The 90th Academy Awards ceremony, aka the Oscars, managed to avoid conflicting with the 2018 Winter Olympics, but not with the hot topic of diversity.
Just as Darnell Hunt published his report on Hollywood diversity, subtitled Five Years of Progress and Missed Opportunities, – suggesting that America’s increasingly diverse audience prefers diverse film and television content with diverse casts and creator – the global box office success of Black Panther, a movie with a black lead and predominantly black cast, followed; and then came Frances McDormand who with her acceptance speech made the term ‘inclusion rider’ parlance.
Frances McDormand, the winner of the best actress prize for her performance as a grieving mother in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, finished her speech with: “I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentlemen: inclusion rider,” and the two words really came to resonate, sending millions of viewers straight to Google to look up the meaning of the phrase ‘inclusion rider’ and turning the term into an instant social trigger.
What is an inclusion rider? The term rider to name ‘a supplementary clause or codicil added to a document after its first drafting’ entered the English legal jargon circa 1650, to be firstly recorded as a rider-roll and defined in a 1656 Plea to the Crown as: “That which is certified shall be annexed to the Record, and is called a Rider-roll.”
The meaning of ‘a supplementary clause in a performer’s contract specifying particular requirements for accommodation, food, drink, etc. , along with his individual needs or demands on a project’ appeared in the 1970s, with one of the first articles to introduce the term to the general audience appearing in a 1979 issue of The Washington Post: “Few fans know it, but one of the perks of performing is the contractual ‘food rider’ requiring promoters to supply stars with anything from caviar to Don Perignon.” And the rider as a fame-meter, best described in The Language of Rock’n’Roll book, written by the famously infamous The Young & Moody Band in 1985: “To many acts a rider is a bit of a status symbol and in a way can be a gauge of the size and importance of the performer.”
And it is exactly the importance of the performer that can vastly contribute to diversity when celebrities consider negotiating the insertion of more inclusion rider clauses in their future contracts.
The term, itself, was coined by Stacy Smith, a university professor and a civil-rights and employment-practice attorney, who in an October talk at TEDWomen 2016 paved the way ahead: “Imagine what would happen if the film industry aligned its values with what it shows on-screen. It could foster inclusion and acceptance for girls and women, people of colour, the LGBT community, individuals with disabilities, and so many more around the world. The only thing that the film industry has to do is unleash its secret weapon, and that’s storytelling.”
According to her, a typical inclusion rider clause to enhance diversity should specify the requirement that the crew of a film, for example, ensures proper representation and inclusion of women, people of colour, LGBT people and people with disabilities; and the idea is as simple as to ensure the world onscreen looks like the world in which we live.