While many of us were busy binging on Netflix, family, and cookies over the holiday weekend, a super important conversation took place on Twitter after the cover of the Los Angeles Times‘ The Envelope cover was released with the headline “A Shift In Focus,” referring to diversity in Hollywood, but featuring only white women.
It was a pretty jarring image for most people, including Jessica Chastain, who was included on the cover. Chastain responsed to the Envelope’s lack of diversity on Twitter, stating “Its a sad look that there’s no WOC in this pic of us promoting our female lead films. The industry needs to become more inclusive in its storytelling.” She then asked her followers to name their favorite lead women of color in film this year and lamented that she couldn’t even think of a list herself.
On social media, women of color were the first to point out the fact that there was not one woman of color featured in the group, which is absurd, given that there are so many that could have been included. WNYC reporter Rebecca Carroll was one of the first to call out Chastain directly. She wrote, “Honestly @jes_chastain as an outspoken voice for equality how do you pose for a photo like this and not feel absolutely mortified by the blatant exclusion? How is it possible to not understand the msg this photo sends?”
Chastain responded with her tweet, agreeing, but still dodging the accusation that she didn’t say one single word to anyone throwing the shoot together, as she possibly could have.
Here’s most of the thread here. Note the cameo from Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s Stephanie Beatriz BTW.
Although the thread goes on with people noting their favorite roles for women of color this year, and discussing how lead roles are disproportionately given to white women still, there’s another issue at play here. For starters, much of the media coverage surrounding Chastain’s “sad look” tweet make it seem like she started it and lauds her for her bravery when it comes for taking the noble road.
But she didn’t start it. Women of color did and it was almost like an afterthought when she agreed it was a “sad look.”
Look at some of these headlines.
As much as we love Chastain for at least responding to Carroll, there were so many more steps she could have taken that would have prevented this conversation from happening in the first place. Like, when she asked her booking manager who she was posing with, she could have refused to work until they sorted the diversity problem. If they wanted to include a POC but they didn’t have space on the cover, she could have relinquished her spot. As a producer in Hollywood, if she can’t think of five leading roles for women of color in the past year, she could create some.
To really “shift the focus,” which we assume just had to be a sarcastic headline given the imagery, people like Chastain, and Annette Bening, Diane Kruger, Margot Robbie, Saoirse Ronan or Kate Winslet have to start actually doing things, instead of apologizing for not noticing that there were no women of color in the glam room with them.
We all need to get better at this, since knowing that a lack of diversity, sexism, or racism is “bad” just isn’t enough. And we need to start giving credit to the people who are actually leading the conversation, because Chastain, as much as we love her and love that she spoke up about the all-white The Envelope cover, was unfortunately no hero this time around. Let’s all be better, please.