Matt Damon and Ben Affleck are getting the side eye for adding inclusion riders to their projects, but at least they’re DOING SOMETHING
Following Frances McDormand’s rousing speech at the 2018 Oscars, which introduced the phrase “inclusion rider” not only to industry outsiders but to most of Hollywood, too, it seems change is finally on the horizon. Just days after the Oscars, Michael B. Jordan revealed that his production company, Outlier Society, would be attaching inclusion riders onto all of its projects.
And now, two of Hollywood’s biggest (and often problematic) names are following suit: Matt Damon and Ben Affleck will attach inclusion riders to all of their future Pearl Street films. Applauding Jordan for his public commitment to expanding diversity, filmmaker Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni took to Twitter to share Pearl Street’s own decision to adopt inclusion riders in all future productions.
".@michaelb4jordan Thank you for always supporting broader representation in the industry," she wrote. "On behalf of Pearl Street Films, Matt Damon, @BenAffleck, Jennifer Todd, Drew Vinton & I will be adopting the #InclusionRider for all of our projects moving forward."
Prior to McDormand’s speech at the Oscars, the existence of an inclusion rider — a contract stipulation that actors and actresses can add prior to signing the agreement, ensuring the cast and crew on their films are diverse — was largely unknown. In the press room backstage, McDormand revealed that it’s a term she’d only just learned about, and that she was amazed that she’d been in Hollywood for decades without ever encountering it.
Considering that Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s track records with diversity is murky at best, this is definitely a much-needed change.
During a 2015 episode of Project Greenlight, Damon got into a heated exchange with Dear White People’s Effie Brown over diversity behind the camera, with Damon saying it was more important to have diversity in front of the camera. The exchange went viral, and Damon later apologized. He and Affleck have also each come under fire for white-washing prior roles, with Damon receiving heat for his 2016 “white savior” film, The Great Wall, and Affleck facing criticism for casting himself as Tony Mendez in Argo.
In recent months, Damon and Affleck have also found themselves under fire over allegations of sexual harassment in Hollywood, with Affleck himself accused of groping actress Hilarie Burton, which he later apologized for, and Damon consistently tripping over himself to make less-than-informed remarks regarding the wave of sexual harassment allegations. Damon later apologized for his many missteps, telling Today, “I should get in the back seat and close my mouth for a while.”
Many may be wary of Damon and Affleck’s actual commitment to diversity.
But the two women behind inclusion riders, Kalpana Kotagal and the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative’s Stacy Smith, told Variety they’re happy to see the pair get on board with the idea.
"It’s great to see Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and the Pearl Street Films team using their influence to create opportunities for people from underrepresented groups to enter the industry," they said. "The Inclusion Rider is an important tool for Hollywood, and other industries, to create workplaces that truly reflect our diverse world.
We’re happy to see Damon and Affleck making a positive change in their production company, and we hope they also take the time to really educate themselves about the value of diversity.