Actor Richard Dreyfuss recently appeared on PBS’s “Firing Line with Margaret Hoover.” During that interview, he exploded on woke Hollywood’s new inclusivity standards, calling them “patronizing” and explaining why they make him want to “vomit.”
The subject of Hollywood’s woke inclusion standards came up when Hoover mentioned to Dreyfuss that, starting next year, “films will be required to meet new inclusion standards to be eligible for the Academy Award for Best Picture.”
Explaining the new standards for the benefit of the audience, she said, “They’ll have to have a certain percentage of actors or crew from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups. What do you think of these new inclusion standards for films?”
And that set Drefuss off. Beginning, he said, “They make me vomit. Because this is an art form. It’s also a form of commerce, and it makes money. But it’s an art. And no one should be telling me as an artist that I have to give in to the latest, most current idea of what morality is.
Continuing, he noted that the idea of legislating actors act in a certain way to avoid hurting people’s feelings is absurd, saying, “And what are we risking? Are we really risking hurting people’s feelings? You can’t legislate that. And – you have to let life be life.”
Still he wasn’t done. He then noted that he doubts that many people even care, and gave an example of why the standards are absurd, saying, “And I’m sorry, I don’t think that there is a minority or a majority in the country that has to be catered to like that. You know, Laurence Olivier was the last white actor to play Othello, and he did it in 1965. And he did it in blackface. And he played a black man brilliantly.”
He continued to thrash the standards for being absurd and described them as patronizing and thoughtless, saying, “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? This is so patronizing. It’s so thoughtless, and treating people like children.”
The New York Times, cheering the new inclusion standards and then explaining why it thinks they aren’t sweeping enough, said in 2021:
What a difference five years makes. After a second all-white group of actors was nominated and the activist April Reign’s #OscarsSoWhite hashtag became a rallying cry, the academy began taking great strides to diversify a membership that had been largely white and male for nine decades. Those inclusion goals were met months ago, but this week, the academy unveiled an even more ambitious diversity initiative with the intention of reshaping not just how movies are rewarded, but also who’s hired to make them in the first place.
Meant to take effect by the 96th Oscars in 2024, these new guidelines will require films to meet two of four diversity standards to be eligible for a best-picture nomination. It’s an initiative that could, on its face, encourage studios to enact more equitable hiring practices and broaden the range of stories that are told.
An emphasis on the latter two criteria would radically change the stories that are greenlit and the people who appear in them. But the first criterion, which mandates that “at least one of the lead actors or significant supporting actors is from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group,” will prove easy for most films to satisfy. Recent best-picture nominees like “Joker,” which is top-heavy with white stars but features Zazie Beetz as the would-be love interest, or “La La Land,” a white-led love story with John Legend in a supporting role, could still sail through Standard A with little to worry about.
Featured image credit: screengrab from the embedded video
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