ann Brandt, who appears on the show Lucifer tweeted on Tuesday morning that leaders in the industry should be reaching out to Black artists to learn about their experiences.
Murray shared that tweet and added that “these are the ways we can implement real change.