Hollywood must fight racism and not settle for a comfortable response – variety5 min read
Images have unlimited power. As the currency of Hollywood, they can be powerful weapons against the ugly reality of racism, hatred and intolerance in America. We see in George Floyd’s video of the slow, violent death at the hands of the MediaPolice police that they have the power to inspire, humane and inhumane
Images Justice has historically played a leading role in America’s fight for racist justice and equality. In the 1800s, when ugly caricatures of blacks filled the pages of newspapers and popular magazines, Frederick Douglas sat down for more than 100 photographic portraits – a purposeful strategy to show the world image of a serious, dignified black man. In 1915, the six-year-old NAACP launched a national campaign against the racist film “Birth of a Nation,” which portrayed black characters as violent criminals and the Ku Klux Klan as heroes. In recognition of the power of cinema, the NAACP feared that the film would create additional violence against black people – and indeed, both the number of lynching and the clan’s membership increased in the year the film was released.
In the 1960s, images of dogs and other barbaric attacks by police on non-violent black protesters turned into American sitting rooms and helped shape public opinion in favor of the civil rights movement, transforming our civil rights law and Hollywood programming.
Yet today, in response to this unprecedented moment in history, Hollywood published by the assassination of George Floyd – literally authorized by several C-suit officials and involved in the business of making, producing, marketing and exploiting Greenlit images. Shape American Culture – Again the same old social justice playbook is resorted to.
Studios, networks and other entertainment companies have rushed to make the usual symbolic gesture of support for the black community, led by the executives of this built-in group. They promise financial support for leaders, hire a prolific black writer, make a low-budget black film on a black television show or green light, and even execute 180-degree reversals in a long-running legal battle without acknowledging the absence of the current weather. .
These are “comfortable gifts”. And frankly, these isolated gestures only contribute to maintaining stability.
At this point, when the oppression of the century has reached a tipping point, Hollywood should and should do more. We cannot continue working on the autopilot when considering who is portrayed in our productions, how they are portrayed, and who made these decisions. Hollywood must dedicate its true strength – global filmmakers and influencers – to the fight for justice and institutional change.
How do we achieve that? Responsibility.
Every year, in addition to box office receipts, Nilsan ratings and corporate profits, entertainment companies should promote various rental and programming goals for concrete and report on the results of their achievement. It is committed to positive change. We need the memory of George Floyd (and Brona Taylor, Ahmad Arberry and many more) if we are to be serious about moving our art and the world forward right now through images derived from Hollywood.
Now is the time for accountability and action, not symbolic gestures. With Hollywood’s senior leadership, including the ultimate gatekeeper, sitting in boards and C-suits, now is the time to hold themselves and each other accountable.
Racism is not only personal in this country, it is structural: it is so deeply embedded in our systems and practices that they continue to deliver racially discriminatory results, even if no predetermined people specifically seek those consequences. That’s how the C-suits and writers ’houses stay so white, and how the studio executive could suggest Julia Roberts to play the lead role in a film about Harriet Tobman. It is structural racism that puts so many institutional obstacles in the way of black people: from low-motivated schools to the lack of family-friendly wages, over-aggressive policing and voter repression.
Over the years, the rich tapestry of the black community’s life has led to systematically simplified one-dimensional caricatures, token letters, and black communities in favor of dangerous, one-dimensional ghettos. These messages from Hollywood travel far and hold. In Ghana last year, Africans told NAACP leaders at a national panel how difficult it was for African Americans to go beyond their perception of violent criminals – something they had learned from American films and TV.
How black people are portrayed on screen determines how they are treated on the streets. In order to accurately portray a community, studios, networks, streamers, and production companies need to be involved in decision-making.
And right now, it’s not happening.
A survey of 11 large and medium-sized studios, UCLA’s 2020 Hollywood Diversity Report found that 99 percent of C-level and 9 percent of senior executive jobs were in the hands of white people. Also, 86 percent of the leaders in the studio film unit were white.
Entertainment companies use regular metrics to calculate audience appeal and financial performance. It’s time to create similar metrics for Hollywood’s board of directors, black executives, producers, content producers and exhibitors, and quantitative assignments for film, television, and streaming – and then publicly announce its goals and report on its progress. The industry should work in close partnership with organizations in the Krishna community that can provide resources, shape content and commercially support audiences.
Considering the significant and growing purchasing power of black audiences, setting goals to create quality, not miscellaneous content handouts or quota systems, is just good business.
Entertainment companies now need to take four steps to ensure the industry achieves and is responsible for those results, and to ensure that the church and Brown respect customers who accept an unnecessary portion of Hollywood content.
- Appoint black people to the seats of the board of directors in proportion to the number reflected on their audience, customer or consumer basis.
- Promote and recruit black people to fill C-Suite and Senior Creative Executive positions, who are in favor of different ideas and have the ability to actually produce and distribute them.
- Set concrete goals and measurable goals to guarantee programming delivery
Which shows people of color in non-stereotypical roles and even outside the token cast member.
- And, most importantly, predict success by results, as entertainment companies do in every operational aspect of their business.
Change is possible, but only if Hollywood stops evaluating its progress on racial and social justice if it is based on the number of well-intentioned gestures it makes and starts focusing instead of achieving its results.
A serious, industry-wide action plan to address racial issues in the entertainment industry – and then to do something bold, fresh, and structured responsibly – is uncomfortable, but it is necessary and long-term.
Darrell D. Miller is the founding chair of Fox Rothschild’s Los Angeles office and the firm’s Department of Entertainment and Sports Law.
Derrick Johnson is the President and CEO of NACP.