Creating lasting change.
In recent weeks, George Floyd's death, along with the ensuing nationwide protests against racism, police brutality and social injustice, have shined a renewed spotlight on problems in Hollywood. Actors and reality TV stars have been fired; long-running shows have been cancelled; entertainment execs have pledged to prioritize diversity; and movies that were once considered prestigious have been deplatformed.
But will these immediate responses result in substantial and sustained change? E! host Justin Sylvester gave his take on Heather McDonald's Juicy Scoop podcast.
"We get really excited and really hyped up whenever people jump on a train or a bandwagon and we say, 'We're gonna get all female directors and actors and we're gonna get all female producers,' and the rubber band stretches," Sylvester explained. "And we get super excited, and then three years later, it pops back into place. Yeah, we've had a little bit of change; it's a little looser now. But it goes back to the tight space."
Sylvester used ABC's recent decision—one that took 18 years and 40 seasons—to hire its first Black Bachelor, Matt James, as an example.
"I hate to call ABC out because I love that they put a Black Bachelor on that show. Like, I'm living for it. And you know what, we wanted change, we got a little bit of change," Sylvester said. "But I'm also watching you because I don't want you to just pull this whole thing back really quickly, and then when [the rubber band] pops back in a year or two, there's still no Black executives in the casting department at ABC; there's still no Black executives in the board room at ABC. We just had one or two Black Bachelors in the last three years and now we're gonna say we did enough."
He continued, "Like, that's not what we need. We don't need a Black Bachelor really quickly."
According to the Daily Pop host, firing, as opposed to hiring, doesn't necessarily result in positive, long-lasting change, either.
"Let me first state that I think—and I'm not just talking about Bravo at this moment; I'm talking about a lot of networks and a lot of jobs—I feel like we are missing a teachable moment at this point," Sylvester expressed. "Like, I feel like the people who were fired deserved to be punished but I don't think firing somebody is the best way to teach people why and what is going on."
Consider Vanderpump Rules, Sylvester added. Two weeks ago, Stassi Schroeder and Kristen Doute were fired from the Bravo show following former cast member Faith Stowers' claims that the two called the police on her. (Stassi and Kristen have since apologized.)
Instead of firing Stassi and Kristen, Sylvester suggested the show immediately resume filming to document the fallout: "Why not pick the cameras up right now? Why not film them losing their wine lines? Why not film them losing their friends? Why not film them losing their families? Why not film them coming in and going to sensitivity training? Why not film them talking to Don Lemon about why, you know, this is wrong?"
"To say, 'You know what, I was wrong and I was a racist,'...it will teach people who think these women should've not been fired...(a) we gotta be better, (b) we gotta watch ourselves," Sylvester explained. "Like, we have to be better as a community and as a society."
He continued, "Watching these people get fired—yeah, it's quick and whatever, but my mother never whipped me behind closed doors. She would bust my ass in front of a class. And everybody would be like, 'Oh, I don't want that to ever happen to me.' It was a teachable moment for everybody and I just feel like we're missing that."
Another comparison Sylvester made was to The Real Housewives of New Jersey's handling of Teresa Giudice's legal troubles. In 2014, she and her now ex-husband Joe Giudice were both sentenced to prison for committing tax fraud.
"I saw Teresa and Joe go through that court case...and come back and walk out of jail and have to answer for it," Sylvester told McDonald. "Do you think Teresa really wanted to, or saw it glamorous, to sit and talk to all these women about what Joe did? About what she did? About how she knew?"
For him, the show "taught people to not just rely on your husbands for s--t. And that if you're doing shady s--t, you can go to jail."
"I just think that if we could show those things, then we also need to show what happens when you're racist or say racially insensitive things," Sylvester added.
Hear more of what Sylvester and McDonald have to say by watching the complete Juicy Scoop episode in the above clip.