- The Netflix film “Malcolm & Marie” faced criticism from viewers who said writer and director Sam Levinson used two Black actors, Zendaya and John David Washington, to voice his own personal opinions on race and identity politics in Hollywood.
- However, Zendaya told The New York Times the criticism was unfair because both she and Washington helped Levinson craft the script and were producers of the film.
- “I think a little bit of our agency was stripped away,” she said. “John David, I and Sam equally own this film.”
- She later told the Los Angeles Times that she feels the conversations she had with Levinson about race came through in the film’s script.
“Malcolm & Marie” Faces Criticism
Zendaya is addressing the backlash and criticism that her film “Malcolm & Marie” has received for its discussions of race in Hollywood.
The film, written and directed by Sam Levinson, co-stars Zendaya and John David Washington as a couple that spends the night arguing after getting home from the premiere of a film Washington’s character directed.
“Malcolm & Marie” is full of long and winding monologues not just about relationship troubles, but also about the roles race and identity politics play in the interpretation and criticism of film.
Ironically but perhaps intentionally, those monologues are at the center of the criticism the movie has received. Journalists have panned the film, and speeches delivered by Washington’s Malcolm in particular, for their trite and exhausting dialogue that ultimately runs in circles.
Many have specifically taken issue with the fact that Levinson, a white man and the son of a famed director himself, seemingly inserted his own angers about film criticism into words uttered by two acclaimed Black actors.
“There are many moments where it feels as if Malcolm, who is a Black Hollywood director, serves as a mouthpiece for Levinson’s own opinions on race and filmmaking,” Micha Frazer-Carroll wrote for The Independent.
In a piece for The Guardian, Robert Daniels wrote that the film uses Black actors to vent white frustration. Daniels suggested that Levinson could have used the character of Malcolm to discuss the way white critics interpret work by Black filmmakers, but instead, “uses Malcolm as a black shield for his real target, not the critics who analyze black works, but the ones who interpret his.”
“As ‘Malcolm & Marie’ unfurls, Levinson shifts Malcolm’s voice from a black one, to the white director’s own,” Daniels continued.
Zendaya Addresses Backlash
However, Zendaya feels these criticisms are unfair and disregard the fact that both she and Washington produced the film and were heavily involved in every aspect its creation. Levinson and both of the stars have talked numerous times about how collaborative the set was and how Zendaya and Washington were part of the process of crafting the script and their characters.
“I think a little bit of our agency was stripped away,” she told The New York Times on Sunday. “Like this was just kind of Sam spewing things through us without realizing that we are not only actors in this, but we’re co-financiers and producers with P.G.A. marks. You can’t get those unless you actually do the job.”
“John David, I and Sam equally own this film,” she continued. “It’s not like it belongs to someone else and I just got cast in it. He wrote it for us too, and I think if you’re going to write something, you have to acknowledge experiences of the [Black] character you’re writing.”
In a Tuesday piece from the Los Angeles Times, she expanded on how personal producing this project felt to her.
“I’m putting my own money into it,” the actress explained. “I’m producing something, so I’m putting myself out there in a much more vulnerable position than I’ve ever been in.”
She also said that she spoke about Levinson about race and Hollywood and felt that her ideas did come through in the script.
“There’s conversations that I’ve had with Sam that reflect a little bit in things that Malcolm says about his creativity and being boxed in, specifically being a Black creative that feels like there’s a certain lens their work is looked through — those kinds of things,” she said.
Levinson has similarly dismissed criticisms made about him being white and making a film with Black protagonists.
“I have faith in the collaborative process and in my partners that if I write something that doesn’t feel true, that JD or Z don’t respond to or feel to be honest, that they are going to say something and we’ll work it out,” he told Esquire. “I didn’t have anxiety in that sense because I have too much respect for the collaborative nature of filmmaking.”
See what others are saying: (Los Angeles Times) (New York Times) (IndieWire)
Seth Rogen Says He Has No Plans To Work With James Franco “Right Now” Following Sexual Misconduct Allegations
- In an interview with Britain’s Sunday Times, actor Seth Rogen was asked about his relationship with longtime collaborator James Franco, who has been accused of misconduct and sexually exploitative behavior by multiple women.
- In response to claims that Rogen was Franco’s enabler, he said, “What I can say is that I despise abuse and harassment, and I would never cover or conceal the actions of someone doing it, or knowingly put someone in a situation where they were around someone like that.
- He also expressed regret over a 2014 joke he made on “Saturday Night Live,” which many felt trivialized Franco’s inappropriate communication with a 17-year-old.
- “I also look back to that interview in 2018 where I comment that I would keep working with James, and the truth is that I have not and I do not plan to right now,” he added.
Seth Rogen Addresses James Franco Controversies
Actor and comedian Seth Rogen was asked about his relationship with fellow film star James Franco in a new interview with Britain’s Sunday Times.
Franco and Rogen are friends and longtime collaborators who’ve done hit films together, including “Pineapple Express,” “The Disaster Artist,” “The Interview,” and “Sausage Party,” among others.
In 2014, Franco was exposed for trying to pick up a 17-year-old through Instagram direct messages. In 2018, five women publicly accused him of inappropriate and sexually exploitative behavior, which he denied. Two of those women, who were students at an acting school he ran, then filed a lawsuit against him and agreed to a settlement this year.
Throughout these controversies, Rogen has faced a ton of backlash for continuing to show Franco support.
Last month, actress Charlyne Yi took to Instagram to open up about her experience working on “The Disaster Artist,” accusing Franco of being a “predator” and Rogen of being his “enabler.”
When asked about that specific claim, Rogen said, “What I can say is that I despise abuse and harassment, and I would never cover or conceal the actions of someone doing it, or knowingly put someone in a situation where they were around someone like that.”
No Current Plans To Work Together
Rogen also expressed regret over a 2014 joke he made on “Saturday Night Live,” which many felt trivialized Franco’s inappropriate communication with the 17-year-old.
“It was a terrible joke, honestly. And I also look back to that interview in 2018 where I comment that I would keep working with James, and the truth is that I have not and I do not plan to right now,” he continued.
When asked how Franco’s scandals have impacted their relationship, Rogen said, “I can say it, um, you know, it has changed many things in our relationship and our dynamic.”
Still, he noted that changes are “not as painful and difficult as it is for a lot of other people involved. I have no pity for myself in this situation.
NBC Will Not Air 2022 Golden Globes Amid Boycott Calls
- The Hollywood Foreign Press Association adopted reforms last week to address recent criticism it faced for its lack of diversity, but industry leaders are claiming that the organization has still not done enough.
- Netflix, Amazon, and Warner Bros. have all promised to sever ties with the HFPA, which runs the prestigious Golden Globes, until more meaningful changes are made.
- Actors like Mark Ruffalo and Scarlett Johansson have echoed those boycott calls and urged other industry leaders to do the same.
- On Monday, NBC announced that it will not air the 2022 Golden Globes but is open to broadcasting the show in 2023 if the group implements a productive plan.
NBC Will Not Air Golden Globes in 2022
NBC announced Monday that it will not air the Golden Globes in 2022 after several actors and studios announced that they would boycott the Hollywood Foreign Press Organization over concerns that it has not done enough to address its lack of diversity.
NBC has aired the show, which is put on annually by the HFPA, since 1996.
“We continue to believe that the HFPA is committed to meaningful reform. However, change of this magnitude takes time and work, and we feel strongly that the HFPA needs time to do it right,” the network said in a statement. “As such, NBC will not air the 2022 Golden Globes. Assuming the organization executes on its plan, we are hopeful we will be in a position to air the show in January 2023.”
In February, a Los Angeles Times report found that none of the nearly 90 members in the group are Black. It also alleged a culture of corruption where members would accept luxurious gifts from studios that were promoting their shows, among other things. This prompted numerous calls for change.
Last week, the HFPA announced that it had approved a list of reforms, which include a hotline for reporting misconduct, increasing membership by 50% over the next 18 months with an emphasis on adding members of color, and creating a list of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion consultants. The group said it “will be continuously updating the members and the public as we move forward in making our organization more inclusive and diverse.”
Studios Pledge Boycott of HFPA Events
This, however, was not a strong enough response for major Hollywood players. By Friday night, both Netflix and Amazon vowed to part ways with the HFPA until more meaningful changes were made. On Monday morning, Warner Bros. did the same.
“While we commend the HFPA membership’s approval of the plan to move towards radical reform, we don’t believe the plan goes far enough in addressing the breadth of our concerns, nor does your timeline capture the immediate need by which these issues should be addressed,” a group of Warner executives said in a letter to HFPA President Ali Sar. “WarnerMedia Studios and Networks will continue to refrain from direct engagement with the HFPA, including sanctioned press conferences and invitations to cover other industry events with talent, until these changes are implemented.”
Their statement echoed the concerns of Netflix, whose CEO Ted Sarandos wrote that the HFPA has not gone far enough in correcting its “systemic diversity and inclusion challenges, or the lack of clear standards for how [HFPA] members should operate.”
Netflix’s choice to at least temporarily suspend ties with the HFPA is especially significant, as it was far and away the leader during the 2021 Golden Globes, picking up 10 trophies out of 42 nominations.
Actors Join Boycott Calls
Actors have also chimed in on the boycott calls, including Mark Ruffalo, who nabbed a Golden Globe himself just a few months ago.
“Honestly, as a recent winner of a Golden Globe, I cannot feel proud or happy about being a recipient of this award,” he wrote on Twitter Friday.
He also slammed the group for resisting “the change that is being asked of them from many of the groups that have been most disenfranchised by their culture of secrecy and inclusion.”
He used the hashtag #ChangeIsGolden to encourage a boycott from Hollywood leaders. Others, including director Ava DuVernay, who has previously been critical of the HFPA, did the same.
Actress Scarlett Johansson released a statement of her own on Saturday, which was first reported on by Deadline.
“As an actor promoting a film, one is expected to participate in awards season by attending press conferences as well as awards shows. In the past, this has often meant facing sexist questions and remarks by certain HFPA members that bordered on sexual harassment,” the five-time Golden Globe nominee said. “It is the exact reason why I, for many years, refused to participate in their conferences.”
“The HFPA is an organization that was legitimized by the likes of Harvey Weinstein to amass momentum for Academy recognition, and the industry followed suit,” she continued. “Unless there is necessary fundamental reform within the organization, I believe it is time that we take a step back from the HFPA and focus on the importance and strength of unity within our unions and the industry as a whole.”
One of the first organizations to condemn the HFPA for its response was nonprofit Time’s Up, which advocates for victims of sexual assault and other workplace injustices. The group wrote an open letter Friday slamming the HFPA for giving “no specifics, no commitments to real accountability or change, and no real timeline” in its plan.
“These window-dressing platitudes are sorely lacking and hardly transformational,” the letter said. “Instead, these proposed measures ensure that the current membership of the HFPA will remain in the majority for years to come, and that the next Golden Globe Awards, which will have started by then, will be riddled with the same fundamental problems that have existed for years.”
See what others are saying: (The Los Angeles Times) (Variety) (The Wrap)
Childish Gambino Sued for Alleged Copyright Infringement
- Florida rapper Kidd Wes filed a copyright infringement lawsuit in New York Thursday against Grammy award-winning artist Childish Gambino.
- Kidd Wes claims Childish Gambino’s 2018 song “This Is America” plagiarized his 2016 song “Made in America,” arguing that the two songs have “nearly-identical unique rhythmic, lyrical, and thematic compositional and performance content.”
- Kidd Wes’ lawyers said his client is seeking damages from profits for record sales, endorsements, and other income sources.
Childish Gambino Faces Lawsuit
Grammy award-winning rapper Childish Gambino, AKA Donald Glover, is being sued for alleged copyright infringement by Florida rapper Kidd Wes.
According to Pitchfork, he filed a lawsuit in a New York federal court on Thursday arguing that “the substantial similarities between both songs include, but are not limited to, nearly-identical unique rhythmic, lyrical, and thematic compositional and performance content contained in the chorus—or ‘hook’—sections that are the centerpieces of both songs.”
Pitchfork reported that defendants in the suit include Glover, the song’s co-writer Young Thug, producer Lüdwig Goransson, Kobalt Music, RCA Records, Sony Music Entertainment, Young Stoner Life Publishing LLC, 300 Entertainment, Atlantic Records, Warner Music Group, Roc Nation, Universal Music Publishing Group, and Warner Chappell Music.
“This Is America” and its accompanying music video were praised for providing stark social commentary on America’s history with racism, inequality, and gun violence. In 2019, it won both Record of the Year and Song of the Year at the Grammy Awards, making it the first rap song to take home the prize in either of those top categories. The song has been streamed over 465 million times on Spotify and the music video has been viewed on YouTube over 773 million times.
Lawyers Argue Similarities Are “Beyond Coincidental”
The music video for “Made in America” has just over 415,000 views on YouTube. Nwosuocha has 12,000 monthly listeners on Spotify. While Nwosuocha may have a smaller platform than Glover, his lawyers claim it is no mistake that the two songs sound alike.
“The similarities between the two pieces of music are beyond coincidental, and amounts to infringement as alleged in the complaint filed by our client, Emelike Nwosuocha, professionally known as Kidd Wes,” attorneys Imran H. Ansari and La’Shawn N. Thomas told Pitchfork. “Mr. Nwosuocha is confident in his claims, and simply seeks the credit and compensation he deserves for the unauthorized use of his music.”
Nwosuocha is reportedly seeking damages from profit in roughly 43 instances, including record sales, ringtones, endorsements, and record masters.
Glover has not responded publicly to the lawsuit. This is not the first time he has been accused of plagiarism over the song “This Is America.” Previously, he was accused of taking inspiration from New York rapper Jase Harley’s song “American Pharaoh.” At the time, Harley said he did not want to take legal action. Glover’s manager also denied Glover stole from Harley’s work.