Hollywood put on an exceptional show for the 90th Annual Academy Awards. The milestone ceremony took viewers on a walk down memory lane with incredible performances, pictures and personalities.
Even though Jimmy Kimmel encouraged all of the winners to make their speeches brief, most spoke until the orchestra drowned them out. In fact, Kimmel offered a shiny new jet ski to whomever gave the shortest acceptance speech. Still, everyone on stage took advantage of their moment with the microphone to recognize family, colleagues and causes close to their hearts.
When Frances McDormand won Best Actress for her role in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” she warned the audience that they were in for an earful. “If I fall over,” she said, “pick me up, because I’ve got some things to say.”
Take a listen to her full speech below:
McDormand didn’t need any billboards to make her point on stage. After thanking colleagues and loved ones, and also acknowledging every female nominee in the room and the stories they had to share, she concluded her speech by saying, “I have two words for you: inclusion rider.” For many viewers watching, the words didn’t instantly ring a bell, but they’re worth learning now.
An inclusion rider, also known as an equity clause, is a clause added to a star’s contract that requires the film to hire a cast and crew that reaches a minimum level of diversity. Stacy Smith, founder of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative and professor at the University of Southern California, first introduced the concept in a TED Talk in 2016.
Smith saw that Hollywood casting didn’t represent the overall diversity of the population. Additionally, she noticed “entrenched inequality” in the results of a U.S.C. study of diversity in film. “Whether we’re studying gender, race, ethnicity, L.G.B.T. or characters with disabilities, we’re really seeing exclusionary forces leaving out anybody that’s not a straight, white, able-bodied man,” Smith told the Associated Press.
In the past two years, diversity has continued to lag in film production. For example, only one of the five Best Director nominees this year was a woman. Even McDormand herself only learned about inclusion riders just last week.
Kalpana Kotagal, a civil-rights and employment-practice attorney in Washington, D.C. who helped Smith develop the rider, told Above the Law, “Because much of the industry has only started to hear of this in the last few months, it’s too early to think of this in terms of adoption rate thus far. Obviously, the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement have generated a groundswell of support around this and we hope and expect that, over the next few months and beyond, it will become widely used.
McDormand’s call to action could kick-start inclusion in a real way. “An equity rider by an A-lister in their contract can stipulate that those roles reflect the world in which we actually live,” Smith told The Guardian. And the bigger the star, the bigger the impact.
Coming from an Oscar winner, this was a big win for diversity in Hollywood. We can’t wait to see the creativity to come when Hollywood includes everyone.
The 91st Annual Academy Awards could look a lot different, and that’s a very good thing.