Settling into the plush Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, Hollywood’s best and brightest prepared to celebrate the achievements of the 90th Academy Award winners and losers.
But, on the shiniest Sunday of the year in Tinsel Town, the elite crowd were forced to acknowledge the real winner of the night, which emerged during Frances McDormand’s acceptance speech: inclusivity.
The Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri actor said this:
McDormand, who gave a stomach-churning and brilliant performance as Mildred Hayes, didn’t shy away from the politically-charged atmosphere.
After inviting her female colleague and peers to rise with her, as she demanded funding for more deserving women-led projects in Hollywood, she concluded by uttering two words that had the World Wide Web talking.
She truly channeled the strength written into her character’s narrative:
‘I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentleman’, McDormand decreed, adding: ‘Inclusion rider.’
The mic-drop moment resonated in the room, but a lot of the viewing public were confused by her sentiment; mainly because not many had heard of an inclusion rider.
So much so, analytics of Google Trends showed a huge spike in searches for the term:
An ‘inclusion rider’ is a clause an actor can insist be inserted into their contract, requiring both cast and crew on a film to meet an adequate level of diversity.
After a quick Google search, apparently, here’s what Twitter had to say:
an inclusion rider is something actors put into their contracts to ensure gender and racial equality in hiring on movie sets. We should support this for a billion reasons, but if you can't find a reason to, here's one: it will make movies better.
— Whitney Cummings (@WhitneyCummings) March 5, 2018
Thank you, Frances McDormand.
— ashley judd (@AshleyJudd) March 5, 2018
Inclusion Rider. Educate yourself. Annenberg Inclusion Initiative – the think tank that originally added rocket fuel to this effort – spells it out. Read. Share. Discuss. https://t.co/kXdxrthAyh pic.twitter.com/QgCunrsJ3K
— Michele Norris (@michele_norris) March 5, 2018
— Annenberg Inclusion Initiative (@Inclusionists) March 5, 2018
— Glennon Doyle (@GlennonDoyle) March 5, 2018
The concept of an inclusion – or equity – rider was explored in a TED talk in 2016 by Stacy Smith, founder of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California.
You can watch her empowering plan for diversity in film below:
Asking ‘Where are all the women and girls in film?’, Smith explained:
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.
While Smith’s hypothesis was directly applicable to gender bias in Hollywood, there’s absolutely no reason the inclusivity rider shouldn’t apply to all minorities.
This year, we’ve seen diversity spread its wings across many mediums, from Marvel’s cinematic universe with Black Panther, to the highbrow films tackling race issues such as Get Out.
Die-hard romantics – and the LGBT community – welcomed Call Me By Your Name, the beautiful coming-of-age story which gave screenwriter James Ivory the accolade of oldest ever Oscar-winner.
Speaking of, over in TV Town, shows such as Grace & Frankie (starring the inimitable Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin) gave three-dimensional roles to veterans of the film industry and Big Little Lies offers women’s stories told by women.
This year saw one of the few occasions an Oscar was accepted in sign language, by writer Rachel Shenton, for the short film The Silent Child, which tells the tale of a young deaf girl.
You can watch the trailer below:
Last year, Hollywood rinsed President Donald Trump, the notorious bigot who lives in the White House. We had the ‘Oscars So White‘ hashtag in 2016.
While the recipients may still be primarily Caucasian, the Oscars are certainly more ‘woke’ and outwardly political.
Off the silver screen, hundreds have championed movements to put a stop to the systematic sexual harassment of women – and men – who have been routinely victimised by people in positions of power.
You might’ve assumed the two most Googled words during the Oscars were ‘Me Too’ or ‘Time’s Up’ – especially after Emma Watson displayed her new temporary philanthropic ink.
The two movements are so important; potentially life-saving.
But McDormand’s all-encompassing call to arms to challenge the systems of power which allow bigotries to thrive in the film industry is vital, on a wider scale, if Hollywood is to heal from all of its inadequacies.
— TIME'S UP (@TIMESUPNOW) March 5, 2018
It’s always a little hard to swallow when an elite room of self-reflective millionaires huddle together in their bubble and call for more diversity.
But, regardless of who’s making it, art should always reflect life in all its glorious divergence.
Let their salaries and Hollywood’s historic and systematic lack of diversity not take away from the goodwill meant by McDormand and her championing of this much-needed breadth of representation.
After all, real people – whoever they may be – make better movies.