The Media vs. Hollywood vs. Diversity, in One Magazine Cover

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Last week, I wrote about The Hollywood Reporter’s decision to nix its annual ranking of powerful women, noting that it was the latest possibly quixotic attempt by the media to encourage more diversity in the entertainment industry.

Today, THR provides another, weirder chapter in that saga by putting a group of white actresses on its cover—and publishing a note saying Hollywood forced it to be so monochromatic.

The cover shoot was for THR’s annual “Actress Roundtable,” held every year for performers seeking an Oscar. Explains executive editor Stephen Galloway:

We rely on early buzz from the festivals; word-of-mouth from insiders who may have seen rough cuts of the films; and a calculated guess on which studio is throwing its weight behind whom. Behind every movie and every star is Hollywood’s version of the Koch brothers, battling for their chosen candidates to win.

In doing all that this year, as we prepared for this cover, we discovered precisely ZERO actresses of color in the Oscar conversation — at least in the weeks starting early September when the roundtables are put together, weeks before they take place and months before the nominations are announced January 14.

“The awful truth is that there are no minority actresses in genuine contention for an Oscar this year,” he continues. “… Unless the half-dozen men and women now running the major studios demand and foster a culture of diversity, the status quo will continue as it is.”

It’s a strange note, one that both preemptively accepts blame and shifts it. On Twitter, people have argued that it amounts to a cop-out:

I asked David Sims, who’s more plugged into the Oscars race than I am, if there really are no real contenders of color. He said he couldn’t think of any non-white performances catching buzz for Best Actress right now, but added that “the impact of plucking more of a ‘fringe candidate’ like Kiki Rodriguez in Tangerine would bring a lot more publicity to a worthy performance.” Sophie’s take: “It doesn’t seem like a wholly uncynical decision. They get to put the obvious white actresses on their cover AND they get to show how disgusted they are by it.”