Elizabeth Banks' Purple Speech
At the Women in Film Crystal & Lucy Awards 2017, Elizabeth Banks was the recipient of the Crystal Award, and during her acceptance speech she decided to use her time on stage to call out Steven Spielberg:
"I went to Indiana Jones and Jaws and every movie Steven Spielberg ever made, and by the way, he's never made a movie with a female lead, Sorry Steven. I don't mean to call your ass out but it's true."
Elizabeth Banks was corrected while on stage and during the days that followed. Many pointed out to Banks that Spielberg directed the film The Color Purple, a movie with a black female lead.
An acceptance speech is a golden opportunity for people not just to be seen but more importantly to be heard. It is rare that a person who knows they will be honored at a publicized ceremony would not strategize beforehand what they will say to maximize the opportunity. This is especially true for individuals who are trying to raise support for social causes, a similar example would be Meryl Streep when she accepted the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 2017 Golden Globes when she spoke against President Trump in support of immigrants.
Elizabeth Banks' speech employed a "take down" strategy through an attempt at public scrutiny. One of the most important rules when you are attempting to "take down" anyone is that you must do your homework to identify your opponents weaknesses to which built your case against them. If you try to scrutinize someone especially in a highly publicized manner, and your charges against the other party are inaccurate, even if in a small way, it can invalidate both your claims and you as the person with the supposed higher moral ground, even if you may have it.
Immediately after Banks' speech some people who felt offended by what she said charged her with two points. The first point is that she allegedly did not bother considering The Color Purple as having a female lead because the actress was black. The second point is that because The Color Purple's cast is almost entirely black, it was seen allegedly by Banks as just another "black movie" and not worthy of including when discussing Spielberg's other classics, that were led by mostly white casts.
Two days after Elizabeth Banks' disastrous speech she apologized to Steven Spielberg and to everyone for her mistake, and essentially took back everything she said.
Elizabeth Banks is a successful actress and director but Steven Spielberg's career is many many times over more successful, prestigious, and powerful. Why Elizabeth Banks would try to publicly shame Spielberg, the Goliath to her David, but be careless about her charge against him we will never know. What we do know however is that the point Elizabeth Banks was trying to make was overshadowed by her lack of research. A quick trip to IMDB would have shown that Spielberg has had more than one female lead in his movies. Perhaps Banks felt she wished Spielberg employed more women in lead roles, but any chance of a public review of Spielberg's casting choices came to an end.
Since Banks' speech the topic has not been revisited.
We all know now how Elizabeth Banks chose to bring up her thoughts on the topic of the gender based casting of lead roles in Steven Spielberg movies, but what if she had opted for a different strategy?
During her speech she could have invited Steven Spielberg to talk to her about his casting process and used the power of social media to urge him to commit and gone about it that way. A less aggressive approach sometimes is a more tactful route especially when your opponent has a clean slate in the eyes of public opinion and is highly esteemed. Just because Steven Spielberg only cast a lesser amount of his movies with a female lead does not make him automatically sexist, similarly how Elizabeth Banks is not automatically a racist only because she forgot a Spielberg movie in which the lead was a black actor.
In 2017 it is tough to get anything wrong, celebrities more than ever have to watch every word they say because no one is throwing them a life preserver or "filling in missing information" if they get it half right. Let Elizabeth Banks' Women in Film Crystal & Lucy speech serve as a lesson on the importance of being meticulous when publicly calling out anyone because if you don't it can backfire and leave you feeling, dare I say it, like the color purple.