Ben Affleck & Matt Damon's Support Of Inclusion Riders Is Causing Controversy
At the 2018 Oscars, award-winner Frances McDormand brought inclusion riders to the light in her epic acceptance speech. Now, a term that's been relatively unknown for quite some time, even by actors, is finally making its way to the forefront. On Monday night, it was revealed that Ben Affleck and Matt Damon will support inclusion riders at their film company Pearl Street Projects. While other actors have shown their support for this cause, Affleck and Damon's action to do so is stirring some controversy.
As explained by People, an inclusion rider is "a clause in an actor’s contract that requires the cast and crew on the film be diverse and support gender equality in order to retain the actor." On March 12, producer Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni made the announcement on Twitter regarding Pearl Street Projects (which is home to films like 2016's Manchester by the Sea and Jason Bourne). "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," she wrote.
But because of Affleck and Damon's controversial actions in the past, their motives are being questioned and the two now face some backlash.
Jezebel, for example, took aim at the famous pair with the headline, "Ben Affleck and Diversity Expert Matt Damon Will Adopt Inclusion Riders for Their Films" — a recognition of the scrutiny the actors have received. Three years ago, Damon interrupted Effie Brown, an accomplished black producer, in an attempt to explain diversity to her. "When we’re talking about diversity you do it in the casting of the film not in the casting of the show," he said. Meanwhile, Brown was the only person of color in the group during the discussion.
Since the Harvey Weinstein exposé was published last fall, both men have come under fire while Time's Up and #MeToo movements sweep the nation. In November, Affleck was grilled by Stephen Colbert for allegations that he'd groped multiple women, including Hilarie Burton in 2003. In December, Damon spoke out about Weinstein, telling ABC News, "I do believe that there’s a spectrum of behavior... there’s a difference between patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation."
Thus, people are saying these past actions are at odds with inclusion riders and what they stand for — and now they're calling out Affleck and Damon.
However, others are optimistic about Affleck and Damon seemingly making the conscious effort to help move Hollywood forward. "Having such a huge production company as Pearl Street films behind the inclusion rider initiative can only be good for the business," writes Victoria Fell in Marie Claire. Others are giving the two the benefit of the doubt in hopes that they'll walk the walk and impact others in Hollywood.
It's better late than never for inclusion riders to get the immediacy and attention they deserve. McDormand ended her Oscar acceptance speech with the bold statement, “I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentlemen: inclusion rider." According to People, McDormand didn't even know what inclusion riders were until recently. "I just found out about this last week," the actor told reporters backstage. "This has always been available to everybody that does a negotiation on a film... you can ask for and or demand at least 50 percent diversity in not only the casting but also the crew. So the fact that I just learned that after 35 years of being in the film business, we’re not going back.”
Since McDormand's game-changing speech, more stars are standing behind the inclusion rider. Michael B. Jordan said he'd adopt inclusion riders at his production company. Brie Larson tweeted in support, saying, "I’m committed to the Inclusion Rider. Who’s with me?" Whitney Cummings explained inclusion riders on Twitter, saying, "We should support this for a billion reasons, but if you can't find a reason to, here's one: it will make movies better."
At a monumental time like this, optimism and education can only help us progress. Hopefully more higher-ups in Hollywood will lead by example, and mean it.