The Hollywood Reporter‘s Animation Roundtable on Representing Women and POC Includes Neither

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Like this THR Oscar female contender shoot and this Vanity Fair late-night television shoot before it, this single image from The Hollywood Reporter’s animation roundtable says plenty about representation in the industry without intending to. The piece, which sings praise for the female heroes of movies like Moana and Zootopia (both of which we adored) fails to address the fact that the same kind of diversity is completely absent behind the camera and at the table.

The article features the directors of some of this year’s biggest animated features like Byron Howard, Garth Jennings, Travis Knight, Mike Mitchell, John Musker, and Mark Osborne. It begins with poking fun at Seth Rogen’s inauguration into what’s described as a “unique fraternity” of animation directors, and Mitchell joking about the taco character voiced by Salma Hayek in Sausage Party—a film that received considerable criticism for it’s use of ethnic stereotypes as punchlines. Rogen defends this in the roundtable, stating that it’s part of the “animation vernacular” and the film’s efforts to capture “how religion divides us and how our beliefs divide us.”

The interview continuously places emphasis on the risk of offending a specific group, rather than cultural sensitivity for the sake of, you know, being a decent person. Asking “Are you conscious of running the risk that some group could take offense?” and “Were you surprised?” to Musker and Rogen about backlash puts the focus on the creators’ feelings or some abstract angry internet commentator rather than the very real damage that careless and stereotypical representation cause. Maybe it’s time to replace “How can I tell this story in the best way?” with “Am I the best person to tell this story?”

When we looked at the number of Oscar-eligible animated features for 2016, only 2 out of 27 were directed by women. This was especially frustrating considering how many amazing female protagonists we saw this year, something I wrote about here. Considering this, why wasn’t Jennifer Yuh Nelson or Leanne Pooley on this roundtable that put the question of female representable in its headline? Why were these directors heavily praised for not including a male love-interest instead of being pushed on what they’re doing to address animation’s gender problem? Why is sensitive and accurate representation treated as some unsolvable, baffling problem when the obvious solution is to put underrepresented creators at the helm?

Rhetorical questions, of course—it’s because marginalized creators aren’t given these opportunities.

(via The Hollywood Reporter)

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