Frances McDormand Has Legal Advice On How To End Inequality In Hollywood

Frances McDormand gave a powerful speech at the Oscars this year while accepting the 'Best Actress' award for her portrayal of Mildred Hayes in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – although it may have left some viewers puzzled.

Calling on all the female winners and nominees to stand with her, the American actress left the crowd with two words that may help end inequality in Hollywood: "Inclusion. Rider".

Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Photo via Fox Searchlight)

The term was coined by Dr Stacy Smith, from the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at Californian University USC Annenberg, in a 2016 TED Talk titled "the data behind Hollywood's sexism".

Between 2007 and 2015, she analyzed more than 800 films, cataloguing every speaking character by their gender, race, sexual orientation, ethnicity and disabilities.

Less than a third of all speaking roles were given to female artists, she found, despite women making up half of the population – and when it came to other demographics, the numbers were even more unbalanced.

"Across the top 100 films of just last year, 48 films didn't feature one black or African-American speaking character, not one," she explains. "seventy films were devoid of Asian or Asian-American speaking characters that were girls or women."

Dr Smith then came up with solutions to address the imbalance, including a scheme that would allow female stars to demand a realistic representation of women and minorities in their contracts.

"A-listers, as we all know, can make demands in their contracts," she explains, "particularly the ones that work on the biggest Hollywood films."

"What if those A-listers simply added an equity clause or an inclusion rider into their contract?"

In an ideal world this clause would require movies to reflect the demographics of the region where it was set, ultimately giving a realistic representation of the world, she added.

"We actually have the ability to change the world on this one," Dr Smith said, "the US and its content, films in particular, have captured the imaginations of audiences worldwide – so that means that the film industry has unprecedented access to be able to distribute stories about equality all around the world."

Writer and photographer from South London, UK. If you want to get in touch please email me at: matthew.kirby@konbini.com