Matt Damon and the cast of The Great Wall were in Beijing yesterday to promote the film. As you know, when the trailer came out a few months ago, The Great Wall was added to the list of “whitewashed” projects coming out of Hollywood, including Ghost In The Shell and Doctor Strange. The most vociferous critic of The Great Wall was Constance Wu and her comments about the movie made headlines all over the place. Matt Damon, however, has drawn a comparison between those headlines and “fake news”:
In an interview with The Associated Press, the American actor said he thinks of "whitewashing" as applying to Caucasian actors applying makeup to appear to be of another race, as was common in the early days of film and television, when racism was much more overt.
"That whole idea of whitewashing, I take that very seriously," Damon said, using the example of the Irish-American actor Chuck Connors, who played the lead character in the 1962 film Geronimo, about the famed Apache chief.
According to Variety:
Matt Damon defended his casting in “The Great Wall” against whitewashing accusations by blaming the era of clickbait and fake news in an interview with the Associated Press published Tuesday.
“It suddenly becomes a story because people click on it, versus the traditional ways that a story would get vetted before it would get to that point,” Damon said.
Fake news is a problem. Pizzagate is a f-cking problem, no doubt. But people expressing their frustration about a movie based in China with a white hero is not fake news. Constance Wu expressing her frustration about a movie based in China with a white hero is not fake news. Let’s revisit Constance Wu’s comments:
Can we all at least agree that hero-bias & "but it's really hard to finance" are no longer excuses for racism? TRY pic.twitter.com/mvNet5PrtH— Constance Wu (@ConstanceWu) July 29, 2016
Constance’s criticism, if you take the time to read it, does not limit “whitewashing” to the definition of white actors taking non-white roles, but points out that the result is the same when we keep seeing stories involving people of colour who look to be rescued by white saviours. She also calls out people of colour too for their own “unconscious bias”. This isn’t fake news. It’s a conversation that’s worth having. And it’s a conversation that Matt Damon might not be having because he’s so quick on the trigger to dismiss the entire dialogue as clickbait and fake news. By dismissing the entire dialogue, Matt Damon isn’t listening. And since Matt Damon isn’t listening, well, I’m not sure he’s engaging. But this wouldn’t be first time.
Last year, Matt was called out for white-splaining diversity to Effie Brown, a producer on Project Greenlight. Effie spoke about her experience at length after the show aired and revealed how she became known as a “difficult woman” by simply doing the job she was hired to do and speaking up. Which is something Constance Wu might be able to relate to. Instead of acknowledging that Constance, and others who took issue with the messages The Great Wall might be perpetuating, had opened up a conversation that was worth exploring, Matt Damon has undermined those objections by sweeping them into the same category as conspiracy theories and truthers. To me this is both insulting and disappointing.