The Hollywood Reporter Convenes a Roundtable of White Women

The Hollywood Reporter released its annual actress roundtable issue and boy was it diverse: two brunettes, three blondes and—wait for it—two whole redheads. It is a triumph of white lady heterogeneity.

The magazine sat down with Reese Witherspoon, Patricia Arquette, Julianne Moore, Laura Dern, Amy Adams, Felicity Jones and Hilary Swank, who they call “the season’s top seven award contenders.” In the interview, the women discuss many of the biggest Women Issues in Hollywood: nude leaks, Renee Zellweger’s face and the overall lack of respect and opportunities women receive in the industry.

Noticeably absent is any sympathy for the problems faced by non-white Academy Award nominees. Arquette mentions her sister, who is transgender, although not really in the context of Hollywood, but there is no mention of the fact that women of color have a significantly more difficult battle than their white peers.

The only non-white woman even mentioned in the entire interview is Beyoncé, who Reese Witherspoon names when asked if there is a contemporary woman she would like to play onscreen. I get that it was a joke but still, not at all respectably, I say: Shut up, Reese Witherspoon. One of Hollywood’s favorite things to do is to cast a white person to play a person of color and you can bet the farm that if they could figure out a way to have a white woman play Beyoncé, they would.

As I mentioned, the theme behind the issue is that the chosen actresses are all likely award contenders for the year. Admittedly, this has not been a great year for diversity onscreen—particularly compared to last year when Octavia Spencer, Oprah and Lupita Nyong’o sat on the panel.

This year, Ava Duvernay’s Martin Luther King drama, Selma, is generating Oscar buzz and the cast includes Tessa Thompson who starred in one of the most talked about films of the year, Dear White People. Gugu Mbatha-Raw had a good year with Belle and Beyond the Lights. While her films may not be Oscar-worthy, (and that Nina Simone biopic is still completely unacceptable) it’s hard to deny that Zoe Saldana is becoming a true force in Hollywood.

Are all of these stretches? Definitely. But any real commitment to diversity requires effort. This doesn’t mean that we have to act like Beyond the Lights was on the same level as Gone Girl, but it does mean giving others a shot and recognizing that opportunities are not equal for all.

The Hollywood Reporter is arguably the most important trade publication in Hollywood. Events like this roundtable can become self-fulfilling prophecies of sorts. If they don’t include any diversity, it bolsters the argument within the industry that diversity doesn’t sell or that only white actresses are capable of serious work.

Without question, the whole system has to adjust, but the way diversity is and isn’t reflected in the media is a large part of it.

It’s not that these women don’t deserve the cover—lord knows I would watch Julianne Moore sit silently onscreen for two hours—but unfortunately, this year, like so many others, continues the narrative that in Hollywood, only white is right, profitable and worthy of celebration. From The Hollywood Reporter to screenwriters to casting directors, everyone has to do better.

Image via The Hollywood Reporter.

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