Why The Sony Hack Scandal Is a Feminist Issue

by | December 19, 2014
filed under Pop Culture, Racism

keyboardBy now, we’ve all heard about the Sony Hacks. The U.S. government claims the cyber attacks were launched against the company in retaliation for the movie, The Interview, which revolves around a plot to kill North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. This week, Sony announced The Interview will not open on December 25 as planned, and may never see the light of day at all.

What was revealed in these hacks besides Sony’s concerns for security around the release of a supposedly comedic movie starring James Franco and Seth Rogen? Well, very regrettably, the personal information of many average employees at the company, just trying to make a living, was also exposed. Having said that, these hacks also gave us an inside look into the minds of power players in the film industry – many of whom are apparently sexist and racist douche bags.

Sorry, but I think “douche bags” is the technical term here.

For example, Super Producer Scott Rudin and top Sony film executive Amy Pascal speculated in their emails to each other that president Obama’s movie tastes are racially biased. Examples they give of movies they believe Obama would like (Note: he has never spoken to them about his film tastes) include 12 Years a Slave, Django Unchained, and Ride-along.

These racist assumptions about the kinds of movies Obama likes are ignorant, and there is absolutely no reason they would even need to speculate on his taste profile.  . I would argue that there was nothing behind the discussion besides the racially-charged banter that Pascal and Rudin apparently found funny.

Given that these people are in charge of much of what we see on our screens, given that they produce much of our mainstream film culture, their racism is very worrisome. It is a feminist issue, because it suggests they only endorse stories about certain types of people.

Speaking of feminist issues, the Sony hacks do not just reveal horrific racism, but highly objectionable sexism as well. According to The Daily Beast, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, the guy responsible for such acclaimed works as The Social Network and The West Wing, thinks it’s easy for women to win Oscars.

He writes in an email to columnist Maureen Dowd that “year in and year out, the guy who wins the Oscar for Best Actor has a much higher bar to clear than the woman who wins Best Actress.”

Sorkin goes on to explain his sexist point further:

“Cate [Blanchett] gave a terrific performance in Blue Jasmine but nothing close to the degree of difficulty for any of the five Best Actor nominees. Daniel Day-Lewis had to give the performance he gave in Lincoln to win–Jennifer Lawrence won for Silver Linings Playbook, in which she did what a professional actress is supposed to be able to do. Colin Firth/Natalie Portman. Phil Hoffman had to transform himself into Truman Capote while Julia Roberts won for being brassy in Erin Brockovich. Sandra Bullock won for ‘The Blind Side’ and Al Pacino lost for both Godfather movies. Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep can play with the boys but there just aren’t that many tour-de-force roles out there for women.”

Sorkin seems to suggest that no actress in Hollywood is on a par with acclaimed male performers, with the exception of Oscar winners Streep and Mirren. Let that sink in for a moment. You may want to reconsider your decision to buy your mom a DVD box set of The West Wing for Christmas.

The Sony hack, while an illegal act that is concerning in many ways, has produced much news that we cannot ignore. Film holds a mirror up to society; it gives us images that help us make sense of our realities and ourselves. It often provides role models for children, as well as icons for society as a whole. When the people in charge of producing film culture live in a corporate culture of discrimination, how can we be surprised that Hollywood makes so few films about women and people of colour?

No, I don’t believe what Sorkin says. I don’t believe that there aren’t enough complicated roles for women or enough talented actresses. I believe there are good stories out there besides the ones that tell the stories of great white men.

I simply believe that the wealthy white individuals who decide the entertainment we get to see are too prejudiced to recognize these stories when they see them.

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