November 15, 2015

In Hollywood, Sony's brave new rallying cry is: "Nepotism for diversity!"

Furious DRebel Blogger

People complain that there is not enough diversity in Hollywood, that the number of directors who are not Caucasian males does not reflect the wider world's demographic realities.

However, you don't have to 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 directing television.

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

Now she is a woman, and she is a director, having made a film called Song One starring Anne Hathaway, which played at Sundance but few other venues.

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 the greater media 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 implementing diversity in their own house.

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

This situation leads to the hiring of even more people who fit that vaguely general mold, and more and more people feel left out. And not just women and ethnic minorities, either, but other white males who just don't fit in with the ruling club. I'm a white male Gen-Xer, and according to the activists I should have major studios dragging me from my home to write &/or direct big budget projects regardless of my résumé, when in reality Hollywood won't touch me 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. It makes them look bad, and the only way Hollywood can combat looking bad is to do some sort visible but ineffective token gesture. That means tossing women and minorities some scraps from the franchise table, like Ghostbusters and Ocean's 11, and the creation of programs to "increase diversity" -- and then very publicly give a spot to a relative.

Now Sony may have hired Ms. Barker-Froyland on her non-familial merits. Maybe her film Song One is the most brilliant thing since Citizen Kane, I don't know, since it hasn't really been seen by anyone.

What I can talk about are the optics of the decision.

And the optics are terrible.

"Diversity" is supposed to mean hiring from a pool of diverse genders, ethnicities, backgrounds, and beliefs. You don't tell the word that a program is about "diversity" and then hire from 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 word people are going to think of when they hear the news is not "diversity." It is "nepotism."

In the early days of Universal Pictures, a 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 their companies as family businesses, but folks weren't hired solely on their DNA. That may have got 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 (especially in the story development department).

Ethnic diversity, however, was exponentially weaker because non-white actors and themes could lead to a studio's entire output being censored, or completely banned, in some states. (Up until the late 1960s, America was rife with politically powerful movements seeking to censor or otherwise control movies for reasons that would seem comically ridiculous to modern eyes.)

This was because the old school moguls believed in only one thing when it came to their business: Making movies that the audience wanted to see. They didn't care about hitting hiring quotas. They were concerned with putting bums in theatre seats, and the keeping the government off their back, 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 grounds that these jobs 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 brought us to our current situation.

The people running Hollywood live in a state of near perfect isolation. Everyone they meet is pretty much just like them. They grew up in very similar communities, they went to very similar schools, they overwhelmingly vote the same, dress the same, and they live under the illusion that they are the normal people. They don't see the general population that lives outside the Axis of Ego as individual human beings. To them people of flyover country are just a list of targets in a marketing report. That some people in these target areas have an interest in making film and television instead of consuming it strikes them as inconceivable, because the making of film and television happens in their world.

Hollywood does need diversity, and not just ethnic and gender diversity, but in mindset as well, and diversity will happen in Hollywood, or it will collapse under its own weight. This will not be achieved easily, and most likely it won't be achieved in any way we think it's going to happen.
*I can't stand the term "People of Colour" because it sounds like an Orwellian inversion of the unacceptable "Coloured People" and strikes me as some racist's elaborate practical joke on society.


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commented 2015-11-17 15:54:22 -0500
It will fail. What Hollywood likes is money.I wonder if this Sony executive uses a blackberry? If the previous ones had they still would be employed.
commented 2015-11-16 00:52:06 -0500
Gotta love how the self righteous phonies in Hollywood always get shown to be hypocrites and never practice what they preach.