It’s been less than a month since actress Frances McDormand used her Oscar acceptance speech to push for the adoption of “inclusion riders” in entertainment-industry contracts, and, true to form, Hollywood has been quick to mindlessly jump on the bandwagon. In the weeks following McDormand’s speech, Black Panther star Michael B. Jordan announced that from now on his production company will adopt inclusion riders for all of its future projects. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck declared the same. And Hollywood superagent Ari Emanuel, CEO of William Morris Endeavor (WME) and brother of sentient AIDS virus Rahm Emanuel, bragged that from now on, WME will consider inclusion riders an “imperative.”
So what exactly is an “inclusion rider”? It’s a clause inserted into a motion-picture contract. It’s a mandate, a demand, that the movie must include, as McDormand put it, “at least 50% diversity” in its cast (the rider sometimes applies to crew as well, but for the purposes of this piece, I’m focusing solely on cast). Now, don’t be fooled: “50% diversity” means 50% non–white male. That’s what’s so fascinating about the use of the word “diversity” in this context. The inclusion rider is exclusionary in nature. It means “everyone except white males.” By this definition of “diverse,” one could refer to the Third Reich’s Nuremberg Laws as encouraging “diversity,” if you look at the laws strictly from the perspective of the many groups not excluded by them, as opposed to the one group that was.
Stacy Smith, head of USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative and originator of the inclusion-rider concept, explained to The Washington Post that “contemporary dramas” will be forced to cast “50 percent women, 50 percent minority, 20 percent people with disabilities and five percent LGBTQ.” Historical dramas, she assured the Post, “would be exempt” (cue John Gielgud from Arthur’s sarcastic voice: Oh, thank you, madam). These quotas are needed, according to Smith, because movies “have to be filled with norms that reflect the world in which we live.”
Some in the industry have cautioned that Smith’s inclusion-rider concept is impractical. I prefer to call it borderline retarded. She wants movies to “reflect the world,” but how many movies claim to be set in “the world”? Most films have a more specific location—a city, a town, a place of employment, a house. Any industry professional will tell you that casting isn’t supposed to reflect “the world” but rather the specific location of the specific film in question. But that’s just common sense, so it has no place in Stacy Smith’s fevered mind. One might also ask what Smith’s inclusion rider would have done to a movie like Black Panther. Should the citizenry of Wakanda have included 20% Chinese, to reflect their percentage of the world’s population? Of course, I’m being facetious. As I already indicated, Black Panther is considered “diverse” because it features very few white males.
It should be noted that the two most vocal apostles for the inclusion rider are the aforementioned McDormand and another Academy Award-winning actress, Geena Davis, who has, in the past, partnered with Smith on “inclusion” projects. McDormand and Davis are white, and their fanaticism regarding inclusion riders exposes a blind spot—indeed, a delusion—that affects many white actresses in this business: They see themselves as being among the “oppressed.” Traditionally, in Hollywood, white actresses have had it pretty good. They’ve always been in demand…especially the attractive ones. This town has been exceptionally kind to them, in no small part because they are the beauty ideal of many of the men who run things behind the scenes. Sure, there’s always been a downside, from Harvey Weinstein whipping out his dirlywanger to Howard Hughes’ bizarre obsession with the pertness of his leading ladies’ breasts. But regardless of (and sometimes because of) the odd perv, pretty young white actresses in this town know that they’re desired, and they don’t need any consent decree or quota system in order to maintain that privileged position.