• Are men in the entertainment industry starting to learn from their mistakes? (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
While the comments from Eddie Murphy and Pharrell Williams won't go a long way in dismantling the sexism and chauvinism rife in the entertainment industry, they could be indicative of a shift in our culture.
By
Samuel Leighton-Dore

16 Oct 2019 - 2:46 PM  UPDATED 16 Oct 2019 - 4:12 PM

Are men in Hollywood finally starting to sit up and take responsibility for their actions?

Well, maybe - if new interviews from Pharrell Williams and Eddie Murphy are anything to go by.

Earlier this week, US rapper Pharrell Williams publicly denounced his involvement in controversial pop song Blurred Lines, which he recorded with Robin Thicke in 2013, saying the track left him feeling "embarrassed".

“Some of my old songs, I would never write or sing today,” Pharrell revealed in an interview with GQ magazine

“I get embarrassed by some of that stuff. It just took a lot of time and growth to get to that place.”

Williams admitted that he didn't initially understand the controversy around the pop song, which was slammed by social commentators for promoting "rapey" language, saying: “I didn’t get it at first."

He explained: “Because there were older white women who, when that song came on, they would behave in some of the most surprising ways ever. And I would be like, ‘Wow.’ They would have me blushing. So when there started to be an issue with it, lyrically, I was, like, ‘What are you talking about?’ There are women who really like the song and connect to the energy that just gets you up.

"And ‘I know you want it’ — women sing those kinds of lyrics all the time. So it’s like, what’s rapey about that?”

However, Williams said he soon came to understand the problematic nature of the lyrics.

"And then I realised that there are men who use that same language when taking advantage of a woman, and it doesn’t matter that that’s not my behaviour."

“And then I realised that there are men who use that same language when taking advantage of a woman, and it doesn’t matter that that’s not my behaviour. Or the way I think about things. It just matters how it affects women. And I was like, ‘Got it. I get it. Cool.'”

He continued: “My mind opened up to what was actually being said in the song and how it could make someone feel. Even though it wasn’t the majority, it didn’t matter. I cared what they were feeling too. I realised that we live in a chauvinist culture in our country…[I] didn’t realise that some of my songs catered to that."

"It just matters how it affects women.

"My mind opened up to what was actually being said in the song and how it could make someone feel."

Similarly to Williams, actor and comedian Eddie Murphy has reflected on a number of previous roles, admitting that he had, at times, been "an a**hole".

The star, whose new film Dolemite Is My Name is generating early Oscars buzz, recently told The New York Times that some of his past material centred around AIDS and the LGBTIQ+ community was “ignorant.”

Murphy “wasn’t concerned about new scrutiny of his comedy,” the Times writer Jason Zinoman observed. “He has been criticised for jokes on his specials that talked about fear of contracting AIDS from kissing gay men and used homophobic slurs…”

“He pointed out that he had been picketed and had apologized for material about AIDS that he now calls ‘ignorant’ before adding, on the subject of anxiety by comics today: ‘All this stuff they are talking about: Hey, welcome to the club.’”

Speaking to The Independent, Murphy reflected on some of the earlier work in his career, admitting that he's been through a number of challenging periods - and not handled them as well as he could have.

“I was a young guy processing a broken heart," he said.

"You know, kind of an a**hole."

While the comments from Murphy or Williams won't go a long way in dismantling the sexism and chauvinism rife in the entertainment industry, they could be indicative of a shift in our culture; one where men aren't so afraid to admit their mistakes and, even if years later, take some level of accountability. On a more cynical note, it could be they are savvy enough to read the winds of change to survive in a changed era. 

Sam Leighton-Dore is an award-winning visual artist and the author of the graphic novel 'How to be a big strong man'. You can follow Sam on Twitter @samleightondore or Instagram  @samleightondore. 

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