For Discussion: Racial Barriers in Hollyweird…Have They Been Broken??

- By Bossip Staff

This was an interesting read:

Has Hollywood become more tolerant, more accepting, more open-minded? Or is it simply that its obsession with green makes it color-blind when it comes to backing a project? And do Washington, Smith and Perry represent a breakthrough, or are they isolated cases who have defied the odds? As Black History Month unfolds, the film industry sees the aforementioned titans standing tall on top of a pile of dough. Washington’s recent “The Book of Eli” grossed more than $32 million in its opening weekend ending Jan. 17 and has since amassed more than $63 million. Smith is the only actor in history to have eight consecutive films released that grossed more than $100 million each. Perry, a writer-producer-director and playwright, has raked in more than $400 million with his works and is a one-man cottage industry.

“I think they’d be the first to tell you that African-American actors have made strides in terms of movies and Hollywood,” said Glenn Whipp, a film critic for the Los Angeles Times, Variety, MSN and others. “I think it’s much like when Obama was elected president, people don’t pay attention to color and are able to see past it.” “It’s important to look at the kinds of roles they’re playing and the fact that — with the exception of Tyler Perry — they’re playing roles that don’t require any sort of racial consciousness,” she said. “They don’t bring a racial consciousness to bear on the story in a way that disturbs the audience.

“On the one hand it is surprising that now we can all sort of identify with the black leading character whereas before the assumption was that it was only the white character that audiences could identify with. That transformation is an important one. But at the same time the kinds of films that cause us to reflect and look more deeply at race relations, we’ve seen less of those.”

Washington and Smith have carved out extraordinary careers by playing roles that usually aren’t race specific, that could conceivably have been played by stars such as Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Bruce Willis, Johnny Depp or any number of others.

Where does the path begin for success in Hollywood by black actors, writers, directors, producers?

In general, the first steps are taken overseas. Because it is imperative to studio executives and their bottom lines that a film or television show perform well internationally, that often limits the number of opportunities for blacks, primarily because of an old belief that black-themed projects don’t do well outside of the U.S.

Leah Aldridge, a Ph.D. student at USC’s film school who is studying the relationship between international distribution and domestic production in Hollywood, said it all starts outside the borders. “Because of Hollywood’s very intimate relationship with international distributors,” she said, “if the belief exists that black films don’t do well in foreign, then there is no incentive to increase black faces in television and film.”

Aldridge said Perry doesn’t do well internationally, but that his case is unique because he has such an ardent following in the U.S. Washington and Smith, she said, have circumvented the process because “their brand of blackness does very well in the international markets.”

“Hollywood frequently attributes the box-office ‘failure’ of a black film to its black cast and black narrative, hence ‘Black doesn’t do well in foreign,’ therefore we must limit the number of black projects and label them as ‘high risk’ ventures,” Aldridge said.

“But when films like ‘New in Town’ (with Renee Zellweger and Harry Connick Jr.) or ‘Surrogates’ (starring Bruce Willis) are whopping box-office failures, no one in Hollywood attributes it to its white cast. This is indicative of one of the ways racism operates in Hollywood.”

It’s very obvious that racial barriers still exist in Hollyweird, but that’s just our thoughts.



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  • I Am Legend


  • foxxy cleopatra foster

    I can’t say for sure. I know one thing though, it’s a lot easier for men in Hollywood than women. There’s only room for one top black actress at a time.

  • Hmmm

    Compared to the early 90s I guess Hollywood is taking more notice/giving more chances to black actors. However there’s still a long way to go. There needs to be more diversity in terms of who the big roles are given to. As much as I love Will, Denzel, Sam L J, Morgan Freeman and Forest, there are more black actors out there who need to be given a chance!

  • Fizzoni

    Everything is pretty much political, and Money speak louder than race

  • Professor X

    They shouldnt mention Zoe Saldana in this article. She is killing the game as far as actresses go. Blockbuster after blockbuster with more on the way.

  • bklynlady




  • bklynlady



    FOR IT.

  • UrHeinessDaQueen

    Hollywood also hypes up & gives the good opportunities to certain actors/acresses

  • Sydney™ (Eloise Gist)

    Interesting article — The below quote, among many, jumped out to me:

    “Let’s look at the primetime commercial networks,” she said. “Can you name a sitcom that has a predominately African-American cast on the major networks? There were more black sitcoms in the ‘70s and ‘80s than now. You can also say the same for cable and premium channels.”

    I agree. In a way, I think we are reverting in terms of our images in popular culture. “The Cosby Show” was truly ground-breaking, but what do we have as a replacement?

    And I disagree with this quote from independent filmmaker Mark Harris:

    “There are great stories coming out of Japan, other Asian countries, Europe, from white directors in America. Many of them are telling really compelling stories. We have a few (quality black filmmakers), but we don’t have many.”

    There are a number of black filmmakers who have produced quality independent works, such as Kasi Lemmons and Julie Dash, but the market for their work is limited, and, honestly, many of us don’t support black films that push the boundaries and offer more than base, slapstick comedy and formulaic plots.

  • http://perryone779@yahoo,com a rose by any other name #9304026339482056536 ™

    Its all racism no matter how you look at it, they can say black dont do well in foreign mean to tell me only 2 blacks actors do well but a million white ones do!!

  • samech

    The actors right now, to me, where in the right place(s) at the right time. It’s been the same actors rotating roles. Like, come on, where are the new and fresh cats. You mean to tell me no one in NYU (black) is studing acting and is on broadway or so forth. Also, I’m not down with singers wanting to be actors also. I can see if you studyied acting in college (like myself) but, come on.

  • 2dimplzs

    This article gets a big “NO DUH SHERLOCK” from me.

  • auchamp22

    what does their brand of blackness mean?


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  • michelle

    i agree broadly with hhhmmm and sydney. but you also have to consider the fact that most “white film” do not touch on racial issues either, whereas not all but a lot of mainsteams black films have racial inferences that sometimes may leave white folks to feel uncomfortable or left out. but i think the quality of black writing needs to get better or the black indie screenwriters needs more exposure. though im fro the u.k it seems to me that a lot of black people in america don’t like serious dramas that black people are in. i mean who saw american violet? which was wonderful by the way.but i think hollywod is more sexist than racist.

  • http://Bossip KINGLION

    No, Not in America!

    Denzell won his first Grammy for paying a corrupt cop!

    And Halle Berry got her first grammy for Having relations with billy bob thorton!

    I look at it like this, they will NEVER let us kick it on their level. Sad to say shyt is the same as the 50s/60s it just has a NEW FACE on it. Shyt, i bet some of you think KOBE is RICH, but the dude writing the check out is the Wealthy kat! A white mans heaven is a black mans hell!

  • Aunt Viv

    **giving Hollywood the side eye**

    I’m sorry, I remain skeptical.

  • Sydney™ (Eloise Gist)


    “whereas not all but a lot of mainsteams black films have racial inferences that sometimes may leave white folks to feel uncomfortable or left out.”

    I think that’s why we have to create our own market. Love him or hate him, Tyler Perry has created his own niche that focuses primarily on black — mostly female — audiences. I imagine a much smaller number of white film-goers seek out his films, but he is still very successful.

    I suppose I’m more concerned with more of us supporting quality black films and fledgling, talented black filmmakers than worrying about what would be palatable to white audiences. Perhaps it’s wishful thinking, but I believe that the artistic integrity of a film project does not have to be compromised in order to ensure its success, if we support it.

  • LaDiva

    If you are not part of the solution, then u are undoubtedly part of the problem.
    Bytchin’ and moaning about it is not a solution.
    Before we can accuse others of being racist, we should first point to our actions and words..
    Reflect long and hard about it…
    Being a hypocrite doesn’t help the cause….

  • carla

    What diversity? did you see vanity fair issue with up and comings? Hollywood has speckles of black how else do you think they all know each other.

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  • michelle

    @sydney i think you have a very valid point.
    @ truth-truth, contrary to what you may believe not every white person on earth is the devil and i was just offering an explanation that was not necessarily mine. Some black people need to stop thinkin that everyone is against us because, do you know what without the support and financial backing from some of the ” demons” civil rights movement would not have progressed as it did. yes there are racist ppl but just like ignorance it too does not have colour.( at least not always)

  • Carmen

    Hollywood is still VERY RACIST period!!! Breaking barriers my AZZZ!!

  • UrHeinessDaQueen

    @white devil:you’re right Asians have it much harder.

  • Sydney™ (Eloise Gist)

    White Devil, if you’re going to introduce the obstacles facing Asians in Hollywood, you might as well discuss roles for Hispanics as well. It doesn’t lessen the fact that challenges still persist for black directors, producers, actors, actresses, and the like. After all, that is the topic of the article in question and of the thread, hence the focus of the discussion.

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