As a feminist who works in media and entertainment, the #metoo movement is about calling attention to sexual harassment perpetrated by those in power with the capacity to affect the success of others in all industries. Likewise, the #timesup movement is about rectifying the thoughts and behaviors that contribute to sexual harassment in the workplace in all industries. Neither movement is meant to be used as a weapon or scapegoat for one individual’s advancement. Mo’nique’s issue with Netflix is a business dispute based on the amount of money she was offered in comparison to the valuation of her individual brand.
Mo’nique is not a co-star in a movie or co-host on a TV show with a man who was making significantly more money than her. As a result this isn’t an issue of wage inequality or gender discrimination.
Mo’nique airs her grievances against other blacks in the entertainment industry on social media and in interviews but doesn’t seem capable of having a face to face conversation with those individuals. She has repeatedly thrown shade at Oprah, Lee Daniels, Tyler Perry and Will Packer. She has recently attacked Roland S. Martin on Twitter challenging his career long work in the black community. She talks a good game about women deserving higher wages, but when she’s in a movie the results are only an increase in her pay, not that of all the women on the cast. She also never addresses the lack of women who work as talent managers and how that impacts the wages of women of color in film and television.
Mo’nique’s call for a boycott against Netflix is not the equivalent to Colin Kaepernick taking a knee in protest against police brutality towards people of color, boycotting airlines for unfair treatment and assault of paying passengers or boycotting H&M for selling racially degrading merchandise. Mo’nique was offered an amount of money that would be life changing for many people, including myself, but she decided that it wasn’t what she wanted. That’s her choice and I support her right to make that choice for herself.
Many platforms have and do work with people and women of color in mutually beneficial creative content capacities. Amazon Studios is releasing content by a variety of creatives, Issa Rae has opportunities inked with HBO, Tiffany Haddish had a comedy special on Showtime in late 2017 and Jamie Foxx is Executive Producer of the hit Showtime show “White Famous”, just to name a few. Some people of color have invested in and developed their own platforms as well, creating opportunities and opening doors for many to walk through….if they want to. Opportunities aren’t always given to us, so we have to go out and make our own. I know this firsthand. Many of my accomplishments, such as being a movie producer, TV producer, author and others, are a direct result of me creating opportunities instead of hoping or waiting for others to approach me. Had I sat around, I’d never have any of those achievements. The same is true of a lot of people. Hence why there are so many more opportunities available today than 10 years ago.
Having said that, I’m not boycotting Netflix on behalf of Mo’nique. In my opinion her issue isn’t helping the #metoo or #timesup movements create fairness or safe work environments free of sexual harassment. Her grievances aren’t about her size or age, and she’s not being bullied. Her issue is about how much she wants to be monetarily valued in and by the entertainment industry. That’s a personal business matter for her to resolve. In fact, supporting Mo’nique by boycotting Netflix would also mean boycotting content written, directed, produced by and starring several other black and brown brothers and sisters, including but not limited to “Mudbound“, which is Oscar nominated. As a member of the entertainment industry myself, that would be unfair and would harm many people of color, both men and women, who negotiated deals to build their relationships with Netflix in order to tell a variety of stories. Shonda Rhimes received a very lucrative multimillion dollar, multi-year deal with Netflix and she’s a black woman. Mo’nique must’ve missed that memo.
Boycotts aren’t supposed to help one person eat well while starving thousands. Boycotts are about creating fairness, and justice, not division.
Mo’nique has had a great career in both television and film. She is intelligent and talented. As a result she has other opportunities that she can explore outside of Netflix. For many others, Netflix is their first opportunity to have their content seen in their career. People who have never seen the kind of money that Mo’nique was offered in their entire lifetimes use Netflix to meet us on our TVs and mobile devices. They introduce themselves to us one story at a time for the price of one ticket to one movie for one person to see a major motion picture in a movie theater. They are the real MVPs.
Mo’nique not agreeing with the amount of money offered and therefore rejecting the Netflix deal means her team doesn’t work and that’s on her, not me or you. Mind you, turning down the opportunity also means she can’t be upset when the next person accepts it. In my capacity as an artist manager I’ve had artists turn down opportunities then get angry because another artist accepted it. Two things often follow:
The artist that declines offers isn’t afforded many opportunities going forward.
The artist that declines offers doesn’t work nearly as much or earn as much money as other artists.
In the entertainment business every opportunity doesn’t come back around. While this news was breaking I realized that there’s the possibility that Netflix isn’t the first opportunity that Mo’nique may have declined. Tiffany Haddish was the first black female stand up comic to host Saturday Night Live in 2017, yet it was reported that was partly because others declined when they were previously asked, opening the door for her to make history. Was Mo’nique someone who declined that opportunity at some point? I understand that Mo’nique has been black balled, but how much of that is a result of her rejecting opportunities more than she accepts them? After a person is said to be the type to consistently say “no”, people eventually stop asking them.
If Mo’nique is saying “no”, she’s making her own decision, which she has the right to do. No one can force her into a deal that she isn’t happy with. However, I can’t support others not being afforded the opportunity to also make their own decisions to work, provide jobs and provide content to the masses in order to make Mo’nique happier… or richer. Maybe she should sit down with her manager and think of a plan that gets her the amount of money she wants another way or on another platform, without hurting others who haven’t had her level of success yet and whom depend on their relationship with Netflix to further their career.
Mo’nique’s expectation that we all cancel our Netflix subscriptions to support her individual brand is selfish, not unifying. It isn’t a boss move and it doesn’t help anyone but her, and it might not even accomplish that to be honest. Netflix will just move on and offer someone else the money, as they should because they have a business to run, with content creators and shareholders relying on them to run the business. Selfishness of one person doesn’t bless us or move us forward as women or people of color. Netflix isn’t just here for the benefit of Mo’nique’s career or success. She’s capable of taking her talents elsewhere and securing other partnerships if she feels she deserves better. In the meantime, I wish Mo’nique the best and to paraphrase Issa Rae, I’m rooting for everybody (else) black on Netflix.