Netflix Says Inclusion Riders Aren’t Their Style

Meanwhile, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Michael B. Jordan, and Paul Feig announced they are their style.

Ten days on, and Frances McDormand‘s two words — “inclusion riders” — are still making the news. Several celebrities and companies have stood up to say they’ll support the clause. However, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings announced that his company would not. I’ll just get right to it, then. Why the heck not?

According to USA Today, Hastings said they’re “not so big on doing everything through agreements. We’re trying to do things creatively.” You can see that in much of the programming they’re bringing to the table. Their team-ups with Marvel have produced shows featuring women and African Americans like Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. They went the distance to ensure Mudbound qualified for prestige awards. But, “creatively” isn’t enough. Hollywood swims in creativity, and yet we are here.

Hastings went on to share that he would rather take crew diversity from a managerial approach, by allowing leadership to speak with the filmmakers before shooting. That just isn’t going to cut it. Why on earth would you refuse to codify something you claim to support in spirit? And, it’s no paltry matter. Netflix plans to spend $8 billion on content. They could single-handedly shift representation.

However, when you pair their desire to handle these issues behind the scenes with their general negotiating tactics, it becomes more troublesome. Do you remember back in January when Mo’nique disputed the cash amount Netflix offered her for her stand up special? They offered her $500,000 when Amy Schumer was offered $11 million. Additionally, while many content providers share viewership numbers with producers, Netflix doesn’t. How do you negotiate with someone based on return on investment when they choose not to share with you information they exclusively control?

Netflix clearly understands the value of access. USA Today also noted that Netflix has a problem with representation within its own board and staff. “The Netflix board consists of white men and a few white women. African Americans only make up 4% of staff and leadership; Latinos comprise 6% of staff and 5% of leaders.”

These core problems with representation are not unique to Netflix. While that may be so, this statement from Netflix isn’t happening in a vacuum. When McDormand used her acceptance speech at the Oscars to drop those two words on national television, it was a catalyzer. Her point is that A-List celebrities had the power all along.  All they have to do to effect major change when it comes to diversity is argue for it to be included in their contracts.

Well, at the time, I asked when all the A-Lister dudes would show us their inclusion riders. Because, if this representation is going to be fixed in Hollywood, or anywhere, the white guys who made the rules and benefited from them need to get on board.

Let me be clear, we’re also talking about what white guys need to do because, if we’re being honest, they’re really the ones who tend not to do anything about the problem. Like, everybody who isn’t a white guy both gets this and is also likely already very vocal about the problem.

The @Inclusionists who developed the concept? Led by women.

The first people to say they’ll support it? Women. African American men.

On March 7th, Michael B. Jordan announced his production company, Outlier Society, would support inclusion riders. He said, “I’ve been privileged to work with powerful woman and persons of color throughout my career and it’s Outlier’s mission to continue to create for talented individuals going forward.”

They get it. How many acceptance speeches, on what should unarguably be one of the most celebrated nights of their lives, need to be about inequality before we follow their lead?

We white guys need to listen.

And so some have.

Ben Affleck and Matt Damon have also thrown their company, Pearl Street Films, into the mix. Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni, head of their strategic outreach, shared in an email to Refinery 29 stating: “The inclusion rider uses strong language to encourage the hiring of people such that the cast and crew reflect what the world (and/or the world of the story) looks like. This is proven to be effective in combating implicit bias — which we do accept has been part of the problem since we’ve met so many well-meaning people who say they want to do better.”

Paul Feig announced that his company, Feigco Entertainment, also would adopt inclusion riders going forward.

Feig told the Guardian following his announcement that “it’s not that hard to do, and it’s just common sense. I feel like the people who don’t do it now and the studios and companies that don’t do it now are moving backward, not forward.”

Common sense, Netflix. Not that hard to do! There’s no real downside, other than a small blow to the absolute control of a cash-rich juggernaut. I’d like very much to know where Hulu stands on this. Same for Amazon and Apple. And Disney. The streaming wars are about to kick into high gear. This year, Netflix will outspend them all. Next year? Maybe not. Even the most practical business take says this is an easy lay-up for every Netflix competitor.

Do better, Netflix.

William Dass: Writer for Film School Rejects. He currently lives in Virginia, where he is very proud of his three kids, wife, and projector. Co-Dork on the In The Mouth of Dorkness podcast.