Diversity in the entertainment industry has been a talking point for years, but how much progress has been made? As the annual awards show season celebrates the last year in film, we take a look at how identity plays a role in Hollywood success.
The following videos showcase the stories and struggles of individuals from a diverse range of backgrounds who’ve eventually seen huge success in cinema and television. Only 2% of people working in acting actually make a living from the career – of that 2% only 0.04% would be considered famous – so there are vast swathes of underrepresented people whose voices aren’t heard here.
Entertainment and Inclusion: Race
Appearing on the Graham Norton Show in 2017, John Boyega voiced his love for the theatre and performing on stage. Despite this, he recognised how it was difficult to relate to the Old Vic Theatre, in Waterloo, that often leaned towards people of a certain look and sound.
The iconic theatre’s productions unfortunately highlighted how inaccessible it could be to those not fitting the mould of what a stage actor should ‘look or sound’ like.
Entertainment and Inclusion: Gender
Anne Hathaway has won numerous acting accolades, and as an advocate for gender equality, was appointed UN Women Goodwill ambassador in 2016.
During promotions for the 2019 film ‘The Hustle’, Hathaway celebrated the positive inclusion of gender during production, while still recognising that there is more yet to be done.
Intersectionality is an area that often gets overlooked in meeting diversity criterias. In the case of ‘The Hustle’, the presence of women in a typically male narrative is pushing gender boundaries. Yet, as Hathaway acknowledges, there can be even further representation within this area, for example including women of colour, differing abilities and LGBTQ+ women.
Entertainment and Inclusion: Neurodiversity
Keira Knightley was diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of six. Despite her learning difficulties, she has gone on to star in recognised films such as the Pirates of the Caribbean series and Pride and Prejudice.
As Neurodiversity Celebration Week ends for another year, transforming how neurodivergent individuals are perceived and supported by society is key to their success. While an individual may not excel in typical academic areas, such as spelling, they may have other talents and acting could very well be that talent!
Entertainment and Inclusion: LGBTQ+
Sir Ian McKellen is a celebrated actor with an incredible career spanning 70 years; some of his most notable roles include Lord of the Rings, X-Men, and Shakespearean theatre.
After coming out in 1988, Sir Ian McKellen has remained an active gay rights activist and co-founded the UK LGBTQ+ rights lobby group, Stonewall.
He shares his sympathy with those who feel underrepresented in the industry as it can be a real barrier to success, with little recognition from Awards shows. Institutions such as the Oscars have frequently received backlash on both their nominee choices and the voting groups that decide these winners.
Diversity at the Oscars
Despite all of these struggles, diversity is a topic that many actors from diverse backgrounds just don’t have time to think about. As Viola Davis remarks, actors of colour, for example, will continue to perform well and create meaningful content no matter what. Whether the Award shows decide to recognise these achievements is another thing…
However, the Oscars have been slowly making progress to combat past public outrage such as the #OscarsSoWhite issue in 2015. Active academy members from underrepresented groups have increased from 10% to 19% over the last 6 years. Female academy members have also increased to 33%, as of 2021, although the majority of members still remain white and male.
In September 2020, the Oscars announced that it will be implementing new diversity and inclusion standards in 2024 for the Best Picture. This would include potential standards such as having at least 30% of all actors in secondary and minor roles from underrepresented groups.
2022: Where are we now?
For the first time in Oscars history, three women are hosting the event: Amy Schumer, Regina Hall and Wanda Sykes. Most indicative of the Oscars wanting to signal change, two of these hosts are women of colour, and Wanda Sykes is also a part of the LGBTQ+ community.
This year sees four Black actors in the running for top acting categories, representation for the deaf community in Troy Kotsur’s nomination for CODA, and two LGBTQ+ actresses holding first nominations.
While the awards ceremonies are celebrating these feats, change is also happening within the industry itself.
Jessica Chastain and Olivia Spencer negotiated higher equal pay when working on a film together, after discovering huge disparities between themselves, and further disparities from male actors.
Michael B. Jordan announced that ‘Outlier Society Productions’, his production company, would be implementing diversity and inclusion measures across all contracts. WarnerMedia then unveiled their own DEI policies with Jordan’s executive ‘Just Mercy’ being the first film made under the new guidelines.
As one of the most widely documented industries in the world, representation in entertainment is critically important for us to see. At the 2022 award shows and beyond, we can hope for continued representation across all areas of D&I so that the phrase “you can’t be what you can’t see” can be made redundant for girls and boys watching around the globe.
At Druthers, it’s our mission and our passion to empower organisations to find the best person to make an impact on their work, from a diverse shortlist of remarkable talent. Get in touch with us to find out how your business can make a positive change to your hiring and retention processes.