Juneteenth: Some Thoughts
Oh, and Happy Father's Day!
I know it’s Sunday and everyone wants to go to brunch, play tennis or get to reading the scripts you haven’t read.
But because it is Juneteenth (and Happy Fathers Day to you too), it seemed a good moment to reflect on one of the things Richard, Tatiana and I often talk about here: the impermanence of outrage cycles in the entertainment industry. There was the Polo Lounge boycott which ended up this way; the embarrassment of Time’s Up, whose #MeToo advocacy gave way to a Keystone Cops flailing that burnished reputations of its top members as it laundered those of bad men; Saudi Arabia was a thing to be mad about, until it repeatedly was not.
The list could go on, of course. But in the past year, it also feels like something reactionary has taken hold in town (and not just nationwide or in Texas). Increasingly, conversations about social issues, attempts to be on the “right” side of issues around inclusion, have become labeled as “virtue signaling” and “woke”. White writers openly bemoan that they can’t get hired. No one seems particularly outraged by the post-#MeToo returns of James Franco and Louis C.K. Netflix doesn’t want to hear employees’ complaints about their programming. And it just seems harder (and at times, more perilous) to drum up any kind of groundswell about any one social issue.
Increasingly, with the business itself undergoing convulsions, those at the top are burnt-out. The pie seems smaller, which typically makes people cling to the way things were. And it feels as if concerns about social issues have slid down alongside stock prices into the role of a secondary indulgence.
Almost exactly two years ago, following the murder of George Floyd, Richard wrote a viral column after Hollywood companies came out in support of Black Lives Matter with social media messaging and all its requisite black squares. The column ran under the headline “Class Photos”, and it looked at the “About Us” leadership pages of every entity in town. Needless to say, the pictures said a thousand words about what companies publicly say and what they actually do. And while many of the people at the top have changed (speaking to the convulsions) since that column ran, the issues today largely have not. In fact they seem to have expanded. In those two years, the country is still facing pervasive police violence against Black Americans, a wave of AAPI hate, an epidemic of gun violence and a rollback in women’s reproductive rights. Not to mention inflation, a war in Ukraine, and OMG, Covid. Still Covid. It’s a lot to process.
But given it’s Juneteenth, Richard’s column is worth a re-read. None of this is meant to diminish the strides made around diverse hiring (though still less so at the top) and representation onscreen. There is extraordinary progress, and it’s sometimes breathtaking, almost unbelievable, to see. But that change largely came about because of collective outrage, ongoing conversation and a sense of true reckoning. An actual time’s up. So on this day, I’d suggest some reflection on the fact that social woes are ongoing, not just tentpoles on a Hollywood release schedule.
ICYMI, in The Ankler this week:
Decoding Deborah Vance: Hacks’ costume designer on how to stay on the right side of caricature.
The Wakeup: Our new daily morning roundup of Hollywood and media news.
Hollywood’s Economic Armageddon Looms: Is the first recession of the streaming era already here?
$6 Billion for Cricket? Jiminy! Why? Maybe Disney and Amazon 'let' Viacom win in India.
Exec Musical Chairs: The State of Play: Game on! How the town's Big Jobs could shake out as the ground shifts underneath each studio
Martini Shot - Pitch Face: Rob Long’s tried-and-true guide to selling in the conference room.
On-Screen Guns Target of A-List Petition: Plus, Tom Cruise kills a watch commercial.
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