FRANCES MCDORMAND’S ROUSING Oscar’s acceptance speech was one of the highlights of the Oscars.
Source: PA Images
She magnanimously shared her time on stage with every female nominee in each category by asking them to stand up. She called for the people with power in the room to take notice of these women and work to bring their stories and projects to screen.
Then she abruptly ended her speech with this short and snappy sentence:
I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentlemen: ‘inclusion rider’.
And with that, she bent down, picked up her second Oscar, and strode off stage to maybe change into some overalls and a bandana…Leaving everyone with one question…
WHAT THE HELL IS AN INCLUSION RIDER!?
Riders are special requests or clauses that are added on to a contract for an A-list actor/actress. McDromand, speaking in the press room after her acceptance speech, said she had only heard it last week and explained how she envisioned an ‘inclusion rider’ working:
“It means you can ask for and/or demand at least 50 percent diversity in, not only casting, but also the crew.
‘Inclusion rider’ was conceived of by social scientist Stacy Smith in 2016 as a response to the depressing data she collected at the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California, which she co-founded. You can see her TedTalk on the topic below:
Of the top grossing films from 2007-2014, Smith discovered that just 30% of 30,000 speaking characters were female, meaning that there was roughly one female for every 2.3 males.
The argument used 100 years ago against women getting the votes was that a woman’s place was in the private sphere (a.k.a. the home). If women are still not properly seen in movies and still not properly heard in them either, then action does need to be taken to ensure that movies catch up with the realities of the world where women increasingly occupy space in the public sphere.
Smith expanded on her logic for an inclusion rider:
Now, what does (an inclusion rider) mean? Well, you probably don’t know but the typical feature film has about 40 to 45 speaking characters in it. I would argue that only 8 to 10 of those characters are actually relevant to the story.
The remaining 30 or so roles, there’s no reason why those minor roles can’t match or reflect the demography of where the story is taking place. An equity rider by an A-lister in their contract can stipulate that those roles reflect the world in which we actually live.
Simply speaking, an inclusion rider is a way to increase the representation of women, ethnic minorities and people with disabilities on screen to reflect reality.
It something that those who are underrepresented are naturally passionate about. The day before the Oscars, Latinos staged a protest at the lack of Latino representation in Hollywood films. Despite Latinos make up 18% of the American population, they only account for 3% of speaking roles.
Source: Walt Disney Pictures
During his acceptance speech for best animated film, Coco’s director Lee Unkrich beautifully summed up why ‘inclusion riders’ are important:
With Coco, we tried to take a step forward toward a world where all children can grow up seeing characters in movies that look and talk and live like they do. Marginalized people deserve to feel like they belong. Representation matters.
The #MeToo and #OscarsSoWhite movements recognized there was a power imbalance in the film industry. Inclusion riders may be the most important tool for big names in the movie industry to use their power to change the industry, instead of just tweeting about change.