×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

What Hollywood Needs to Do to Make Real Progress in Diversity (Guest Column)

If 2016 was #OscarSoWhite, then 2017 is perhaps #OscarSoWhiteNoMore.

But is that enough?

Does this ebullience feel familiar? It should. In 2008, many of us basked in the glow of an election that told us “Yes We Can.” We held the promise of a future that bore little resemblance to a shameful past tightly in our hands. Collectively, many of us exhaled.

Now, with the election of 2016, we find progress elusive, and we must come to terms with the fact that, as a country, our belief in our better selves may not have been entirely warranted.

The Academy took a lot of flak this past year as it diversified its membership. For some members, their sense of right and wrong was jostled, and they opposed the new rules out of fear of losing their lifetime right to vote. Others suffered indignation over what they perceived were changes that favored optics over merit. It was a tense time, as is always the case when entitlements are lost.

Often, when we support the “right” causes and candidates, we fail to recognize that with progress comes sacrifice. That sacrifice might mean that you are no longer the obvious choice for the job. Your job security may no longer be a given. You might lose your position at the top of all the lists. Then, the question becomes: “How much is progress worth to you?”

Yes, we should celebrate this Oscar season, but if we rest on our laurels and fail to see the enormous job still to be done, then our progress will be fleeting, and we will face a future that can easily look more like our past — perhaps the cinematic equivalent is “Make Movies Great Again.”

So let’s ensure that all of these newly minted Academy members have a variety of movies on which they can vote. Let’s tell stories that look like the world in which we live. Let’s encourage and empower the voices of those who might see the world in a way that is different from the ways in which it is traditionally presented.

The best illustration of that is this year’s nominee “Hidden Figures.” The question on everyone’s lips has been, “How did I not know that story?” Well, the answer is simple.

For the most part, our cinematic exploration of the space program has been limited to the white men who went and the white men on the ground who got them there. Women, no matter their real-life roles, have mostly been minor characters or have totally disappeared in favor of the men who are perceived to be the heroes.

Such stories come to the forefront when more decision-makers are women, people of color, and those with points of view that are not your own.

So, if you need to be reminded that your creative lists should be inclusive, then you are the problem, not the lists.

If the people you hire need to be reminded that their choices should reflect the world at large, then you hired the wrong people.

While it is too often how change happens, we must move beyond being shamed into doing the right thing. Because systemic change happens only if you believe the system is broken and you will be better off after it is fixed.

In the words of Dr. King, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Our only hope for seeing that justice is for all of us — the creatives, the representatives, and the dealmakers — to view our daily decisions as the steps that will bring us closer to that ideal.

Nina Shaw is a talent attorney and a founding partner at Del Shaw Moonves Tanaka Finkelstein and Lezcano. Her clients include current Academy Award nominees Ava DuVernay (“13th”) and Raoul Peck (“I Am Not Your Negro”).

More Voices

  • Hollywood Has Come Far With Diversity

    An Insider's Look at Hollywood's Diversity Efforts and How Far It Still Needs to Go

    I am a white man working in Hollywood. I grew up in Beverlywood, an all-white, predominantly Jewish, Los Angeles neighborhood sandwiched between 20th Century Fox Studios and MGM, where my elementary school had only one black student. I am compelled to write about diversity in Hollywood because “diversity” — in front of and behind the camera [...]

  • Venice Film Festival A Star is

    How Venice, Toronto and Telluride Festivals Stole Cannes' Luster (Column)

    In all the years I’ve been attending film festivals, I have never seen a lineup that looked as good on paper as Venice’s did this fall, boasting new films by Alfonso Cuarón (“Roma”), Damien Chazelle (“First Man”), Paul Greengrass (“22 July”), Mike Leigh (“Peterloo”) and the Coen brothers (“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”) in competition, [...]

  • Black Women in Medicine BTS

    Hollywood Needs to Include People With Disabilities on Both Sides of the Camera (Guest Column)

    In five years, nothing has changed. Despite open calls for greater diversity and inclusion, recent research shows that there was little change in the number of characters with disabilities in popular films in 2017. A study conducted by the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative of the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism found that [...]

  • Seven Seconds

    Fighting the Racial Bias at the Core of Hollywood’s Cop Shows (Guest Column)

    If fiction is the lie that tells a deeper truth, the TV crime genre has been, for the most part, the lie that simply tells a lie. As a storyteller (Veena) and an advocate for racial justice (Rashad), we collaborated for the past two-and-a-half years in an attempt to reimagine the roles of cops, victims, [...]

  • Harvey Weinstein Trial

    Column: Documentarian Barry Avrich Ponders Whether Harvey Weinstein Will Be Convicted

    Will Harvey Weinstein go to jail? That’s perhaps the most debated topic in Hollywood. It’s a question that makes me miss my friend Dominick Dunne, the controversial Vanity Fair columnist who would have already succeeded in interview-ing the chambermaids at Harvey’s sex-addiction clinic. Dunne once prophetically told me there would be a massive reckoning in Hollywood. He [...]

  • Janet Mock Pose

    'Pose' Writer Janet Mock on Making History With Trans Storytelling (Guest Column)

    I first met Ryan Murphy on location in Hollywood in July. The set was a nightclub, filled with background actors staged as glistening go-go dancers, shirtless revelers, and twirling drag queens. They were all basking under the glow of a spinning disco ball — a fitting setting for my first Hollywood job interview. I was [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content