Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Hollywood Racism and Classism

Hollywood has never been eager to hire many African-American screenwriters and directors to help produce its movies. As The Urban Plantation: Racism & Colonialism in the Post-Civil Rights Era by Robert Staples noted as late as 1987, “of some 5,700 writers in the Writers Guild of America-West, only 70 are black” and “only 252 of the 6,672 members of the Directors Guild of America are members of minority groups.”

The same book also made the following observations about African-American-oriented radio stations in the United States:

“Most of the 400 black radio stations are owned by whites, some of whom have become millionaires through their control of the black communications media…A black owner seems to be no guarantee the black community’s needs will be met or even the job stability of black personnel at these stations. The son of Adam Clayton Powell purchased a black soul station in Oakland, California, converted it to an all-news format and replaced most of the black employees with whites…”

(Downtown 4/27/94)

Foreign transnational-owned Hollywood studios still make a lot of money distributing their films to audiences of U.S. working-class people. Yet Hollywood has long been accused of portraying both U.S. working-class people and their labor unions in a classist way.

In his 1953 book Film In The Battle Of Ideas, one of the blacklisted “Hollywood Ten” screenwriters, John Howard Lawson, for instance, argued that “workers and their families see films which urge them to…emulate the corrupt values of their enemies” and “the consistent presentation on the nation’s screens of the views that…workers who seek to protect their class interests are stupid, malicious or even treasonable” is what Hollywood engages in. Through Jaundiced Eyes: How The Media View Organized Labor by William Puette also observed during the 1980s:

“The real problem with Hollywood’s portrayal of unions is its blatant inaccuracy. Most unions, particularly the well-established ones, are shown as being connected in some way to organized crime. In fact, a 1982 presidential commission on organized crime found that fewer than 400 of the country’s 70,000 locals, less than one percent had been suspected of such influence. There is likely a parallel if not considerably higher incidence of crooked bankers, lawyers, doctors, and politicians as well. Yet no media portrayals of these professions would ever suggest endemic corruption.

“…The portrayal of unions in the media, particularly in movies, plays a major role in shaping the attitudes of Americans towards labor unions. With few exceptions, that portrayal has been both unrepresentative and virulently negative.”

(Downtown 2/2/94)

Next: “Non-Profit” IDA Paid IDA President $323,000 Annual Salary In 2002