The Hollywood Reporter Needs to Drastically Change Its Roundtable Coverage of the Academy Awards

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The Hollywood Reporter seems to be making a habit of publishing myopic cover stories. Their November “Women of Hollywood” piece totally ignored actresses of color and, when compared to their “Men of Hollywood” coverage, was a stark illustration of the industry’s gendered double standards. Now, the 2015 edition of their annual “Director Roundtable” cover appears oblivious both to the accomplishments of female directors, and to gender parity issues in Hollywood overall.

The Director Roundtable features Danny Boyle (Steve Jobs), Tom Hooper (The Danish Girl), Alejandro G. Inarritu (The Revenant), David O. Russell (Joy), Ridley Scott (The Martian), and Quentin Tarantino (The Hateful Eight); directors who were all selected by THR due to the Oscar buzz their films are receiving (all of the movies listed above are likely contenders for Best Picture).

Obviously, THR can’t be held accountable for the fact that, barring an actual miracle, no films directed by women will be nominated for Best Picture this year. But, as with the Women in Hollywood issue, THR and other outlets do have the power to notice and acknowledge those systemic gaps, even while still celebrating Oscar contenders.

After the release of the Women in Hollywood cover, THR’s Stephen Galloway—who also wrote the Director Roundtable piece—released an editorial in which he lamented the lack of diversity in this year’s Oscar contenders:

The awful truth is that there are no minority actresses in genuine contention for an Oscar this year. Straight Outta Compton, which provided some great roles for African-American men (and whose success bolsters the case that studios ignore minority audiences at their peril) had no female leads. Furious 7? Not quite Oscar bait.

[…] Two years ago, I was thrilled that three of the six women on our Roundtable were black: Oprah Winfrey, Lupita Nyong’o and Octavia Spencer. I thought, perhaps naively, that this represented a sea change in the film business, and hoped it was catching up with the tectonic shifts that industries all across America have had to make to reflect this country’s diversity. But I was wrong.

Galloway also addressed the Director Roundtable, saying

On our most recent Director Roundtable, forced to choose among three superb filmmakers for one slot, I opted for Ridley Scott rather than Straight Outta Compton director 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 Actor Roundtable.

If there were far more minority men and women to choose from, this sort of hand-wringing wouldn’t exist. And it’s about time it changed.

Judging from that editorial, and from many of their past articles, The Hollywood Reporter seems to care about advocating for women and people of color in Hollywood. Unfortunately, you can’t effectively advocate for people who are marginalized in the film industry while still trying to objectively cover The Academy Awards. The Oscars are a reflection of the industry as it is, not as it should be; and pretending otherwise supports the misconception that Hollywood is a meritocracy. It’s not, and if women had been included in the roundtable, they could have told THR that.

Film critics and reporters don’t have much control over what happens in the industry, but we can control how we report on it. If THR wants to help women and people of color, then they should start adding directors and actors who aren’t in the Oscar running to these roundtables, or present the contenders in a way that subverts the status-quo. I wouldn’t mind if this cover had been run with “Where my ladies at???” rather than David O. Russell’s quote about humility—at least editorial like that would encourage readers who might not otherwise have noticed the lack of diversity to question why this year’s contenders are so overwhelmingly white and male.

“Who wouldn’t notice this lack of diversity,” you ask? Apparently, every single one of the roundtable directors. Women come up very rarely in the published conversation, and never in the context of female filmmakers. In discussing Joy, David O. Russell even says:

Women get underestimated, anybody gets underestimated. [But] there is no greater inspiration you can give somebody than to underestimate them: That throws down the gauntlet.

Wow, that’s … clearly advice from someone who really knows, huh?

The directors on this roundtable are more likely to be recognized for their talent, forgiven for their failures, and admired for their bad behavior than their female peers. Filmmaking is a cult of masculinity, and because of that, Boyle, Hooper, Inarritu, Russell, Scott, and Tarantino have freedom to talk about their genius, compare themselves to J.D. Salinger, and wax poetic about the cinematic legacy they hope to leave behind in a way women are not allowed to.

I honestly believe that The Hollywood Reporter, and many of the men included in this discussion, are advocates for greater diversity in film, but this cover and many of its predecessors are incompatible with that advocacy. If a single woman had been included in this conversation, maybe she could have told them that.

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