The left’s been wetting its pants over this for the past 24 hours so we can’t be more than a day away from a groveling Damon apology. Let’s get you up to speed so that you can enjoy the blue-on-blue while it lasts. CSM has the background on what they’re chattering about in the clip. Damon and his team are auditioning directors for a movie they’re making as part of their “Project Greenlight” show that features a scene of a black prostitute being slapped by her white pimp. Effie Brown, one of the judges on the show, wants the director to be a minority or a woman (or a team of the two) because she worries that someone who can’t relate to the black character will turn the scene into a cheap bit of exploitative stereotyping. That’s a valid concern, says Damon, but diversity in filmmaking should be about what happens in front of the camera, not behind it. Brown is bowled over. Watch to the end and you’ll find Damon reiterating the point in an interview later: If you let diversity concerns guide your choice of director, he says, “It seems like you would undermine what the competition is supposed to be about, which is about giving somebody this job based entirely on merit.”
All in all it was a triple no-no, producing a supernova yesterday of lefty rage over his act of “Damonsplaining.” The first no-no: Implying that diversity in hiring should be a secondary matter. The second no-no: Questioning left-wing orthodoxy that a minority author (or auteur, in this case) will necessarily be more sensitive to minority concerns than a white author might be. Damon obviously doesn’t want the “slap” scene to be exploitative either, but he trusts that whoever they hire to direct will treat it sensitively regardless of race. Whether he realizes it or not, he’s challenging the assumption that only someone from the same victim class can do full justice to that class’s portrayal. And the third no-no: As a very rich, very white, very famous male who’s arguing with a far less wealthy black woman filmmaker, this guy is committing a Class A privilege felony under the social-justice penal code. That’s where the “Damonsplaining” business comes from. Whenever a member of a more privileged group challenges a member of an underprivileged one on a matter of basic leftist dogma, ye olde “-splaining” meme starts circulating online to frame the disagreement — “mansplaining,” “whitesplaining,” or in this case “Damonsplaining” because neither of the first two terms fully captures the severity of the affront. He’s white and male and he’s disagreeing with a black woman on the extent to which diversity hiring should matter. Can you believe it? It’s so transgressive that it requires a whole new “-splaining” prefix. And it’s genuinely shocking that a loud-and-proud progressive like Damon seems not to realize it as he’s doing it.
Anyway. What’s truly interesting about this clip isn’t the squabbling between Damon and Brown or even Damon’s bizarre unawareness that he’d be burned at the stake for it online (why didn’t they just cut this scene from the show?) but the fact that it’s yet another example of the left coming hard after a leftist celebrity to enforce ideological conformity. All the best SJW stake-burnings nowadays involve liberal celebrities as the targets — Joss Whedon, Amy Schumer, Amy Poehler, Damon, and on and on. This is, I think, a logical step towards making grievance culture fully dominant: It’s hard to challenge righties for mocking lefty concerns when some prominent liberals seem not to be taking those concerns very seriously either. Better to spend your time clubbing them into submission so that the partisan lines around this subject are nice and clear. Expect that Damon apology tomorrow.
Exit question via John Sexton: Exactly what sort of approach to diversity is Damon suggesting here?
What Matt Damon is saying: Merit where it counts and diversity where it shows.
— John Sexton (@verumserum) September 15, 2015