From the outside, Hollywood is highly attractive to many aspiring young actors. But Hollywood has never been free from injustice and inequality. The lack of diversity and behind-the-scenes issues existed when the film industry first came to light. Only within the last decade have these problems been heavily brought to the public eye due to an increase in technology and changing perspectives. More and more actors are speaking out about their experience in Hollywood film life and the ugly truth is finally being revealed. Here is a summary of only a handful of controversies within the Hollywood film industry that have taken place within the past decade.
Racial diversity in film award show categories has always been an issue. However, in recent years, our society has become increasingly vocal about socio-political affairs. People will not stand to watch the same injustices continue to play out. In 2016, when the Academy Awards revealed their nominees for the year, people were appalled to see there were no black actors nominated in any of the acting categories or directing categories. This was following the 2015 Oscars where similarly, there were no non-white actors nominated in the four major acting categories: Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress. The hashtag #OscarsSoWhite was trending for the second year in a row.
Movies such as Straight Outta Compton, Beasts of No Nation, and Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq were snubbed from many categories despite receiving strong reviews from critics. Will Smith and Idris Elba were not nominated in any Oscar acting category despite receiving Golden Globe nominations that same year. Creed actors, as well as Samuel L. Jackson of The Hateful Eight were shunned. Creed did garner a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Sylvester Stallone and Straight Outta Compton received a nomination for Best Original Screenplay, but some argue those nominations were attributed to white people who partook in the movie.
This was a major travesty for the film industry. George Clooney, Michael Moore, Spike Lee, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Will Smith announced that they were boycotting the ceremony. The president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, was “heartbroken” and the Academy ensured change going forward.
Despite the backlash that the Academy received, many citizens and actors noted that the problem did not stem from the Academy itself, but that the issue was rooted in a lack of actor diversity amongst agencies. Chris Rock, who hosted the 2016 Oscars, stated in his opening monologue that black actors want to get the same opportunities as white actors. Since these incidents, the Academy has introduced rules to ensure more racial diversity in its categories. In the following years, movies starring actors of colour such as Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians were released and skyrocketed in popularity.
All Male Nominees
Another controversy that has garnered backlash is the lack of women nominated in categories. The reasoning for years over the lack of female nominations was due to the lack of opportunities that women had to star in or direct high-calibre roles. However, 2019 and 2020 saw the creation of many highly ranked female-directed films, yet this still resulted in no female Best Director nominations.
At the 2020 Golden Globes ceremony, many movies directed by women such as Hustlers, Little Women, and A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood were not nominated. Movies directed by women were snubbed from the Best Director category, Best Screenplay category, and Best Motion Picture category despite these films ranking highly amongst several critics. The Golden Globes have only seen five female directors nominated in the 78-year history of the ceremonies. The year when many notable female-directed movies come about, not one female director garners a nomination.
The 2020 BAFTA ceremonies received similar backlash when there were no female nominees for Best Director either. Rebel Wilson, who presented the award for the category, slid in a joke referring to this outrage. The last female director to be nominated for a BAFTA was in 2013 by Kathryn Bigelow.
Female nominees made up 31% of the total nominations at the 2020 Oscars, which was a record high at the time, even with having no female directors nominated.
Award shows are not the only sector in Hollywood in which there is a large gender divide. Of the top 100 grossing films in 2019, female directors made up only 10.7% of them, and yet, that was the highest it had been in over a decade. Despite this issue being a repeat event, people are no longer staying quiet about it. Many women shared their feelings about having no female nominees, and some, as in the case of Rebel Wilson and Natalie Portman, took a jab at the award shows on live television.
The gender pay discrepancy has been a long, ongoing issue in the film industry, and many other industries, and is now being addressed on a global platform. Women everywhere are strongly advocating for change when it comes to their salaries. Within the film industry, stories regarding pay discrepancy have come to light, especially during the rise of the MeToo and TimesUp movements.
One controversy that sparked debate was the salary disparity between actors Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams for their reshooting of the movie All the Money in the World. The reshooting took place during the week of American thanksgiving after Kevin Spacey, who was supposed to be in the film, received sexual assault allegations and was replaced by Christopher Plumber. Though both Mark Walhberg and Michelle Williams were represented by the William Morris Endeavor agency, Mark Wahlberg’s lawyers advocated that he be paid a heavy amount to reshoot his scenes. Presumably, Michelle Williams did not get this same negotiation.
In the end, Mark Wahlberg was reportedly paid $1.5 million while Michelle Williams was paid $80 per diem, totalling less than $1000, to reshoot. They both had around the same screen time.
Jimmy Kimmel, who hosted the 2018 Oscars, spoke about this controversy in his opening monologue and claimed that this story “shook” him. Mark Wahlberg announced after that he would be donating all $1.5 million to the TimesUp Legal Defense Fund.
This is only one of the countless cases of gender pay inequality within the film industry. For a long time, actresses did not make a spectacle about their lower salary in comparison to their male co-stars. Jennifer Lawrence is one actress who shared that she was afraid to negotiate her salary for fear of being seen as difficult. Now, Jennifer Lawrence along with other actresses such as Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson, and Cate Blanchett are strong advocators in addressing the gender pay gap and misogyny in the entertainment industry.
The Weinstein Effect
One of the most devastating scandals to have happened in the Hollywood film industry was the influx of sexual assault allegations against directors and actors, notably deemed the Weinstein Effect. These allegations came spiralling in one after the other, and it was a scary look into what had been secretly going on behind the scenes of film productions.
In late 2017, a few women came forward revealing decades of sexual assault incidences perpetrated by Harvey Weinstein, the co-founder of the entertainment company Miramax. More and more women who worked for Weinstein’s company revealed what Weinstein had done to them. Weinstein was released from the boards of his company and the Academy Awards expelled him, making him the second person ever to be expelled from the Academy. He is currently serving a prison sentence of 23 years.
Because of the rise of the MeToo and TimesUp movements, many victims have gained the strength to speak out about their stories. Many powerful men in Hollywood such as Kevin Spacey, James Franco, and Dustin Hoffman have been accused of or charged with sexual misconduct. This was the topic of discussion during the 2018 film award shows. The hosts of the Oscars and the Golden Globes, Jimmy Kimmel and Seth Meyers respectively, did not shy away from talking about the sexual assault allegations during their opening monologues.
These incidents shifted the atmosphere and perception of the film industry for those within it and for the general public. Sexual assault allegations in Hollywood are now taken more seriously. The 2019 film Bombshell was centred around sexual misconduct in a work environment. It told the real-life story of the sexual harassment allegations against the former chairman of Fox News, Roger Ailes.
The film industry, like every industry, has experienced and most likely will continue to face, injustice and discrimination. The scandals that have been brought to the public eye are only a portion of everything that goes on behind the scenes. Right now, with the power of social media and social movements, many actors and actresses are speaking out on major issues, and taboo topics are finally being addressed. There is still work to be done within the film industry to promote diversity, gender pay equality, and to condemn inappropriate behaviour. Hopefully, we will continue to witness people advocate for change in order to not let these issues subsist.