Friday, 6 November 2015

Hollywood Babble On & On #1257: Diversity…of Family?

Okay, this story begins with a complaint.

People are complaining that there is not enough diversity in Hollywood. One key complaint is that the numbers of directors getting regular work that are not caucasian males do not reflect the demographic realities.

But don't worry. 

Sony Pictures has swept in to save the day with a special "Diversity In TV" program. The mission of this program is to get more women and more "people of colour" into the world of directing television.

Sounds like a noble cause but when you see that the program's first reported recruit is Kate Barker-Froyland, the DAUGHTER OF A SENIOR SONY EXECUTIVE.

I call this Meta-Sexism, being sexist to mock sexism.

Now she is a woman, and she is a director, having made a film called Song One starring Anne Hathaway, which gives me an  excuse to post a click-bait picture of Anne Hathaway.

However, there is a problem with her familial connections. We live in an age where people are demanding that others "check their privilege" in the name of diversity. 

In the diversity fight Hollywood comes across as the pinnacle of hypocrisy. The citizens of their community that I call the Axis of Ego, are always the first to demand diversity in others, but are the worst when it comes to having diversity in their own house.

You will never find a people more ethnically, and ideologically homogenous outside of Hollywood. And it's not just the use of white stars all the time, even in so-called "ethnic" roles. The executive suites bear more resemblance to a trustafarian frat-house at an Ivy League university than the population in general.

This leads to the hiring of even more people that fit that vaguely general mould, and more and more people, feel left out, and not just women and ethnic minorities, but other white males who just don't fit in the club are blocked too. I'm a white male Gen-Xer, according to the activists I should have Hollywood dragging me from my home to write &/or direct big budget projects regardless of my résumé, when in reality Hollywood wouldn't touch me with a ten foot pole because I just wouldn't fit in with them, and never will.

However, this clubbiness when it comes to women and ethnic minorities challenges the liberal bona-fides of the Axis of Ego. That makes them look bad, and 

This leads to hackneyed token gestures, like tossing women and minorities the scraps from the franchise table, and the creation of programs meant to improve diversity, but only make things worse.

Now Sony may have hired her on her non-familial merits, her film Song One might be the most brilliant thing since Citizen Kane, I don't know, it hasn't really been seen by anyone, so I can't judge her as a filmmaker.

What I can talk about are the optics.

The optics are terrible.

"Diversity" is supposed to mean hiring from a pool of diverse genders, ethnicities, backgrounds, and beliefs. You don't say a program is about "diversity" and then hire from a pool even narrower than the usual monolithic upper class white Ivy League pool; the literal gene pool.

It doesn't matter if your hire is more brilliant than Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick combined, if they have the same last name of a senior executive, the first thing people are going to think when they hear the news is not "diversity" it is "nepotism."

It reminds people of the early days of Universal Pictures when the joke around the lot was that owner "Carl Laemmle had a big faemmle." However, most studios weren't as egregious in their nepotism. Sure, many viewed them as family businesses, but folks weren't hired solely on their DNA, that may have landed them a chance, but if they didn't deliver in the hard work department, they were often ushered out of the company and sometimes even out of the family.

Ironically, the Silent Era had a lot more diversity behind the camera than today, especially when it came to gender. There were almost as many female screenwriters, directors, editors, and technicians, as there were male, even in the executive suite at some studios. Ethnic diversity was a exponentially weaker because even the suspicion of there being some colour in a black and white film ran the risk of getting a studio's output banned in some states. (Up until the 1960s America was rife with politically powerful movements seeking to censor films for reasons that would seem comically ridiculous to modern eyes.)

This was because the old school moguls believed in one thing: Making movies that the audience wanted to see. They didn't care about making quotas, they were concerned with putting bums in theatre seats so they could make more money and more movies.

The rise of unions and the introduction of sound led to many women being shut out of the industry's technical fields on the bullshit grounds that they were now "too technical" for their feminine minds.

Then came the corporate era when the studios went from being stand-alone entities run by powerful "moguls" to subsidiaries of larger conglomerates and run by committees of Ivy League number-crunchers.

Which is what brings us to our current situation. They see the general population as a list of targets in a marketing report. That some people in these targets have an interest in making film and television instead of consuming it strikes them as inconceivable, because the making of film and television is their world, which is populated by people more or less like them.

Hollywood does need diversity, however, it will not be achieved easily, and most likely won't be achieved in any way we think it's going to happen.

1 comment:

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