President Obama this weekend said in an interview that the US government may return North Korea to its list of state sponsors of terrorism, over the Sony hacking scandal. In late November, about a hundred terabytes of data were stolen from Sony’s computer servers by a group calling itself Guardians of Peace. The group began releasing bits of information, including whole films, some in theaters, and some as yet unreleased, on the internet. They also released incriminating email exchanges between top Sony executives Scott Rudin, Amy Pascal and Michael Lynton, exposing racist attitudes. Eventually it became known that the hack was in response to the planned release of a Sony comedy starring Seth Rogan and James Franco, whose premise is a fictional assassination attempt against North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The hackers warned of terrorist attacks against theaters screening the film, leading a chain reaction of cancellations to occur. The film, entitled The Interview, is currently indefinitely shelved.
In addition to the massive damage to Sony, both financial and to its reputation, the hack has exposed once more the inner workings of a major media company and its influence on race and racism in Hollywood. The movie industry has been historically guilty of playing up racist and sexist stereotypes, and of grossly under-representing people of color and women. That trend continues to today, despite some measure of positive changes.
Pop culture defines how we as a society view one another. It informs our implicit biases of each other. And, it can remain far behind the times, as the hue of our society continues to diversify while our TV and movie screens remain the domain of straight, white men.
GUEST: Darnell Hunt, Professor of Sociology, and the Director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA, which issues a report regularly examining diversity in Hollywood.