Yesterday, The Hollywood Reporter posted
its annual actress roundtable, and not surprisingly — but certainly disappointingly — all of the eight performers on the cover were white. Steven Galloway, the article’s writer and editor of
the magazine, wrote a side note explaining why there’s zero diversity onscreen this awards season, at least in the best actress category. To put it bluntly, if we
thought that last year was #OscarsSoWhite, this year will be even worse.
“Even for me, a white man,” Galloway wrote, “it was impossible
to ignore the fact that every one of these women is white — whether old or
young, English, Australian or American. That was appalling. The awful truth is
that there are no minority actresses in genuine contention for an Oscar this
This is a world where we are talking constantly about diversity. All the issues we discuss on this site regularly are
amplified when talking about women of color. Women, but especially women of color, don’t get to be in the Oscar conversation because their stories are not perceived as mainstream.
We can have black-male-led movies like “Creed” and “Straight Outta Compton,” but where are the ones with female leads of color? This morning, Inkoo and I put our heads together and came
up with a few, like “Appropriate Behavior,” “Drunktown’s Finest” and “Advantageous” (all great, all made by women-of-color directors). But none of these films opened widely. The most high-profile stories
with female leads of color like “Girlhood” and “Mustang” are not in English or made stateside.
This is a crisis. There is a lack of
stories about women of color getting made, and so there is a lack of
stories about women of color on the awards circuit. This problem is deeply
embedded in our culture and in the film business.
The crisis is not only in Hollywood; it
is also at the festivals. I’ve been going to film festivals for the last
several years. They happen in cycles. The festival year starts in Sundance for indies, then travels to Berlin for foreign (to us) films. Throughout the spring, other
festivals build their programs based on Berlin and Sundance. Then in May comes Cannes, which is a launching point for prestige pics as well as commercial fare. Basically, it is for
films that are going to get a lot of press. The second part of the cycle begins
at the end of the summer, with the quartet of Venice, Toronto, Telluride and NYFF.
Those are the launching grounds for most Oscar-type films and the fall film festivals from around the world build their programs off of the big four.
While you can see movies by and about
women at these festivals, they are few and far between and don’t tend to get the press attention needed to propel them to the next level. So as the larger festivals give way to the smaller ones, you see less women-made films, and even fewer by women of color.
“Prestige” is pretty much a code word for
white male. Those remain the stories valued in our culture. When a woman
in a significant role is able to break into the “prestige” conversation, it’s
pretty much an anomaly and usually directed by men. Just look at the
best actress candidates this year. All are directed by men except for Carey Mulligan in “Suffragette.”
This whole discussion is about value: the value that we place on people’s stories, the value that
we place on people’s visions. And right now, value pretty much means white
and male. What that says about the value of women, especially women of color — is depressing and simply wrong.