Matt Damon and Ben Affleck have bravely agreed to be legally obligated to hire diverse casts and crews on their upcoming projects. On Tuesday their joint production company, Pearl Street Films, announced that they’d be adopting inclusion riders going forward, following the lead of actor Michael B. Jordan and Bridesmaids director Paul Feig.
Frances McDormand popularized the idea in her galvanizing Best Actress Oscars acceptance speech earlier this month. USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative outlined the contractual provision in December of 2017, describing inclusion riders as “an addendum to a contract that creates conditions for more equitable casting and hiring, focused on developing a diverse talent pipeline in the entertainment industry.” Of course, this is a monumental step forward for Hollywood, a town and industry that has long been dominated by straight, white, cis men. But it’s hard not to bristle at the idea that men like Damon and Affleck need contractual obligations to hold them to hiring people who don’t look like them.
To be fair, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck are easy to pick on—they’re unimaginably privileged people who have worked and prospered in the film industry longer than Kendall and Kylie have been alive. Damon especially has tried and failed to contribute to movements that, quite frankly, aren’t his to commandeer, and thus has become somewhat a poster child for the negative effects of male feminism.
In December Damon came under fire for weighing in on #MeToo in an astonishingly tone-deaf way. In true “Not All Men” form, he claimed we should stop paying attention to the men accused of sexual misconduct and instead recognize the men who haven’t been. Yes, Matt Damon, you’re a real hero for not raping a gaggle of women. Good job on doing the bare minimum requirements of being a person. After being roasted on social media for days, he later apologized, but the criticism was justified. Remember, he doesn’t exactly have a clean record on diversity in Hollywood.
The actor also encountered controversy when he butted heads with producer Effie Brown on his show Project Greenlight in a conversation that was largely perceived to be racially insensitive. He talked over Brown, a woman of color, while she was speaking on diversity in film, pointing out that the only person of color in a particular script was a prostitute who gets smacked by a white pimp. He cut her off, defensively saying, “When we’re talking about diversity, you do it in the casting of the film, not in the casting of the show.” He literally tried to mansplain and white-splan diversity to a black woman. Again, after meeting much deserved heat online, he eventually apologized.
It seems Damon does the right thing only after women and people of color yell at him online. His instinct is not to listen or learn from his mistakes; it’s to fight back and cover his ass. Hopefully, that’s changing—but only because we’re bullying him into it.
But then there’s Ben Affleck, his best bro, business partner, and fellow Big Man Who Makes Right Decision Now. Affleck himself has been accused of sexual misconduct, as has his brother Casey Affleck. Ben has never commented directly on his brother’s accusations, nor has he publicly denounced his behaviors. But post-Weinstein, he has made some good decisions, like donating the residuals from his Miramax movies—including Chasing Amy, Good Will Hunting, and Shakespeare in Love—to charity. And rather than outright denying the accusations against him like almost every other accused man, he told Colbert he didn’t remember the encounter in question but that he believes the accuser and “absolutely” apologizes for it.
Regardless, both men have decided to dedicate themselves to being a part of the solution, so we can scoff all we want, but that’s a really good thing. Plus, it’s pretty entertaining watching two grown men perform the greatest social experiment of our time, right in front of our eyes, for free. We all have a front-row seat to witness adult millionaires grapple with what it means to be a decent human being, in real time.
And if being legally bound to women and people of color is going to get the job done, then that’s what we need to do. But I’m not legally bound to broccoli, and I still include it in my diet, because I know it’s good for me. I’m not contractually obligated to brush my teeth, but it’s the right thing to do. If I don’t water my plants, there’s not going to be any lawyers breathing down my neck, but I want to give my plants the tools they need to grow and prosper. But good job, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Yeah.