Stephen Galloway of the Hollywood Reporter asked people within the movie industry in a wide range of positions if they could change one thing, what would it be? Their responses varied but some of them hit on the same issue: lack of diversity. One assistant who remained anonymous said it best, “Change the nepotism, the un-level playing field, the culture, the privilege, the superficial layer, the ignorance or lack of cultural awareness, the lack of diversity. All those things have one thing in common: the unspoken system. The system that allows only a certain type of person to have access to this industry, to be in the rooms where decisions are made, to be the people who get to make those decisions. This unspoken system sets unspoken constraints.”
The perfect example of Hollywood’s unspoken system’s constraint on diversity is the backstory of the Black Panther, Captain Marvel and Black Widow. Marvel Studio President Kevin Feige had been trying for years to have these movies made but Feige had to answer to his boss, Isaac Perlmutter, who consistently shot down the majority of ideas Feige had. It wasn’t until Marvel Studios was absorbed by Walt Disney Studios in 2010 that Perlmutter was let go and Feige was free to create more diverse films.
Seeing More Diversity
Feige was not alone in wanting to see more diverse characters and story lines. Captain Marvel made $358 million dollars domestically becoming the most successful female led superhero movie. Black Panther’s domestic gross was $700 million which topped Avenger’s: Infinity War and was one of Marvel’s biggest success stories. This shows that the public wants more diversity and is proof that there has been a system in place in Hollywood to prevent it.
Hollywood, like any institution, has its pros and cons. It is different in that its mistakes are broadcast for the entire world to see, subject to scrutiny from the masses. Because of this global interconnectedness, the way in which the movie industry addresses their problems influence how we tackle our own. Whether it’s within a company, school or our own personal lives. We’ve seen the negative aspects of this level of influence but lately we are seeing many very positive changes beginning to occur.
One positive change is the inclusion of diversity riders in an actor’s contract. This is a provision that an actor can have added which would mandate that crew members and minor cast members meet certain diversity benchmarks. In addition, “Talent agency ICM has pledged to make sure half its partners, department heads and board members are female by 2020, and CAA has made a similar pledge when it comes to its management and board of directors.” CAA and Vice have also made similar pledges.
Another helpful initiative is the launch of several programs and funds to help women and minorities secure financing for their projects. One of these programs is called Evolve Entertainment Fund which helps find 150 paid summer internships in film for young women and people of color.
In an article for Time, Stephanie Zacharek explains why the film industry’s willingness to tackle it’s lack of diversity is important and how it affects us all, “Now Hollywood isn’t just part of the political conversation; it’s actively driving it, motivating its denizens to speak out about certain core American values in a way we’ve never seen before. Hollywood is something that defines us as Americans, for better and worse. Movies are, after all, one of our biggest cultural exports, one of our chief modes of presenting ourselves to the world. But even just watching them means something. What mark do the movies–and, to some extent, the people who make them–leave on us?”