Another year has passed and with that passing we again meet The Hollywood Reporter’s annual actress roundtable. And just like last year, every single woman on the cover is white.
The roundtable issue is meant to peak into a discussion amongst the current female Oscar contenders and former best actress winners. When it comes to the latter I can understand the difficultly in adding diversity, considering that in the year 2015, Halle Berry is still the only non-white woman to ever win a best actress Oscar.
The issue behind this stunning lack of diversity of course multifaceted. It says something about the films that are actually being created and valued. As Viola Davis perfectly explained during her Emmy acceptance speech: “The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.”
It also involves writers, casting directors and studio heads. It’s rather convenient when a studio decides to put money behind a period piece like Suffragette, because it is much easier to pretend like people of color weren’t around in 1880 than in say, 1970.
The other piece of this flawed system is that publications like The Hollywood Reporter are part of the exact machine that can get actors Oscar nominations in the first place.
THR executive features editor Stephen Galloway tried to defend his lily-white cover with the same tired platitudes and weak arguments used to explain away putting little to no energy into caring about diversity (via CNN Money).
“The awful truth is there are no minority actresses in genuine contention for an Oscar this year,” wrote Stephen Galloway, THR’s executive editor of features.
“Speak to the executives that run the industry, and they say they want change,” he wrote. “But there are hardly any black film executives, and too few producers. Black directors? Not enough — and certainly not black women directors.”
It is no secret that Academy voters (who heavily skew old and white) don’t see many or even most of the films in Oscar contention in any given year. They rely on buzz created by advertisements, word of mouth and influential publications like The Hollywood Reporter to tell them who is worth paying attention to.
The Will Smith vehicle Concussion is already garnering Oscar buzz. Gugu Mbatha-Raw also stars in the film. I expect there will be little Oscar chatter around her performance in part because she wasn’t put on this cover.
An editorial decision that lies squarely on the shoulders of someone like Stephen Galloway can directly impact the outcome of the Oscars and pretending otherwise is disingenuous and deliberately obtuse. It is incredibly lazy and transparent to pass the buck when anyone who has faced an institutional problem knows that it must he attacked from multiple angles.
In the issue does try to include some progressiveness with a discussion about the wage gap in Hollywood—a topic which echoes a feature from Variety just eight days ago. The Variety story, however, includes insights from Empire executive producer Ilene Chaiken, who discusses the show’s focus on hiring black, female directors.
Obviously editorial calendars are set months in advance, but still, if you’re going to have the exact same discussion—albeit an important one— it could easily be improved or expanded upon with different voices. I bet actresses of color would have some mighty interesting insights into how the wage gap impacts them on both a gender and racial level.
The release of this issue also marks the fifth anniversary of the so-called “rebirth” of the The Hollywood Reporter, an era ushered in when the new president and chief creative officer Janice Min relaunched the magazine.
Recently the magazine announced that it would be scrapping its annual Women in Entertainment Power 100 list, in part because Min didn’t believe it served to empower and help women—rather, she argued, “by its nature, pits the town’s most impressive females against one another.”
In the face of all the all-white cover, it is worth noting that Janice Min is the daughter of Korean immigrants. As we’ve seen over and over—perhaps on the greatest level with Barack Obama—diverse leadership is not the only solution to the problem. It’s great that Min is so focused on gender issues in Hollywood but there are clearly other equally important issues that it wouldn’t hurt Min and the publication to give some attention to.
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Image via The Hollywood Reporter.