“Inclusion Riders”: Women in Hollywood Continue Fight For Diversity

by Kerry Torpey on March 15, 2018

Arts & Entertainment

Frances McDormand accepts her Oscar
Photo courtesy of oscars.go.com

by Patrick Fuller ’21

A&E Staff

Unfortunately, in 2018, fantastic films have been overshadowed by unsettling controversies within the movie industry. So far, 84 women have accused producer Harvey Weinstein of inappropriate and criminal behavior including sexual harassment and assault, according to USA Today.

Former NBA legend Kobe Bryant took home an Oscar for his animated short film “Dear Basketball” despite being accused of rape in 2003.  More prominently, Gary Oldman won the Oscar for Best Actor for portraying Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour, despite being accused of domestic violence in 2001.  Even though the entire Dolby Theater donned #TimesUp pins to protest the recent atrocities, women still remained underrepresented and unappreciated at the awards show.

For one, Greta Gerwig, nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director for her critically acclaimed Lady Bird, went home empty handed. The film provides its audience with an authentic coming of age story which touches on the issues of family conflict, social class, and identity.  Although movies like The Florida Project and Moonlight tackle the extremes of growing up in modern society, Lady Bird brilliantly immerses the viewer in the life of a typical suburban teenager and follows her development amidst emotional struggles and family relationships.

The fact that Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf did not win Best Actress in a Leading Role/Best Actress in a Supporting Role, respectively, is tolerable considering the quality of the competition in each category. Surely, however, Gerwig’s success in making a fictional story so realistic should have mertied at least a Best Director or Best Original Screenplay win.

Furthermore, only six women won Oscars this year, the second lowest number since 2012 when only four women won.  Although women were underrepresented, their performances and their messages were unparalleled.  The quirky Frances McDormand, winner of Best Actress in a Leading Role for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, left the audience with two words: “Inclusion Rider.”

According to The Guardian, “an ‘inclusion rider’ is a clause that an actor can insist be inserted in their contract that requires cast and crew on a film to meet a certain level of diversity.”  The originator of the concept, Stacy Smith, proposed this solution in a 2016 TED talk: “The typical feature film has about 40 to 45 speaking characters in it.  I would argue that only 8 to 10 of those characters are actually relevant to the story.  The remaining 30 or so roles, there’s no reason why those minor roles can’t match or reflect the demography of where the story is taking place.  An equity rider by an A-lister in their contract can stipulate that those roles reflect the world in which we actually live.”

Allison Janney won the Oscar for the Best Supporting Actress as Tonya Harding’s abusive mother LaVona in I,Tonya, joking in her acceptance speech, “I did it all by myself.”  Meanwhile, Darla K. Anderson won the Oscar for Animated Feature Film for Coco, bringing the world of animation to the neglected beauty of Mexico.  In the same vein, Kristen Anderson-Lopez won the Oscar for Best Original Song for “Remember Me,” also from Coco.  Lucy Sibbick and associates won the Oscar for Makeup and Hairstyling for transforming Gary Oldman into a convincing Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour.

Rachel Senton, winner of Best Live Action Short Film for The Silent Child, delivered another touching message in British Sign Language for the movie’s deaf star, Maisie Sly. Senton emotionally commented, “Our movie is about a deaf child being born into a world of silence.  It’s not exaggerated or sensationalized for the movie.  This is happening.  Millions of children all over the world live in silence and face communication barriers, and particularly access to education.”

Although women did not win out at the Oscars this year, they were instrumental in bringing the issues of racism, sexism, and discrimination  in Hollywood to light.