The following post refers to writer, director and actor John Krasinski’s recent comments about diversity in Hollywood.
I preface by stating that I appreciate John’s response here. He is saying the right things, and that demonstrates a generational evolution in the industry, especially when you consider what Michael Caine and Charlotte Rampling have recently added to the conversation.
While I appreciate John’s words, I also think his career has contributed to, and stemmed from, the problem itself. This includes, but is not limited to, his most recent effort with 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. There’s something to be said for the tremendous amount of privilege he wears as he walks through this industry – not to mention this world. Somehow, Hollywood keeps greenlighting his projects, even though they fail to turn a profit (feel free to look up box office results for Aloha, Promised Land, Big Miracle, Something Borrowed), even though they fail to garner critical acclaim (feel free to fact-check at Rotten Tomatoes or Metacritic), even though they fail to win awards, even though they fail as pieces of art that push our generation forward to shed light on stories culled from diverse intersections of race, gender, class and orientation. Again and again, this industry greenlights him to write and direct and act, even though any one of the above failures would have been reason enough not to keep funding films about women, about people of color, about lives in poverty, about LGBTQ experiences. For my purposes today, I’m not even going to unpack how these white, heterosexual and male institutions – film distribution, film critique, awards committees and our very own culture – impact the so-called ‘success’ of a film. I’m just going to take these flawed instruments at face value, and examine John’s career against their measures of ‘success’. And here is what I find:
Even though his many projects have failed in every way a film can fail, he still gets money to make and distribute more. Consider that for a moment. It’s not inconsequential. What does it mean when his words speak out for representation, but his entire career – in an industry built to create images that influence our cultural possibilities – is premised upon the critical misunderstanding that white heterosexual men are always interesting and exclusively bankable?
Now imagine what a difference it might make if John (and many others like him) took that privilege and partnered to co-create a project with a woman, with a person of color, with a person that comes from a different class background, with an LGBT or Q person. Imagine if he wasn’t just talking, and sounding good, but factually and actively being an ally. Imagine if he shared his podium, and let someone else use the mic.
Now that would be a turning point.