Following similar steps taken by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) in Hollywood, as well as the Disney Empire, Amazon Studios – the television and film producer and distributor, and a subsidiary of Amazon – has adopted an “Inclusion Policy” which is a shameless race and gender quota system.
Such policies, which have obvious public relations value in the current political context but cost little to giant corporations, have no socially or economically progressive substance. They do not represent any tendency towards democratization or, for example, anti-monopoly. Film, television and other media remain firmly under the control of a handful of huge corporations — Disney, Comcast, AT&T, ViacomCBS, Sony and Fox, in particular.
These are not innocent or, even if overzealous, “harmless” actions. The policies of AMPAS, Disney and Amazon will benefit a thin and already well-off segment of African Americans, women, gays and others, but they will not broaden the scope of cinema and entertainment. television to the life of the great mass of the population and its problems. On the contrary. It may seem paradoxical at first glance, but the official “inclusion” does, in fact, lead to another. social narrowing, because (a) those who are to be “included” are simply more representatives of the aspiring and ambitious petty bourgeoisie and (b) the attention of writers and directors is deliberately diverted by these policies from the most pressing contemporary realities – above all, smart. social inequalities and the stranglehold billionaires like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos (who stepped down as CEO of the company on July 5) currently have over American society. In fact, this “diversion” is one of the main objectives of such quotas.
We noted last September about the Academy’s new “Equity and Inclusion Initiatives”:
“What is happening, in fact, is an attempt to impose a second production code, the set of censorship rules, enforced by an infamous political and quasi-religious apparatus, which from 1934 to the mid-1960s severely restricted American filmmakers. “
The original production code was enforced by a group of religious fanatics, anti-Semites and anti-communists. Current gender and race quotas must be controlled by “social justice” activists and others. However, like the old system, the new regulations have, among other things, a preventive nature: they aim to prevent as much as possible American cinema from taking a deep approach (and dangerous for the powers that be). ) criticism of the foundations of society, in anticipation of the conditions of mass political turmoil.
The concrete measures proposed by Amazon Studios are absurd, a formula devised by studio executives, lawyers and accountants oriented towards identity politics, without any real concern for seriousness, competence or artistic experience. To “reduce invisibility in entertainment,” Amazon aims “to include one character from each of the following categories for speaking roles of any size, and at least 50% of the total of these should be female: (1) lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or gender nonconforming / nonbinary; (2) disabled person; and (3) three regionally under-represented racial / ethnic / cultural groups (e.g., in the United States, three of the following groups: Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Middle East / North Africa, or Asian / Pacific or multiracial). A single character can fill one or more of these identities.
The Inclusion Policy further explains that every ‘movie or series with a creative team of three or more people in above-the-line roles (directors, writers, producers) should ideally include a minimum of 30% women and 30% of members of an under-represented race. / ethnic group. ”Amazon offers similar quotas for every aspect of film and television production.
Amazon’s policy statement includes plans to “prioritize people who have been historically marginalized within the industry, including, but not limited to, disability, sexual orientation, religion. , height, age, nationality, gender identity, gender expression and people at the intersection of several under-represented identities. This ambitious target will increase to 50% by 2024. In creative teams of less than three people, we prefer that at least one writer, director or producer is a woman and / or a member of a racial / ethnic group under -represented. A single team member can fill one or more of these identities.
This commitment according to which “the ambitious objective will increase to 50% by 2024” is repeated several times. It is both threatening and empty in its bureaucratic-legal double talk.
While Amazon Studios falsely claims that “story comes first,” the section on “Inclusive Casting,” for example, asks potential casting directors, “Have you developed criteria for the roles you are going to play? ? If not, how will you determine who is the most qualified person for the job? Before adding: “Relying on your ‘gut’ or ‘the best person for the job’ are inherently biased processes that can skew your decision making. How are you going to counter this cognitive bias with criteria in the hearing process? By “criteria,” Amazon clearly means the appropriate qualifications in terms of race, gender, and other similar qualifications.
Bezos’ studio majestically announces its commitment to “authentic performances”. In a film and television context, one might naively assume that this means a commitment to developing scripts and performances that authentically address individual and collective human behavior, to “understanding” how people interact with each other. and to each other. In fact, however, for Amazon and the upper-middle-class identity politics industry, authenticity means giving “actors a role whose identity aligns with the identity of the character they will play (for example). sex, gender identity, nationality, race / ethnicity, sexual orientation and disability) and in particular when the character is a member of an under-represented group / identity. “
Once again, this is the feverish dream of a race and gender obsessed bureaucrat. Someone has apparently forgotten that while finding the perfect alignment between the identity of the actor and the given character is the first priority, it diminishes or completely sidelines the art of acting, directing, and art in general.
In Men (1950, Fred Zinnemann), Marlon Brando (in his first film role) played a wheelchair WWII veteran. Brando went to a Veterans Administration hospital to research the role and apparently stayed in a wheelchair on and off set for the duration of the filming. Did the actor manage to capture the physical and psychological reality of paraplegia, or would an unprofessional paraplegic have been more convincing in the role? The question cannot be answered with absolute certainty, depending on the abilities of the “non-professional,” but there is certainly reason to believe that Brando, a valid individual, was capable – because he brought his intellectual abilities and artistic and instincts to endure – to represent a condition that was not his more sincerely than a person hired because his identity could have aligned “with the identity of the character”. There are countless other examples that could be cited – in fact, virtually the entire history of acting and theater.
In Amazon’s politics and playbook, the extent to which a movie or series could tell the truth about the world in a meaningful way is never an issue. Quality doesn’t count for anything here. The amount of opportunity for individuals from “under-represented communities (women; under-represented racial / ethnic groups; sexual orientation; gender identity; people with disabilities)” is everything. This, of course, is another aspect of the identity politics obsession: the intense desire of certain strata to share the billions in profits generated by the entertainment industry. Again, improving conditions for already well-off African Americans, women and others will have no impact on the hardships faced by broad sections of the workforce, black, white, immigrant and everyone else.
A real expansion of film and television production, which would include representations of genuinely under-represented social strata and the appearance of performers from these strata, is urgent. But, as we have already said, it is above all a question of a greater social inclusion, interest and representation of the situation of the large segment of the population that counts for nothing, and will always count for nothing under the restrictions of AMPAS, Disney and Amazon, in Hollywood and in the entertainment industry in its together, that is to say, the great mass of the working population.
Perhaps those who are impressed by Amazon’s and Disney’s soothing words about “inclusion,” “diversity,” “fairness,” “accessibility,” and “authenticity” should consider this. . The richest man on the planet, Bezos, and a gigantic conglomerate that has swallowed up much of its competition and pays some of America’s highest salaries, Disney urges film and television artists to focus on ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and the rest. Wouldn’t it be interesting to explore the economic and social questions that they leave aside, minimize and ignore, above all, to repeat it, social inequalities? Steps in this direction would already lead to an improvement in the “authenticity” of cinema and television.