This season of Project Greenlight has been troubled from the beginning. Its racial subtext has weighted heavily in the corner of clueless white people, with producer Effie Brown having to bear the brunt of said cluelessness. On Sunday night’s episode, actually entitled “Hot Ghetto Mess,” Brown yet again bumps up into idiocy in her fight for more diversity.
As a producer on the film being made in a short amount of time, Brown has been essentially keeping the whole production together—ensuring director Jason Mann can execute his vision, that the crew doesn’t accrue unnecessary fees, keeping their schedule taut and running, and other various important and often thankless tasks (ironic, for a project entitled The Leisure Class). The film is a farce about a man with a ne’er-do-well brother marrying up into a wealthy family; the cast is comprised of mostly white actors.
On Sunday, Brown asks crew members whether the racial make-up of the extras in a crucial wedding scene. “I just want to make sure, just because, there’s no black people. So I was curious because I was gonna go on the record, I will not have a black person in this movie as anything in some sort of servant position at all.” In a narration, she explains that the film is about “the one percent being made by the 99 percent,” pointing out her efforts to ensure the crew is diverse, and that she “will not have stereotypical choices in casting.”
Despite going on the record, though, halfway through the episode the sole black actor in the film shows up to shoot his scene. And he is cast as a chauffeur.
Brown’s voiceover: “There are no people of color in this movie, so when you do see someone of a non-dominant culture, they stand out.” Brown to her coworkers: “The issue that I’m having is that, the lack of representation of people of color in this movie, I’m uncomfortable with the chauffeur being a black person.” Her white male coworker’s response, in a separate interview: “I get it, I understand it, I just don’t want to spend a lot of time and unneeded drama here.”
Meanwhile, Brown is seen pulling off a producer’s miracle after finding a way for the director to shoot a car stunt scene that he was told by HBO President Len Amato needed to be scaled way down. These are the kinds of things she’s doing for this film—only for Jason Mann (who is, if I may editorialize, the kind of film school dude who gives film school dudes a bad name) to regard her with disdain for not telling him soon enough, or something (as a brooding director, he does not excel in the area of communication). “It’s shocking, and he has no idea how entitled that entire conversation was. I am a kind and gentle person, but right now, I wanna snatch someone up right now.”
It’s clear to viewers that Effie Brown is keeping the entire production afloat. She’s an experienced and well-regarded Hollywood vet who’s produced a series of classics (Real Women Have Curves, But I’m a Cheerleader, Dear White People among them), now stuck dealing with the whims of a first-time director who is so enamored by his own artistic vision that it’s unclear he’s aware he’s directing a comedy (or “comedy”).
Adding insult to injury, someone at HBO titled the episode “Hot Ghetto Mess,” which does not refer to anything said in it. Is it actually possible that the racist stereotype is referring to Brown’s very reasonable dissatisfaction with the way things are being handled? What other explanation is there? Honestly, it’s a wonder Brown’s still associating herself with this project. As the Washington Post points out, W. Kamau Bell had a good theory about this title, though:
It’s worth noting: Effie Brown retweeted Bell’s initial tweet.
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