As Chris Rock continues to promote his upcoming movie “Top Five,” which hits theaters December 12, he’s taken this time to voice his opinion on some very heavy topics. Recently, the former SNL star spoke very candidly about the notion of “Black Progress” in president-day America. While scoffing at the idea, Rock spoke fearlessly about the topic, which seemed to carry over in his recent essay for the Hollywood Reporter.
The comic legend addressed the lack of diversity in Hollywood, and the perceived value — or lack thereof — in what African-Americans bring to the table.
On Blacks in the industry:
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. And there’s nothing wrong with that. As a matter of fact, that’s what I want for my daughters. But something tells me that the life my privileged daughters are leading right now might not make them the best candidates to run the black division of anything. And the person who runs the black division of a studio should probably have worked with black people at some point in their life. Clint Culpepper [a white studio chief who specializes in black movies] does a good job at Screen Gems because he’s the kind of guy who would actually go see Best Man Holiday. But how many black men have you met working in Hollywood? They don’t really hire black men. A black man with bass in his voice and maybe a little hint of facial hair? Not going to happen. It is what it is. I’m a guy who’s accepted it all.
I really don’t think there’s any difference between what black audiences find funny and what white audiences find funny, but everyone likes to see themselves onscreen, so there are some instances where there’s a black audience laughing at something that a white audience wouldn’t laugh at because a black audience is really just happy to see itself. Things that would be problems in a world where there were a lot of black movies get overlooked. The same thing happened with those Sex and the City movies. 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— you, f— the reviews, we’re going, we like it.”
If someone’s people don’t love them, that’s a problem. No one crosses over without a base. But if we’re going to just be honest and count dollars and seats and not look at skin color, Kevin Hart is the biggest comedian in the world. 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. If anybody needs to cross over, it’s the guy who’s selling 3,000 seats.
But here’s one thing I’ve noticed in the last five to seven years, and I didn’t think I’d live to see this day. There used to be black film and Eddie Murphy, and the two had nothing to do with each other. Literally nothing. And in the world of black film, everything was judged on a relative basis — almost the same curve that indie films get judged on. It was, “Hey, House Party made a lot of money relative to its budget,” or “Oh, we only paid $7 million for New Jack City and it made $50 million.” 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.
The very poignant letter served a great outlet to defend the African-American voice in mainstream Hollywood. But not only did the stand-up legend defend his own race, he also stood up for Mexican-Americans as well.
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 — not racist like “F— you, nigger” racist, but just 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. I remember I was renting a house in Beverly Park while doing some movie, and you just see all of the Mexican people at 8 o’clock in the morning in a line driving into Beverly Park like it’s General Motors. It’s this weird town.
You’re telling me no Mexicans are qualified to do anything at a studio? Really? Nothing but mop up? What are the odds that that’s true? The odds are, because people are people, that there’s probably a Mexican David Geffen mopping up for somebody’s company right now. The odds are that there’s probably a Mexican who’s that smart who’s never going to be given a shot. And it’s not about being given a shot to greenlight a movie because nobody is going to give you that — you’ve got to take that. The shot is that a Mexican guy or a black guy is qualified to go and give his opinion about how loud the boings are in Dodgeball or whether it’s the right shit sound you hear when Jeff Daniels is on the toilet in Dumb and Dumber. It’s like, “We only let white people do that.”
The very excellent read can be viewed in its entirety, here. Be sure to check out the very hilarious movie “Top Five” when it opens in theaters December 12.
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