Don’t Be Fooled. Hollywood Diversity Really Didn’t Progress That Far In 2017

We’ve made important baby steps, but have we really move that far forward?

How Far Has Diversity In Hollywood Really Come In 2017?

by Jazmin Kopotsha |
Published on

To put it one way, 2017 has been a year of twists and turns. And justly expected, the world of film and television has once again been a relatively good reflection of where we’re at in society. The poignancy of The Handmaid's TaleThe Handmaid's Tale didn't resonate so significantly for no reason.

As always, diversity is the buzz word that most often gets thrown around when people talk about how well the likes of Hollywood is reflecting and representing the vast population of people who consume its output. And while we can quite happily celebrate the steps taken to ensure that people on and off screen are well paid, dually accounted for and fairly included in an industry that’s historically very quick to stereotype and discriminate, the end of the year is as good as time as any to take a look at how far we’ve been able to move the conversation on in the last 12 months.

A study released in June by the Creative Artists Agencyrevealed that movies with diverse casts did way better at the box office than those without. And while it may be something that sounds incredibly obvious to most of us, we’re also well aware that despite the slightly ironic monetary value, it hasn’t always panned out that way on screen.

Nevertheless, we’ve had a great year for firsts. Jordan Peele became the first African American director to earn more than $100 million from his first feature film, Get Out. Hidden Figures was the first movie with multiple female leads to be number one in the box office beyond it’s first week since The Help came out in 2011. Girls Trip was the first film of 2017 to gross $100 million at the box office.

What this tells us though, is that while appetite for diverse programing is present (as it ever was), attitudes at the top table seem not to have moved very far forward in recognizing the success of films that satisfy this particular need.

If you remember the #OscarsSoWhite controvosy of 2016, you’ll already be familiar with Jada Pinkett Smith as a prominent mouthpiece for (the lack of) diversity in Hollywood. Most recently though, she spoke quite poignantly about her film Girls Trip, and it’s exclusion from the Golden Globes nominations.

She claimed that none of the 93 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association turned up to private screenings or press conferences for the film. She tweeted: ‘I'm discouraged about the fact that the Hollywood Foreign Press/Golden Globes wouldn't even watch the movie'. A source later told Vanity Fair that a screening of Girls Trip was actually held for Golden Globe voters back in June, but regardless of whether it happened or not, the worrying thing is that there is an underlying expectation that the few films that do showcase women and ethnic minorities as lead characters, aren't compatible with the structures that decide what's worth an award and what isn't.

'Hollywood has systems in place that must learn to expand its concepts of race, gender equality and inclusion in regard to its perceptions of art across the board', Jada tweeted.

WATCH NOW: What Does It Mean To Be A Woman In 2017?

In what was a huge surprise for many, for the second year in a row not a single female director was nominated for a Golden Globe. And it's not like we were short of fantastic contenders. Greta Gerwig's *Lady Bird *was perhaps the most critically celebrated film of the year. Patty Jenkin's *Wonder Woman *was a huge box office success and *Mudbound *directed by Dee Rees was also overlooked in the typically male-dominated category.

It's not new, but it says a lot. Not for the dangerously merky motivation of ticking the right diversity boxes and to profit from the money that *could *be made from a better reflective industry, but rather against the backdrop of a year heavily dominated by sexual assault and misogyny in the film industry, further exclusion of women in any sense only further speaks to the wider issue that Hollywood is still having to address: the people at the top table are predominantly male.

So, how far have we come? The good news is that there is more out there. The fact that so many films by women and ethnic minorities have done so well commercially is testament to the fact that at the very least, these films are being produced and celebrated at ground level. However if we're comparing a year that we so readily believe to be progressive and inclusive, let's not be too quick to forget that even in 2017, only four of the nine films nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars passed the Bechdel Test. Despite the success of Moonlight and Call Me By Your Name LGBT narratives still remain few and far between. And research has demonstrated that despite an increased awareness, diversity in film has barely changed in the last 10 years.

Big and pretty depressing claims, I know. But isn't it time we stop applauding billion dollar industries with the ability to be more representative for doing the bare minimum and every so often accurately reflecting reality? Sure, it might be naïve to expect these sorts of changes to happen in the course of a year and change the white, middle aged, male face of Hollywood forever. But if we don’t demand recognition for change, will we ever properly move forward?

The Golden Globes: Then And Now


Golden Globes Then & Now

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THEN: Jennifer Aniston at the 2000 Oscars © Getty

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NOW: Jennifer Aniston at the 2015 SAG Awards © Rex

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THEN: Meryl Streep at the 1980 Oscars © Getty

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NOW: Meryl Streep at the 2014 Oscars © Rex

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THEN: Emma Stone at the 2011 Vanity Fair Oscars Party © Getty

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NOW: Emma Stone at the 2015 SAG Awards © Rex

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THEN: Reese Witherspoon at the 2002 Oscars © Rex

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NOW: Reese Witherspoon at the 2015 SAG Awards © Rex

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THEN: Sienna Miller at the 2004 Oscars © Rex

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NOW: Sienna Miller at the 2015 Golden Globes © Rex

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THEN: Rosamund Pike at the 2006 Vanity Fair Oscars Party © Rex

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NOW: Rosamund Pike at the 2015 SAG Awards © Rex

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THEN: Marion Cotillard at the 2008 Oscars © Getty

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NOW: Marion Cotillard at the 2015 Critics Choice Awards © Rex

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THEN: Julianne Moore at the 1998 Oscars © Getty

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NOW: Julianne Moore at the 2015 SAG Awards © Rex

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THEN: Keira Knightley at the 2006 Oscars © Getty

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NOW: Keira Knightley at the 2015 SAG Awards © Rex

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THEN: Laura Dern at the 1998 Oscars © Getty

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NOW: Laura Dern at the 2015 Palm Springs International Film Festival Gala © Rex

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THEN: Patricia Arquette at the 1996 Oscars © Getty

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NOW: Patricia Arquette at the 2015 SAG Awards © Getty

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Follow Jazmin on Instagram @JazKopotsha

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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