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How Frances McDormand’s Oscar Speech Could Change Hollywood

Hers is the one everyone’s talking about—and frantically Googling

“Okay, so I’m hyperventilating a little bit. If I fall over, pick me up cause I’ve got some things to say.”

And boy, did she.

In easily the most memorable moment of the night, she invited all the female nominees in every category—acting, directing, writing, cinematography, costume design etc—to stand up with her. There were happy tears, group hugs, a literally bouncing Meryl Streep, and a feminist mad scientist cackle heard round the world.


But what made McDormand’s speech truly game-changing were the last two words she delivered: inclusion rider. The momentary silence and smattering of applause that followed showed that the room full of Hollywood veterans was just as confused as those of us sitting at home.

So what is an inclusion rider?

McDormand, who herself just learned about it last week, explained to reporters backstage after her win: “To everyone that does a negotiation on a film, an inclusion rider means that you can ask for and/or demand at least 50% diversity in not only in casting but also the crew. The fact that I’ve just learned that after 35 years of being in the film business… we’re not going back.”

Stacy L. Smith, director of USC Annenberg’s Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative, floated this idea back in 2014, in a guest column for the Hollywood Reporter. In it, she wrote, “What if A-list actors amended every contract with an equity rider? The clause would state that tertiary speaking characters should match the gender distribution of the setting for the film, as long as it’s sensible for the plot. If notable actors working across 25 top films in 2013 had made this change to their contracts, the proportion of balanced films (about half-female) would have jumped from 16 percent to 41 percent.”

Of course, it’s not just female representation that needs to go up, but that of racial and ethnic minorities too. And with these two words, McDormand might have brought a sea change to Hollywood. It was one of Merriam Webster’s top search terms for the night. Brie Larson has already tweeted out her support. And every single entertainment/media/culture platform in the world is doing pieces on what the term means. Apparently, the revolution will be televised.

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