Over the past couple of days, the Los Angeles Times’ Envelope magazine, which is dedicated to awards season, has managed to piss off a lot of people on Twitter, thanks to its December 21 cover, which featured a group of all white (and overwhelmingly blonde) actresses. The women pictured in the group portrait —
Margot Robbie, Diane Kruger, Saoirse Ronan, Annette Bening, Kate Winslet and Jessica Chastain — were placed above the coverline, “A Shift in Focus: Actresses Call for a Change in the Way Many Stories Are Told.”
The article was a roundtable-style story discussing working in Hollywood and how women are treated onscreen. The topic was definitely timely, but again, there were no women of color featured — at all. And a conversation about diversity and equality in storytelling can’t happen if you’re not representing all the stakeholders.
The backlash on social media pointing out the lack of women of color on the cover and in the feature was quick — and heavy. “It’s time white actresses speak up when their WOC colleagues are ignored,” one user wrote.
“I don’t understand how after all the conversations on #OscarSoWhite, White Feminism, etc a cover like this could be approved with this headline,” another tweeted. “And did any of these A-List actresses demand that actresses of color and other diverse demos be included?”
Jessica Chastain, who stars in Molly’s Game, responded to her participation in a series of tweets on Saturday evening and clarified in some responses that the cover focused on celebrating female-lead films. She admitted that it wasn’t a good look for the Los Angeles Times to omit women of color on its cover and called for more inclusive storytelling. She then prompted her followers to tell her their favorite WOC female-lead 2017 films. In her next tweet, she incredulously told her followers that she can’t even name five 2017 films that featured WOC leads. And it’s not for a loss of memory: That’s how much women of color and their experiences continue to be underrepresented, ignored, and erased in the film industry.
After she responded, many on Twitter continued to call her out for knowingly being part of a cover shoot that featured only white women and blatantly contradicts the values she promotes — and suggested that she could have used her platform to change the conversation instead. (The other actresses on the cover still haven’t commented at the time of publication.)
It’s incredibly important in the male-dominated industry of Hollywood to advocate for telling women’s stories. But they need to be inclusive of all women — not just white women — and this cover illustrates the absolutely urgent need for that.
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