“I am asking that you stand with me and boycott Netflix for gender bias and color bias” – Mo’Nique
The hottest news in entertainment the last few days is the drama Mo’Nique, the Academy Award-winning Best Supporting Actress for her role in Precious, started when she called for a blanket boycott of Netflix. Apparently, Netflix recently offered her $500000 to do a comedy special and she balked at it because the streaming heavyweight offered fellow female comedienne Amy Schumer $13 million and fellow Black comedians Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle $20 million for comedy specials. Mo’Nique felt she was on par with those entertainers. Actually, she felt she was better as she alluded that she “the most decorated comedian alive”.
First things first, let’s get the elephant out of the room: I AM NOT BOYCOTTING NETFLIX. That’s absolutely final. And quite frankly, I don’t think many other Black Americans—or just Black Netflix subscribers, in general—are going to boycott Netflix…not over Mo’Nique, at least. They have way too much quality content and exclusive rights to popular films and television shows to ever be affected by a blanket boycott. The only way to really boycott a streaming company like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video or Hulu is to restrict it from being viewed in your entire country…like in Mainland China or North Korea.
OK, with that out of the way, let’s discuss Mo’Nique. She is best known for her role as Nikki Parker, the co-leading character alongside Countess Vaughn’s Kim Parker in The Parkers. Though not a ratings gold mine and certainly not well received on the awards circuit outside of the Black American-dominated NAACP Image Awards and BET Comedy Awards, it survived 5 years so I’ll definitely give her credit for that. She had that late-night talk show on BET for 2 years. She really made her bones with The Queens of Comedy, a comedy special that ended up being a film. It was a cult classic amongst Black Americans and it was when most of us really caught on to her jokes about skinny chicks and big chicks. There is Precious, of course. She was a brutally bad mother in that film and honestly, I believe she deserved every bit of that Oscar. Outside of that, her career has been littered with films in which she has been an auxiliary character like Soul Plane, Two Can Play That Game and Almost Christmas. Even the TV stuff has been about other characters and not about her. Think the reunion specials for Love & Hip Hop: New York or the Bessie film that Queen Latifah starred in. I first saw her in 3 Strikes with my dude Brian Hooks but even then, she had like 3-4 lines. I haven’t seen her in anything since that Almost Christmas film and that was maybe a year or so ago…but then again, I haven’t been really checking for her like that. The fact of the matter is that the majority of people who subscribe to Netflix were elementary and middle school students when The Queens of Comedy and The Parkers was hot. For most in the demographic, she’s largely unknown and the whole skinny girls vs big girls joke routine isn’t exactly a thing now that all women are united under the #MeToo movement.
On the other hand, Amy Schumer is hotter than fire right now. She has starred in 2 films that had a profit of at least 150% against the production budget. She hosted a major awards show. She has a highly-rated show on Comedy Central. She hosted Saturday Night Live and had characters on The Simpsons, Family Guy, Bob’s Burgers, and BoJack Horseman…all in the last 3 years. Furthermore, Amy sold out the Apollo Theatre in Harlem…a White woman selling out a historically Black performance venue. I don’t think Mo’Nique would sell out the Apollo at this point. The $13 million that Netflix is paying her, they are definitely getting that back and probably very quickly.
As for Chris Rock and Dave Chapelle, do I really need to write about them? Chris Rock may be the most appealing comedian in the game right now with his ability to blend into any crowd. Chappelle, even the more watered-down version, is still a force in the game and people genuinely want to hear what he has to say because he’s a man of very few words and he makes rare appearances. Again, the $20 million that Netflix paid them…they will it back quickly.
Look, basically there is no color or gender bias here. Amy Schumer is way hotter right now. Chris Rock and the watered-down version of Dave Chappelle are way hotter right now. It’s quite possible that even Chelsea Handler and Ali Wong are even better than Mo’Nique right now. Being relevant and having current content goes a long way in the comedy market and it seems to me that Mo’Nique is trying to dictate her market value based on Precious and the Oscar and Golden Globe she won for it. That film was like 7 years ago and people have moved on. Hell, not even Halle Berry is still eating off Monster’s Ball and she won the Academy Award for Best Actress.
What does Mo’Nique deserve? Initially, when I heard she was going after Amy Schumer money at a minimum, I thought it was a bad play. I thought she should’ve played somewhere in the middle…like the $3-6 million range. But then, I found out about shows she’s doing…how much and where those shows are. That kinda changes my opinion on this and skews it toward the Netflix $500000 offer actually being closer to fair market for her. In doing a comedy special for Netflix, a comedian basically surrenders a set and all the material therein for that special. If the set is on Netflix, why would anybody buy tickets (and drinks, if minimums are required) to go check it out in a performance venue if they can sit at home and watch it as part of their $10.99 monthly streaming subscription? Netflix is essentially buying the set from the comedian. The question of significance: how much is that set worth? So you got Mo’Nique doing shows at the Oxnard Levity Live Comedy Club right now. We’re talking about a club with a capacity of around 250 people at $40 per ticket. That’s $10000 in sales. If that’s the average for her, it would take 50 shows for her to reach $500000. By contrast, let’s say Amy Schumer performs in a much bigger venue like The Theater at Madison Square Garden in front of 5000 people. Sorry Oxnard Levity Live, you’re not getting Amy right now. Let’s say those tickets are $100 each. That’s $500000 in sales for one show. To get that $13 million, she’s only doing 26 shows. I’m sure Amy can perform in much bigger venues than The Theater at MSG and $100 is probably the low end for her tickets right now so we may be talking 15-20 shows for her to get $13 million. I don’t think Mo’Nique is selling out the Apollo and that’s 1500 people nor do I think anybody is paying more than $50 for her shows today. I can definitely see how the Netflix offer makes sense.
What I think Mo’Nique should’ve done is realize where she is in her career. She should take the John Travolta approach. He was white-hot in the 70s and 80s but was washed up by the time the early 90s came around. Quentin Tarantino offered him $150000 to play Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction. Travolta accepted the reduced rate and the film ended up being so good that it’s in the National Film Registry after being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress. Travolta got Best Actor nominations from the Academy, BAFTA, and the Golden Globes for that role, reigniting his stale career. Just 3 years later, he was getting $20 million for Face/Off and hasn’t made less than $15 million for any film he has appeared in since. Mo’Nique should take the $500000 from Netflix and blow the special out of the water, reigniting her career. It would be her opportunity to show Netflix and other film and television executives that her time in the industry hasn’t passed. She definitely shouldn’t be checking other people’s pockets.