Mediator: Assailing the White House From Hollywood’s Glass House

Mediator: Assailing the White House From Hollywood’s Glass House

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And for all the talk of inclusion in the political speechifying leading up to, and during, the Oscars, how inclusive is Hollywood itself?

The answer is that despite the big honors that black actors and black-themed films took home Sunday night — after two straight years of #OscarsSoWhite controversy — the industry still has a long way to go to improve diversity throughout its ranks.

This year’s nominations and Sunday’s victories didn’t change the fact that the number of minorities in the ranks of studio executives remains woefully low; that the female director continues to be that rarest of species (this is yet another year without a woman among the directing nominees), and that the consequences for bad behavior — alleged or confirmed — still seem to go by a sliding scale based on whom your connections are or your potential at the box office.

And all the celebration of the black nominees this year was tempered by what-about-us complaints from Asian-Americans, Hispanics, women — whose nominations declined in nonacting categories compared with last year — and older Americans.

“The OscarsSoWhite hashtag has to be viewed as a synecdoche for ‘industry so white,’” said Franklin Leonard, the founder of The Black List, a script crowdsourcing site. “If you view #OscarsSoWhite as being only about more nominations for black actors at the Oscars, then you totally missed the point, and a lot of people did miss the point.”

Hollywood’s diversity issues, of course, aren’t all that different from those of corporate America, the United States Senate or, I might add, the news industry. And to Mr. Trump’s critics, Hollywood’s flaws would pale in comparison to the president’s moves against immigration, transgender rights and environmental protections, among other indignities.

Mr. Leonard’s argument is that in Hollywood, the more diverse the executive ranks, the better the chance for diversity in storytelling. As The Atlantic reports in its latest issue, his list — which polls hundreds of film executives on the best overlooked scripts they’ve read — has helped push into production great screenplays, including “Slumdog Millionaire” and “Spotlight,” both of which won best picture.

This year’s more diverse Oscar slate centered on unexpected hits like “Moonlight” (about a black youth struggling with his sexual identity in abusive home and school environments); “Hidden Figures” (about unheralded black, female mathematicians at NASA during the space race); and “Fences” (based on the August Wilson play about the generational struggles of a working-class black family in Pittsburgh).

Some of the nominees from those films — Octavia Spencer in “Hidden Figures,” the supporting actress winner Viola Davis in “Fences” and the supporting actor winner Mahershala Ali in “Moonlight” — “have been in the industry forever,” Mr. Leonard noted. “But the rise of a new generation of filmmakers and the slow realization that diversity can result in box office results has finally given many of these actors roles that are worthy of their talents.”


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Slow, however, is the operative word.

Janice Min, a part owner of The Hollywood Reporter, told me that Hollywood still runs “like a series of private country clubs” where who’s in and who’s out depends on membership committees largely controlled by Hollywood power brokers who are overwhelmingly white and male.

“As any sociology major will tell you, people flock to people they know and people that are like them,” Ms. Min said.

That was evident, for instance, when the “Jurassic World” producer Frank Marshall told SlashFilm in 2015 that he and Steven Spielberg had taken a chance and hired the relatively unknown Colin Trevorrow to direct the big-budget movie after another white male director in their clique, Brad Bird, said he “reminds me of me.” Women in the business noticed.

Ms. Min became so fed up with the lack of progress for women in Hollywood that she announced that same year that The Reporter was going to stop its rankings for women in its “Power 100” list. The ranking, she wrote, pitted women against each other when they needed to band together in the face of their many obstacles here.

The magazine’s current list of Hollywood’s most powerful — people “with the ability to say ‘yes’ and get a show made or a movie made,” as the magazine’s editorial director Matthew Belloni described it — has its share of women in the top 25, including the Universal Pictures chairwoman Donna Langley; the Fox Television Group chairwoman Dana Walden; and Oprah Winfrey.

But it was otherwise short on blacks, Hispanics and Asians. The studios I reached out to last week weren’t eager to speak to me about the issue, perhaps because the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is weighing whether to bring a lawsuit against the major studios over charges the American Civil Liberties Union brought that the studios discriminated against women in hiring decisions for directors.

The A.C.L.U. pointed to research by the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism showing that women had accounted for only 1.9 percent of the directors of the top 100 grossing films in 2013 and 2014.

The author of that research, Stacy L. Smith, said in an interview that part of the problem had to do with myths throughout the industry — that women don’t want to direct big-budget blockbusters, for instance, or that certain movies won’t make money.

Ms. Smith said she saw the success of “Hidden Figures” as pivotal because it would speak to Hollywood in its favorite language: cash. “Here we have a film not only nominated for best picture but is financially lucrative,” she said. It had generated nearly $170 million in worldwide receipts as of last week, Bloomberg reported.

For all of its strides toward diversity, the awards season had its wrinkles. As The Times reported in January, some saw race as a factor in the way Nate Parker’s film, “The Birth of a Nation,” lost its luster after the resurfacing of a case in which Mr. Parker was acquitted of charges that he raped a female student while at Penn State. However, Casey Affleck cruised to a best actor nomination for “Manchester by the Sea,” and won, despite having settled sexual harassment allegations made against him in two civil suits (he denied the allegations).

Also, this year’s awards saw a second chance for Mel Gibson, whose best director nomination for “Hacksaw Ridge” came just over 10 years after he made anti-Semitic and misogynist remarks during a drunken-driving arrest.

It was around the same time that Mr. Trump was caught on tape by “Access Hollywood” bragging about grabbing women’s genitals.

Mr. Gibson, of course, is an actor and director. Mr. Trump is now president and Los Angeles is such a bastion of opposition against him that it was only natural that he would inspire some political Oscar speeches this year.

But Hollywood’s judgment would go a lot further if it directed some of that political energy back at itself.

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