Oscar-winning duo Joel and Ethan Coen let out twin groans when they were asked about the minimal diversity in their latest movie.
The Coen brothers are the latest in Hollywood to let their opinions about racial diversity be known in front of the camera, after Charlotte Rampling, Michael Caine and Helen Mirren. Their newest film “Hail Caesar,” a wry comedy set in the 1950s lily-white era was the subject of criticism — although the film casted a bevy of stars including the likes of Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum, Ralph Fiennes, George Clooney and Tilda Swinton, there was a notable absence of racially diverse actors.
“Not in the least!” Ethan answered the question from The Daily Beast. “It’s important to tell the story you’re telling in the right way, which might involve black people or people of whatever heritage or ethnicity — or it might not.”
“It’s an absolute, absurd misunderstanding of how things get made to single out any particular story and say, ‘Why aren’t there this, that, or the other thing?’” says his brother, Joel. “It’s a fundamental misunderstanding of how stories are written. So you have to start there and say, ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about.’”
So how #problematic were the Coen Bros comments? Racism for which we must hate them forever for, disappointing but forgivable, or what?— Forrest Cardamenis (@FCardamenis) February 5, 2016
It's totally possible to accept both that the Coens are intelligent masterful filmmakers AND that their views on diversity ain't perfect.— Christopher Runyon (@CGRunyon) February 5, 2016
The Coen brothers are not wrong for saying they shouldn’t be the exclusive target for censure — the issue of racial profiling is rampant in Hollywood and the blame shouldn’t fall on the shoulders of just two filmmakers. Plus, adding people of color to a film simply because there is a need for diversity in Hollywood, regardless of the fact whether they fit in a movie role or not, could be counterproductive.
The fact remains, however, that as white directors, the Coen brothers have privilege and the lack of representation of minorities in the entertainment industry is not something they are actively fighting against. This brings us back to the unconcerned attitude of white people who can actually make a difference by steering themselves away from the status quo, but don’t bother to do so.