Legendary actor Richard Dreyfuss slams Hollywood’s new diversity and inclusion guidelines, but are these standards really benefiting minorities in American films?
Hollywood has recently introduced new inclusion standards, but not everyone is on board with the changes. Richard Dreyfuss, the iconic actor from “Jaws” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” has made headlines with his strong condemnation of these new guidelines. During an interview with PBS‘ “Firing Line,” Dreyfuss stated that the standards make him “vomit” and argued that they stifle creativity, risk, and artistry.
The new inclusion standards, set to be implemented at the Academy Awards starting next year, require films competing for a “Best Picture” Oscar to meet specific diversity criteria. Films must have a certain percentage of actors or crew from under-represented racial or ethnic groups in order to be eligible for the prestigious award. However, Dreyfuss believes that this approach is patronizing and treats people like children.
The legendary actor further explained his stance by defending Lawrence Olivier‘s controversial “Blackface” portrayal of Shakespeare‘s “Othello” in 1968. He asked rhetorically, “Am I being told that I will never have a chance to play a Black man? Is someone else being told that if they’re not Jewish, they shouldn’t play the ‘Merchant of Venice?’ Are we crazy? Do we not know that art is art?”
Despite Dreyfuss‘s critique, Hollywood‘s efforts to increase diversity and representation are based on some alarming data. A 2020 study by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative found that only 33.1% of speaking characters in the top 100 films of 2019 were from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups. This falls short of the 39.9% of the U.S. population that identifies as a racial or ethnic minority.
Furthermore, the same study revealed that only 17.8% of films had leads or co-leads from underrepresented racial or ethnic groups. These numbers suggest that there is still a long way to go when it comes to achieving equal representation in the film industry.
While Dreyfuss may not agree with Hollywood‘s new inclusion standards, it’s clear that the industry is taking steps to address the imbalance in representation. Only time will tell if these new guidelines will have the desired impact on diversity and inclusion in American films.