In Case You Missed It: Actor Sean Penn announced that he would be suing Empire showrunner Lee Daniels for $10 million dollars following comments he made in a recent interview. Damon Young is here to explain why.
Who is Sean Penn?
Sean Penn is the world’s most serious and most solemn and most important White man. In fact, there has never been a White man more serious, more solemn, and more important than Sean Penn. He is the most serious, most solemn, and most important White man of all-time.
Occasionally, he takes breaks from being the world’s most serious and most solemn and most important White man to do pull-ups and star in serious, solemn, and important movies.
Who is Lee Daniels?
Lee Daniels is nuts. He is also the man behind Empire. And Precious. And The Butler. Which means that he’s certifiably insane. But in a typically good way. If Lee Daniels is in charge of something, that something is going to be the most luxuriously messy and messily luxurious something you’ll ever experience. Basically, if Lee Daniels is organizing a baby shower, you better be at that damn baby shower.
Who is Terrence Howard?
Terrence Howard literally does not believe one times one equals one. (No, seriously. It’s true.) He also cares far more about baby wipes than anyone who isn't a new parent ever should. Let me put it this way: If you care about 1,000,000 different things, your level of care about baby wipes should be 999,999th on that list, ahead of only your level of care about Tyga. If you care about baby wipes any more than that, you officially care too much about baby wipes
Terrence Howard is not like you or me.
Ok, so why is Sean Penn suing Lee Daniels for 10 million dollars?
Am I the only one who, whenever he sees something like “10 million dollars” typed out, reads it in Dr. Evil’s voice?
So, again, why is Sean Penn suing Lee Daniels for 10 million dollars?
Earlier this year, Daniels referenced Penn while defending Howard.
“[Terrence] ain’t done nothing different than Marlon Brando or Sean Penn, and all of a sudden he’s some f—in’ demon,” Daniels told the Hollywood Reporter. “That’s a sign of the time, of race, of where we are right now in America.”
Basically, there are other star actors who’ve been accused of some form of violence against women. But, because Howard is Black, he’s blackballed (heh) in a way they aren’t.
That’s a pretty terrible argument though, right?
It is. Saying “well, that guy does it too” to defend someone’s terrible actions is perhaps the worst possible way to defend them. If your six-year-old nephew did this, you’d be annoyed with him. I’m not sure exactly how old Lee Daniels is, but he’s older than six.
That said, Daniels wasn’t exactly wrong.
Black actors and actresses tend to be on shorter leashes than their White counterparts. Generally speaking, a person like a Howard isn’t going to receive the benefit of the doubt in Hollywood the same way a White actor with equal status would. That Daniels expressed this point in a problematic manner doesn’t negate its truth.
So why is Sean Penn suing him?
Sean Penn is the world’s most serious and most solemn and most important White man. And Daniels offhandedly comparing Penn, the world’s most serious and most solemn and most important White man, to Howard (a man who is not the world’s most serious and most solemn and most important White man) is apparently enough for the world’s most serious and most solemn and most important White man to sue for defamation of character.
So Penn doesn’t have a history of violent behavior?
Oh, he does.
"In 1987, Penn served 33 days in prison after assaulting a photographer. In 1988, Penn was charged with felony domestic assault on his then-wife Madonna. And by assault I mean he HIT HER OVER THE HEAD WITH A BASEBALL BAT. He pled to a misdemeanor, so like Brown, Penn avoided jail time for his assault. But lest you think he learned his lesson after this incident, as recently as 2009 Penn was arrested for vandalism charges after assaulting yet another photographer. He’s been arrested six times."
Technically, his history with violence is different from Howard’s. But that’s splitting hairs. He might be the world’s most serious and most solemn and most important White man, but he also has some mess in his closet too.
So what happens now?
If I had 10 million dollars I would bet 10 million dollars that Sean Penn will not get 10 million dollars from Lee Daniels. Also, by crafting a lawsuit around a throwaway statement no one would have ever thought about again, Penn puts the spotlight on his own history. This will backfire on him, Lee Daniels will continue Lee Danielsing, and Terrance Howard will still be at Costco, looking for half off baby wipes in bulk.