The Hollywood Reporter is under fire and I’m standing by the people on the front line, taking shots at the glossy magazine. Thursday, they unveiled their latest cover story, an actress roundtable featuring eight women in contention for the Oscar. Not included—any women of color.
Anticipating the questions this would raise, the cover story writer, Stephen Galloway, published a web-only explanation of why featuring only one ethnicity is not really their fault. He first makes a point to explain to the proletariat how the Hollywood machine works and, in my opinion, overstated it quite a bit to save face. Basically, the marketing machine behind the stars lobbies hardcore for the celebrity they’re representing, in hopes of getting their client the Oscar. Part of that process is trying to get on one of THR’s prestigious roundtables.
But if THR is so sought after during this publicity blitz toward the Oscar, then don’t they have enough influence in the industry to change things? If not, these teams of people wouldn’t be knocking on their front door and begging for a spot.
Galloway simply blames Big Bad Hollywood for most of it. Even when he takes some responsibility he puts most of it on the industry. Case-in-point:
On our most recent directors roundtable, forced to choose among three superb filmmakers for one slot, I opted for Ridley Scott, rather than F. Gary Gray, an African-American. The Martian had opened to exceptional acclaim and box office, and Scott looked like the front runner for the Oscar; still, I now wish I had added Gray to the mix, and regret that I ignored both his lawyer’s and his agents’ pleas to do so. At least I can take comfort in having three men of color on our upcoming actors roundtable.
Galloway, you do not get a pat on the back for almost helping promote diversity. The fact is, you had all the power in this situation and it just didn’t matter enough to you. Could you not have slid another chair up to that roundtable for the man who directed the highest-grossing movie biopic in history? Even if you’ve always had a set number of directors, no reader would care if you added more.
If you can’t tell, I’m not buying this pass-the-buck attitude that THR has on this issue.
The Hollywood Reporter is not some small community handout that they give out for free at gas stations. According to its 2015 media kit (in which it uses an image of 2013’s diverse roundtable, seemingly trying to make money off of diversity that usually isn’t there), the magazine has a at total audience of 237,000 people. What’s more, the entertainment and style publication was originally a daily trade magazine, meaning it was a go-to for people in the industry. Simply changing to a weekly and adding a website does not completely negate the influence they must have wielded as a trade magazine.
Since the median household income of the average print reader is $416,000, it wouldn’t be a jump to assume many of them are executives in the entertainment industry. If that is the case, wouldn’t they definitely have some influence in Hollywood? A well-thought piece on the lack of diversity in the industry told from the perspective of women of color could turn a person in power around and maybe help make a push for more inclusion. It would also get an important conversation out to the people who make decisions. At the very least, they could’ve published Galloway’s long-winded explanation of why the cover story is lacking in diversity somewhere in the magazine.
I’m not saying Hollywood isn’t to blame in this all. It’s the “powers that be” at movie studios who often pass on films featuring people of color in positive roles and go out of there way to create all-white casts. According to the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA, minority women are underrepresented on almost every front, usually with just one of them for every two women in the majority.
The lack of representation on-screen is something Viola Davis addressed when she became the first black woman to receive an Emmy for a lead role earlier this year.
“The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity,” Viola said in her acceptance speech. “You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.”
I’m not saying I disagree with their choice of actresses. I think all of the women they picked are capable ladies (although, they should’ve called out Carey Mulligan for her racially insensitive choice of wardrobe to promote her film), but there were ways to fight for something better. Although we’re pro-diversity here (and I admit we could always do better, a problem that, as editor-in-chief, I won’t pass the buck on), we have a small readership and it doesn’t include the who’s who of entertainment’s elite. But THR has real power.
Lamenting that the anti-diversity approach of Hollywood was just the hand they’ve been dealt doesn’t do anything to make sure things change. If we’re ever going to be treated equal in society, representation is a big part of that. To make any progress, we don’t need excuses, we need solutions.
If the magazine has the power to get eight of the highest-paid, most revered and sought-after white actresses in Hollywood to all show up somewhere on the same day for a photoshoot and discussion, they can get women of color with the same clout to do the same. Why not have countered that cover story with another roundtable discussion from women of color in the same issue, featuring them talking about what it means to be a minority female in the businesses? Why not then put all sixteen of those women together and have them talk about solutions that will uplift all women in the industry?
You know why? Because they just didn’t care enough.