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Sony Execs' Jokes About Obama Liking Black Movies Aren't Really Racist, Just Douchey

Welcome to Hollyweird.

The massive Sony data hack has already resulted in considerable embarrassment for the studio, including leaked details of a Men in Black/21 Jump Street crossover movie that inspired a Twitter hashtag, candid emails about A-list stars, data which reveals gender pay disparities at the company, and now, a series of emails involving President Barack Obama. The exchange, between Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group Chairman Amy Pascal and film producer Scott Rudin, features a conversation about a November 26, 2013 fundraiser at the home of Dreamworks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg. From BuzzFeed:

Pascal wrote Rudin: “What should I ask the president at this stupid Jeffrey breakfast?” She was referring to a breakfast hosted by DreamWorks Animation head and major Democratic donor Jeffrey Katzenberg.

Rudin, a top film producer responsible for films like No Country for Old Men and Moneyball, responded, “Would he like to finance some movies.” Pascal replied, “I doubt it. Should I ask him if he liked DJANGO?” Rudin responded: “12 YEARS.” Pascal quickly continued down the path of guessing Obama preferred movies by or starring African Americans. “Or the butler. Or think like a man? [sic]”

Rudin’s response: “Ride-along. I bet he likes Kevin Hart.”

The exchange is being widely characterized as racist, especially by conservatives like John Nolte of Breitbart. It is an irresistible narrative that joins right-wingers' contempt for Obama with their contempt for the Hollyweird hypocrites who support him, the implication being that behind Obama's back, his Hollywood pals make jokes assuming that he only likes movies starring black people.

Frankly, there's nothing I like better than busting liberal racists, but this exchange is more white liberal douchiness than racism. They're not joking about Obama's taste in movies, they're joking about the worst possible questions they could ask him. That's still smug, douchey, and kinda racist, but not RAF™.

As for the president's favorite films, he referenced a few of them in the speech he gave following that email exchange, at Dreamworks' headquarters:


Star Wars


Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

The Mary Tyler Moore Show (not a movie)

Will & Grace (also not a movie)

The Godfather parts I and II

While a presidential candidate, Obama also indicated an affinity for the films Lawrence of Arabia and Casablanca, and listedOne Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest among his favorites as well.

If nothing else, this episode indicates that, douchiness aside, at least Hollywood is greenlighting more black films these days. In 2008, when Obama was elected, that email exchange would have been considerably shorter.