Hollywood stars using an “inclusion rider” shows how diversity is treated as a luxury

It’s all about the “inclusion rider.”
It’s all about the “inclusion rider.”
Image: Reuters/Lucas Jackson
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When you become a music or Hollywood star, within your contract you can ask for a “rider.” It’s a clause usually reserved for luxury items, such as your own dressing room adorned with only roses, a vat of fresh queso and tortillas on tap, or even your own private chef who’s available 24/7. You can pretty much ask for anything you want and studios are adept at catering for every luxurious whim.

However, when Frances McDormand won the Best Actress award for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri on Sunday (March 4), she used her speech to turn the idea of what a rider is on its head.  She ended with the phrase “I have two words for you: inclusion rider,” suggesting that stars should use that clause in their contracts to boost diversity. If stars used “inclusion riders” it would mean studios have to make sure that the cast and crew is more equally split among men and women as well as people from different races.

While it’s a viable way for stars to use their power to boost diversity from the inside-out, it proves that diversity is a luxury rather than a given. In 2017, the number of female leads in big Hollywood movies actually fell.

Meanwhile, people of color only accounted for 13.9% of the leads in top- grossing films for 2016.

But McDormand’s push for everyone to use an “inclusion rider” isn’t a new concept. In 2016, Stacy Smith, founder of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California did a TED talk on how an “equity clause” or an “inclusion rider” could be part of the solution to Hollywood’s diversity problem.

While the “inclusion rider” is an initiative that has been floated before, McDormand’s promotion of it and the seachange in the industry surrounding the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement could be the very platform it needs to get off the ground. It’s just a shame that it has to be delivered in a contractual clause usually reserved for luxury when it should be a given in this day and age.