Brie Larson pushes for film criticism diversity at awards show

Winners at the Women in Film Crystal + Lucy Awards took the opportunity to advocate for diversity both in front of and behind the camera.  

Chris Pizzello/AP
Brie Larson speaks on the importance of diversity in film criticism at the Women in Film Crystal + Lucy Awards on June 13, 2018. A USC study showing almost 80 percent of film critics are white men prompted the discussion on equal representation in film criticism a the event.

Frances McDormand never uttered the words "inclusion rider" at the Women In Film Crystal + Lucy Awards Wednesday night in Beverly Hills, but she did cheekily place a red bumper sticker with the phrase written clearly in black capital letters on her backside. It got the point across.

Not that she needed to do a repeat performance. The concept was made instantly famous through her Oscar speech earlier this year and it proved to be a recurring theme of the evening, which saw Brie Larson making a plea for more diversity in film criticism and ABC president Channing Dungey advocating for diverse voices not just on screen but behind it too.

Ms. Larson, who was given the Crystal Award for Excellence in Film, used her platform to draw attention to a USC study published this week that found that film critics are almost 80 percent male, and largely white. Women of color made up 2.5 percent of top critics, according to the study.

"Am I saying that I hate white dudes? No, I am not," Larson said. "But if you make a movie that is a love letter to women of color there is an insanely low chance that a woman of color would get to see that movie ... I don't need a 40-year-old white dude to tell me what didn't work about 'A Wrinkle in Time.'"

She called on film studios and publicity teams to invite diverse critics and reporters to press screenings and junkets.

Larson also announced that both the Sundance Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival will, in response, allocate 20 percent of press credentials to underrepresented journalists.

Ms. Dungey received the evening's other top honor, the Lucy Award for Excellence in Television.

"Long before it was a conversation, long before it was a bumper sticker, Channing was just going about the business of making good television and making good decisions and hiring people based on their talent," said Ellen Pompeo, who presented the award to Dungey. "You feel like anything is possible working for this woman."

Dungey has been in the spotlight in the past two weeks since the sudden cancellation of "Roseanne." Although she never mentioned the show, or Roseanne Barr, and her highlight reel was absent of both, Dungey did speak about "uncertain times" and quote Michelle Obama saying "when they go low, we go high."

"When we see things happening around us that are counter to our beliefs, our actions must match our words," Dungey said, with her 5-year-old daughter by her side on stage. "That's not always easy to do."

Other honorees included the women in front of and behind the camera of "Black Panther," who got the Lexus Beacon Award. The trailblazing production had 12 female department heads out of 16 positions. "Love, Simon" actress Alexandra Shipp took home the Max Mara Face of the Future award, and Dr. Stacy L. Smith, the founder and director of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative was recognized for creating the "inclusion rider."

Dr. Smith said Ms. McDormand's Oscar night improvisation, when she chose to draw attention to the inclusion rider, changed her life.

"I have not slowed down since the Academy Awards," she said.

The event, supported by Max Mara, Lancôme and Lexus, is the biggest fundraiser of the year for the advocacy group's educational and philanthropic programs in Los Angeles. Women in Film advocates for gender parity in the entertainment industry, and Wednesday's celebration marked the group's 45th anniversary. McDormand helped introduce 22 trailblazing women in the entertainment industry, from filmmaker Allison Anders to producer Gale Anne Hurd, who all joined her on stage to a standing ovation from the room.

McDormand said she became a feminist at age 15 in 1972, when someone told her that feminism meant equal pay for equal work.

"That seemed like a good idea to me. I was also told I could have it all and lo and behold I did. But many haven't, many haven't. And we are still feminists so that means that there is not equal pay for equal work. That is not OK by me," she said. "This conversation is decades old. I have this feeling in my gut that times are changing."

This story was reported by The Associated Press. 

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