Have we reached a turning point for diversity in Hollywood?

Frances McDormand could have made the biggest change to the film industry in decades

8th March 2018

The Time’s Up movement has taken the film industry by storm. A disturbing number of industry professionals have come forward about the injustices they have faced, in the hope it will be a catalyst for change.

Change is definitely coming to the mostly straight, white men who make up the Hollywood elite. But one comparatively small incident, in particular, could be what really sparks a revolution.

At the 2018 Oscars, Frances McDormand won a much deserved Best Actress Academy Award for the film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, where she plays a woman looking for justice. It’s fitting that she won Best Actress for this role, considering how relevant it is to today’s conversations.

During her speech, she gestured for every female nominee to stand, and pointed out that they have ideas to be explored before she left the stage to astounding applause she said two words: “inclusion rider”.

People might not have to worry about getting work in the film industry because they are the ‘wrong’ gender or colour

In short, she very publicly challenged fellow members of the industry to use their power as A-listers to help improve diversity in Hollywood.

If you weren’t one of the hundreds of thousands of people googling the term immediately after her speech, inclusion rider is a clause which can be added to a contract which states that a studio needs to have a cast and crew that accurately reflects the demographic in which the film is set. This is a clause that can be requested by an A-lister, and although it’s been around for a couple of years, few people have been aware of it, until now.

This means we could have films that are contractually obligated to have casts and crews which are representative of the actual population, that way, none of the groups that are traditionally underrepresented will be alienated, people might not have to worry about getting work in the film industry because they are the “wrong” gender or colour.

It won’t create more leading roles for the more underrepresented groups, but it would provide more diverse employment within the industry

Now, this was a smart move on McDormand’s part — she’s drawn attention to the fact that celebrities have the power to actually do something about the diversity problems in the industry. Admittedly, it won’t create more leading roles for the more underrepresented groups, but it would provide an accurate reflection of the population onscreen, and have more diverse employment within the industry.  

The question isn’t whether the diversity problem can be fixed, but whether it will. The response to McDormand’s speech has been very positive, with many A-listers expressing their admiration.

Unless their words are empty, it looks like a large proportion of celebrities will be implementing the inclusion rider. Black Panther star Michael B Jordan and his production company have already pledged to use inclusion riders.

With a bit of luck, this will only be the beginning of the stream of celebrities who will use their power and influence for good, instead of exploitation, which seems to historically have been the case.

(Main image: Black Panther director Ryan Coogler on set with cinematographer Rachel Morrison. 📸 Marvel Studios 2018)

8th March 2018