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Matt Damon And The Great Wall Of Privilege

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen it comes to the press, Matt Damon is his own worst enemy. Last year, he caught flack after a cringe-worthy display of entitlement on an episode of his HBO show, Project Greenlight. After comments about the only black character in a film were brought up, he rudely interrupted  and white-mansplained the issue of diversity – or lack thereof – to producer Effie Brown, the only woman and African-American on the panel. He later issued a half-assed statement where he apologizes, not for his comments, but because “they offended some people”. His defense was that people should get the job “based entirely on merit and leaving all other factors” out. Of course he wouldn’t know that POC get denied jobs based entirely on what they look like with a disregard to merit and all other factors. He wouldn’t know because he’s blinded by his privilege.

Now, Damon has found himself in yet another pot of hot water as he is the main character of an upcoming film, The Great Wall, set in and revolving around China. Naturally, the trailer was met with much backlash, most pertaining to why he, a white man, would be the one to be the “hero” of the movie. Many pointed out that his casting is an example of whitewashing – a practice where white actors are cast in roles that should be non-white. In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Damon slammed critics, calling their accusations outrageous and a result of “fake news” culture. We’ve already established that Matt Damon speaks without knowing what the hell he’s talking about, but this response is still shocking. He white-mansplains (again) whitewashing, saying that the term only pertains to Caucasian actors putting on make up to pass as another race, which is obviously not true. Also, he does not know the difference between clickbait and fake news. One is what your aunts on Facebook keep reposting to their feed and the other does not exist. He says the headlines are based on 30 second teaser trailers which aren’t a reflection of the entire film. I say we have all the information we need. Does he really see nothing wrong with a white man being at the center of a film set centuries before regular contact with Europe? Surely, he can’t be that deluded.

In the film, Damon’s character is a mercenary that goes to China, who has built a great wall to keep out monsters and supernatural creatures. In the same interview, he hints that it isn’t that serious as the film is fantasy and he “didn’t take a role away from a Chinese actor”. Honestly, the idea of fighting fantastic creatures seems less outrageous that him being the hero of this movie. Granted, he is not solely to blame as the role shouldn’t have been offered or open to him in the first place. The director most likely did this as an act of desperation to get a big name involved in the production in order to get more traction. Said director, Zhang Yimou, is completely on Damon’s side. He defends the decision to hire him by insisting that the protagonist just had to be foreign:

“Matt Damon plays a foreign mercenary who comes to China to steal gun powder… of course he is a foreigner.”

Like there aren’t other, much closer Asians that are foreign to China.

This is Yimou’s first english film and he’s hoping it will be a success. Most Chinese-American crossovers have been flops in the cinemas. China is well on its way to holding the biggest box office in the world so Hollywood is trying to establish a mutually beneficial relationship. But like everything with the United States, there is fine print involved. The mutuality would mostly, if not only, benefit them. Heads, they win. Tails, you lose.

Is this their way of saying the movie can’t be a successful crossover without a white, male lead? This comes at a time where diversity has been much celebrated: everybody loves to see themselves represented. How much more clearer can that be? There is HUGE probability that no one, except the filmmakers, is asking for a white person to play savior. Why would we want white people travelling around trying to save everyone when, historically, all they’ve done is ruin everything? This is nothing more than a subconscious ploy to boost the egos of white folk. I just wish that Matt Damon would acknowledge the fact that his white, male privilege played a part in him getting cast instead of rushing to deflect blame. Open your ears before your mouth, Mr. Damon. I know he is not the first to colonize our movies and I know he will not be the last but here’s to hoping Hollywood proves me wrong.

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