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Inclusion Riders: Hollywood’s Feel-Good Insult to Minorities

By now we have come to expect that glamorous award ceremonies will be as much about politics as movies. And while the black dresses might have been given the heave-ho, Oscar night 2018 did not venture off-script. The current crop of actors-turned-activists were in full campaigning zeal, offering up lectures not just on #MeToo and sexual harassment but on the importance of diversity in the film industry. Pure coincidence, then, that the viewing figures were the lowest ever recorded. Oddly, it seems that those at home watching tend to prefer Hollywood stars to stick to entertainment rather than lectures.

The award for capturing the political zeitgeist most successfully went to Frances McDormand, star of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. McDormand, on stage with Jodie Foster on crutches (natch!), accepted the award for best actress and used her speech to call for more diversity in the film industry. She asked all the female nominees present to stand up and then called on producers to back their projects [1] (assuming, of course, that their “project” is not just to act). McDormand brought her speech to a climax with two words: “inclusion rider.”

If you haven’t heard of inclusion riders before, you can be forgiven. They were first formulated in 2016 by Stacy Smith [2], founder of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California. The idea was that, in order to tackle the underrepresentation of particular groups in film casting, actors can insist on clauses in their contracts that stipulate cast and crew meet a certain level of diversity. Where once movie stars may have demanded champagne and fresh grapes, a private dressing room or a particular make-up artist, today’s must-have accessory, it seems, is a diversity quota.

We will no doubt hear the phrase “inclusion rider” a great deal more in the months to come as stars insist that both on- and off-screen roles meet their specified targets. Parts will be cast and jobs allocated according to ethnicity, gender, sexuality, or disability—whatever the pet concerns of the all-powerful star happen to be at the time he or she signs the all-important contract.

Proponents of “inclusion riders” argue that they help counter the bias that’s assumed to be ingrained in Hollywood’s auditioning and casting process. Certainly discrimination in the film industry, as in all walks of life, should be challenged. But inclusion riders raise far more problems than they can ever hope to solve.

Most obviously, inclusion riders restrict the artistic freedom of the film director. There may be all kinds of reasons why a movie might not have a diverse cast: a story set in a particular time or place; or a script about the life and experiences of a certain person, family, or community; or a fictional monoculture (think Black Panther). Whatever the explanation, writers and directors need to be free to make these choices.

If actors want to dictate film content, they are in the wrong job—they should test their skills in the marketplace and become screenwriters or film producers. Putting political objectives above an artist’s vision turns films into “teachable moments” not entertainment. Movies become just another thinly veiled opportunity for hectoring the unenlightened masses.

Inclusion riders might give a few out-of-work actors opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have had. But as with all quotas and other forms of positive discrimination, there will always be the underlying concern that those benefiting wouldn’t have gotten their positions without that extra help. Inclusion riders tell people from listed groups that they cannot get to where they want to be without special treatment. This is a gross insult to the many talented actors from all walks of life who have successfully made careers for themselves in the film industry—especially if they had to fight tooth-and-nail to achieve their success.

I am often invited to speak on panel debates. On numerous occasions I have accepted, delighted that my expertise has been recognized at last and people are interested in what I have to say. Only later does it become clear that my invitation was issued to enable the organizers to tick a box confirming they had a gender-balanced line-up of speakers. So I know that diversity quotas breed insecurity. The men on these panels could rest assured that they were selected to speak because of the interesting ideas they might have to convey. I, on the other hand, was left with the nagging doubt that it wasn’t my work that had earned me the right to speak so much as my biology.

Yet inclusion riders go a step further than diversity quotas. They make casting decisions at the behest of one highly paid celebrity. If a particular star has a penchant for deaf kids, or women of color, or gay men in wheelchairs, then they can use their inclusion rider to insist that people from those groups are recruited. The rainbow line-up of chosen minorities are left in little doubt as to where their gratitude must be directed. This is the most nauseating form of patronage imaginable. Directors worth their salt should show stars with inclusion riders the door.

Joanna Williams is the author of Women vs Feminism: Why We All Need Liberating from the Gender Wars [3].

33 Comments (Open | Close)

33 Comments To "Inclusion Riders: Hollywood’s Feel-Good Insult to Minorities"

#1 Comment By ScottA On March 12, 2018 @ 11:43 pm

I no longer watch or enjoy watching the Oscars. Honestly, the only thing I now enjoy about Oscar season is reading about how a lot of other people like me didn’t watch either, giving the Oscars record low ratings and sending a message to arrogant, condescending Hollywood limousine liberals.

Which is tooooooooootally

#2 Comment By Tom Foolery On March 13, 2018 @ 12:02 am

“Hollywood’s Feel-Good Insult to Minorities”

… says the white majority.

#3 Comment By connecticut farmer On March 13, 2018 @ 8:37 am

“I, on the other hand, was left with the nagging doubt that it wasn’t my work that had earned me the right to speak so much as my biology.”

Bingo! And speaking only for myself, if I was a member of a minority group, I’m not sure I would feel too confident about my acting ability , knowing that there is a distinct possibility that the only reason why I may have been chosen for a particular role was for the purpose of ensuring compliance with an “inclusion rider.”

#4 Comment By Magnus On March 13, 2018 @ 10:34 am

The author makes the perennial mistake of individualistic and meritocratic white americans; that minorities themselves object to special treatment or think it condescending. This is, empirically, absolutely not the case.

“Inclusion riders tell people from listed groups that they cannot get to where they want to be without special treatment. This is a gross insult to the many talented actors from all walks of life who have successfully made careers for themselves in the film industry—especially if they had to fight tooth-and-nail to achieve their success.”

Nobody is feeling insulted except you and Thomas Sowell. You’re trying to appeal to a way of thinking that just isnt there. Minorities have had 30-40 years to grow tired of special treatment. Aint gonna happen.

#5 Comment By Rock Stehdy On March 13, 2018 @ 10:51 am

I, for one, welcome the opportunity to be lectured by my betters in order to become a more obedient citizen within the Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow they envision. Because Love Wins, Words Can Hurt Just Like Weapons, and You Can’t Hug Your Kid with Nuclear Arms.

#6 Comment By David J. White On March 13, 2018 @ 11:03 am

Maybe I watched too many Westerns as a kid, but when I first read the phrase “inclusion riders” I imagined a vigilante posse righting perceived wrongs on horseback — all approprately demographically cross-sectioned of course.

#7 Comment By Ready for the Apocalypse On March 13, 2018 @ 11:24 am

Hollywood movies are already so bad nowadays, and now they want to make them even worse with this kind of meddling. When the film industry as it currently exists finally dries up and blows away, it will be a good day for cinema as an art form.

#8 Comment By Power_S On March 13, 2018 @ 11:35 am

To be honest, as a minority, I wouldn’t take it as an insult. This is the US, and people here have to take every opportunity they can get to move ahead. If some Hollywood liberals want to make it easier for a minority to get acting gigs, I should take it for what it is – an opportunity to become a better actor. If you’re able to abstract your feelings (that this is patronizing or insulting) from the reality that you’re getting more work, thus more practice, to become a better actor, that is all that matters.

At the end of the day, if you’re perfecting your art (whatever it might be) and you’re being able to provide for your family, don’t pay any attention to anyone else who tries to discredit you. Put on your blinders and move forward.

It isn’t like there hasn’t been positive discrimination for Caucasian Americans for the majority of our country’s history. I’ve never seen a Caucasian person feel insulted by any of that. Why should a minority?

#9 Comment By Lert345 On March 13, 2018 @ 11:47 am

It is perfectly appropriate for Hollywood to criticize itself at its spectacles. Lectures on politics (of any stripe) are a turnoff in entertainment.

Hollywood has always preached the virtues of social progressivism. In practice they’ve only applied that to easy sex, not diversity among the stars or equal pay for actors and actresses. The self-directed criticism is long overdue. Let’s see if it works.

#10 Comment By Mark James On March 13, 2018 @ 12:28 pm

How about we hire the most qualified person, on a first come, first serve basis.

Its rocket science.

#11 Comment By saurabh On March 13, 2018 @ 12:28 pm

In a universe where the Pentagon funds most blockbusters and dictates their content, complaining about the loss of artistic vision from a diversity requirement seems a little precious. There is no artistic vision here; this is Hollywood.

#12 Comment By Ready for the Apocalypse On March 13, 2018 @ 12:36 pm

The irony of McDormand’s speech is that the films she has made with her husband and brother-in-law are overwhelmingly white. Diversity begins at home, Frances!

#13 Comment By Grace On March 13, 2018 @ 1:47 pm

Funny how the people ‘insulted’ by being included are whites. Usually white males.

As a black female, I would take any opportunity and do my best. It’s actually NOT an insult…unless you’re already so privileged that you literally have no idea how minorities are treated and why this is NOT an insult.

It’s fascinating to read these comments and be able to pick out the ethnicity of the people commenting, just from their comments.

#14 Comment By Andrew e. On March 13, 2018 @ 1:59 pm

I’m not sure what’s supposed to be more offensive, inclusion riders or a white professor in the U.K. telling minorities in the American film industry what they should be offended about.

#15 Comment By Andrew On March 13, 2018 @ 2:12 pm

I would’ve thought Jordan Peele would be bitter that his recent screenplay Oscar was a obvious fear-motivated, affirmative action win for a mildly entertaining, but absurdly overrated satirical B movie, but, no; he seems fully convinced it was well deserved. I suspect nothing will change because of this, other than a increasing deterioration of the already mediocre quality of nominated films and the acting therein.

#16 Comment By Positive Thinker On March 13, 2018 @ 2:19 pm

At this point I’m convinced women and URM’s are included for one reason alone…
Sorry. But that’s where this stuff has brought us to.

#17 Comment By Jeeves On March 13, 2018 @ 3:16 pm

How about a single example of an inclusion rider?. Before I get too outraged over these things, I want to be sure someone has actually put one in a contract.

#18 Comment By EliteCommInc. On March 13, 2018 @ 7:40 pm

“How about we hire the most qualified person, on a first come, first serve basis.
Its rocket science.”

I am not sure how you upend 200 years of whites designing a system based on being white first as the qualifier. Good grief we can’t even get past whether or not statues to a band of duplicitous traitors to the US is symbolic of great US tradition or an extension of whites saying even treason is ok as long as the offensive most offends anyone but whites.

We castigate Dr. /Rev. king because he dallied as some men would want to do — but a critique of Pres Jefferson’s and Gen Robert E Lee slavery advocacy results in gasps of incredulity.

uh, I don’t care about statues, but I find the near panic over traitors interesting. I doubt Hollywood will burning any films of the great southern rebels to assuage any offense Hollywood has played in the very issues they pretend to care about when it comes to color polity.

#19 Comment By DavidE On March 13, 2018 @ 9:12 pm

If only white people won everything. Then we wouldn’t have this problem.

#20 Comment By MM On March 13, 2018 @ 10:57 pm

I was watching the Oscars the other night, and realized that it was only a matter of time until there would be boos and jeers and shouts of “too old, too white” when the In Memoriam segment is presented…

#21 Comment By cka2nd On March 14, 2018 @ 5:42 am

I have seen excesses in “inclusive” casting, especially on British TV and at the expense of historical accuracy – “Wow, there appear to have been WAY more black peasants living in the England of Robin Hood than I ever thought!” – and this may come back to bite someone in the butt, but if this is the only way to break out of some of the very nearly whites-only “color-blind” casting I’ve seen from Hollywood over the years, especially among extras, I could probably live with it.

I was particularly struck when the last pre-“Discovery” Star Trek series, “Enterprise,” aired, and the extras among the Enterprise crew appeared to be almost exclusively white, in stark contrast to the original series and “ST: The Next Generation.” My guess is that the issue was of gut importance to Gene Roddenberry in a way that it wasn’t for his showrunner successors, so they started letting it slide, probably unconsciously. Of course, the same folks had originally cast an almost all-white bridge crew on “Enterprise” and had to make a quick substitution before the show aired in response to fan and/or critical pressure.

I would have no problem with a director,writer or producer pushing back against an inclusion rider on the grounds of historical accuracy, but if they can overcome the kind of unconscious discrimination that exists for way too many actors and extras of color, like I said before, I can live with it.

#22 Comment By cka2nd On March 14, 2018 @ 5:45 am

Now, if some star wants to have an inclusion rider that reserves some of the speaking roles, especially those of Americans with regional accents, for American actors instead of all of the damned Brits, Aussies and Kiwis that seem to dominate those roles on American TV and in American films, I’d be good with that, too, but it would probably also require the damned American acting schools to actually, you know, teach accents, instead of relying so much on the damned “Method.” But then, if there’s one thing about which I am a flag-waving, barrier-building nationalist, its acting, seeing as how my Dad was an actor and, though an immigrant himself, a fervent nationalist when it came to the capabilities of the American theatrical community and acting profession.

#23 Comment By Magnus On March 14, 2018 @ 7:47 am

If I had a nickel for every time a white conservative/classical liberal/liberatarian expressed how insulting and patronizing affirmative action and special treatment are for minorities, I’d be set for life.

If I had a nickel for every time an actual minority expressed how insulting and patronizing he felt affirmative action and special treatment are, I’d have a nickel for every Thomas Sowell video I’ve watched on youtube.

Minorites feel affirmative action is just, deal with it. You’re probably not going to convince them otherwise.

#24 Comment By Rob G On March 14, 2018 @ 9:19 am

Yes, let’s do this, because quotas have worked so well elsewhere.

Frankly, this all amounts to hyper-selective b.s., until we begin seeing pygmies playing for the NBA or 5’6″ 150 lb. Asians in the NFL.

You can protest that sports are different than acting. True, but they don’t have to be. Sports are the way they are primarily due to talent/merit, while acting….oh, wait.

#25 Comment By ElbenV On March 14, 2018 @ 10:15 am

An amusing example of Hollywood’s contortionist attempts to be politically correct.


Quote: “The character in the comics is a Tibetan man, a situation which co-writer C. Robert Cargill compared to the Kobayashi Maru, an unwinnable training exercise in the Star Trek universe. He explained that adapting the character as the comics portrayed him would be realizing the major Asian Fu Manchu stereotype, and would involve the film with the Tibetan sovereignty debate, but not giving one of few significant Asian roles to an Asian actor would also understandably be received negatively.[21][45] Derrickson wanted to change the character to an Asian woman, but felt that an older Asian woman would invoke the Dragon Lady stereotype, while a younger Asian woman would be perceived as exploiting Asian fetish and “a fanboy’s dream girl”. To avoid the character filling any of those three stereotypes, or enabling the stereotype of a “Western character coming to Asia to learn about being Asian”,[21] Derrickson decided to cast a non-Asian actor in the role, but to still take the opportunity to cast “an amazing actress in a male role”.

It’s fine to cast actors of a race different from that described in a book if the story takes place in modern times. In historical movies it looks ridiculous. The Robin Hood example mentioned by the previous poster is on point. I’ve seen it done multiple times and just have to roll my eyes.

#26 Comment By EliteCommInc. On March 14, 2018 @ 10:15 am

“Minorites feel affirmative action is just, deal with it. You’re probably not going to convince them otherwise.”

I guess if you consider white women minorities —-

They are the beneficiaries of the lion’s share of AA. If there’s one think I have learned, programs designed to redress some issue are forever turned to benefit the beneficiaries of those responsible for the need to redress.

#27 Comment By Bryan Hemming On March 14, 2018 @ 10:16 am

As it’s become so easy for the dimmest light bulb on the Christmas tree to get behind the desk in the Oval Office, there’s little wonder actors are preparing themselves to scratch and pull hair for the prime role in the White House. If Ronald Reagan can do it then why not Forrest Gump? I mean Tom Hanks of course, he’s all pumped up and ready to go.

#28 Comment By MM On March 14, 2018 @ 10:49 am

There’s more than a little irony with the recent “Oscars so White” movement, lobbying for nominations based solely on race and ethnicity, when by last count I discovered over 100 separate awards ceremonies are held for TV and film, every year, catering to all manner of tribal lovefests.

Of course, of those 100+ ceremonies, only one or two actually involve voting by the general public.

But by all means, if inclusion riders help Hollywood “look” more like America, it’s a private industry and can do what it wants short of overt discrimination. At the same time, if Hollywood wants to “look” and “sound” more like America, consistently diverse I mean, it would have to be less white and more conservative, by definition. But it never will…

#29 Comment By JWJ On March 14, 2018 @ 11:03 am

“actors can insist on clauses in their contracts that stipulate cast and crew meet a certain level of diversity.”

A couple of points. Hopefully the actors will include CREW in the quotas. And put real numerical targets in these inclusion riders. And also have as many different categories as possible.

Hopefully this will also extend beyond the racist categories of skin color and embrace quotas for sex, geographic representation, native spoken language, height, weight, age, intelligence, different political parties, different religions (including agnostics, leftism, and atheists). The greater number of subsets, the better.

Finally, when can inclusion riders be added to other workplaces?

#30 Comment By MM On March 14, 2018 @ 12:32 pm

ElbenV: It wasn’t PC as much as financial and political considerations in a big overseas market. I remembered reading this prior to the film’s release:


“…a Tibetan character from the comic book, the Ancient One, is played by Tilda Swinton, a white British actress. It turns out that the filmmakers scrubbed the Tibetan origins of the character from the comic book altogether, in large part over fears of offending the Chinese government and people – and of losing access to one of the world’s most lucrative film markets, according to one insider account. In an interview last week, C. Robert Cargill, a screenwriter, offered that as an explanation for why the Ancient One was no longer Tibetan.”

Quite the opposite of PC considerations. The minority Tibetan population received zero representation.

The heavy hand of the state at work…

#31 Comment By Zgler On March 14, 2018 @ 1:58 pm

High visibility actors have leverage. That’s capitalism. Take it or leave it or whine about it. If a producer thinks a proposed inclusion rider distorts his production he can try to get another actor.

#32 Comment By Rob G On March 14, 2018 @ 4:23 pm

If “Oscars so White” are we allowed to say “Grammys so Black”? Blacks seem to do disproportionately well in the music industry with no help from quotas, AA or other manipulative shenanigans. In acting, maybe not so much. So what?

Blacks dominate the NBA, and do pretty damn well in the NFL. They’re scarce on the ground in the NHL, though. Do we need AA and inclusion riders there as well?

#33 Comment By Anna Duarte On March 17, 2018 @ 4:43 am

Blacks dominate the NBA, and do pretty damn well in the NFL

There was a time when they weren’t recruited to play in the NBA at all. Just as they aren’t being cast in movies. Their success in music and sports is mostly due to market forces and the imperative to win games.

The movie industry is just taking time to catch up because they have to cater to the audience’s preference. The audience is now changing.