It’s no secret that Hollywood has an inclusion problem — just search #OscarsSoWhite on Twitter.
Luckily for us, the Academy isn't the only body heeding the call for more diversity. Ryan Murphy announced earlier this week that he will be heading up a new program aimed directly at solving the issue of who “belongs.”
The "Scream Queens" creator revealed that he is committed to having 50 percent of all director slots on his shows filled by either women or minority candidates by the end of 2016. He defines “minority candidates” as people of color or members of the LGBTQ community. According to Rolling Stone, the new program will run through Murphy's 20th Century Fox Television-based production company.
Murphy also explained that he was inspired by the recent emotional speech of former publicist Nanci Ryder: "Nanci said, 'People in power, you have a position and responsibility to change the industry,' and I thought, 'She's right.'"
This is a good thing. Murphy’s fingerprints are all over television. He is the creator of a string of popular television shows: "Glee," "American Horror Story," "Scream Queens," and most recently, American Crime Story: The People V. OJ Simpson. In many ways, he's a satirist who pushes boundaries with his work, unabashedly showing audiences the ugly and perverse side of humanity.
Murphy's sudden urge to diversify seems to be a response to the #OscarsSoWhite backlash sweeping through Hollywood.
Blogger and activist April Reign created the hashtag last year to express her dismay at "the lack of diversity and inclusion with respect to the [Oscars] nominees."
There's still a need for the hashtag since the Oscars are even whiter this year.
All actors nominated for awards? White.
Films that tell stories about black culture? Shut out of the Best
Picture category. But the academy has the power to lead by example, and
they really need to up their inclusion game.
Even President Obama weighed in on the issue, telling a group of reporters: “I think when everybody’s story is told, then that makes for better art.” He added, “I think the Oscar debate is really just an expression of this broader issue. Are we making sure that everybody is getting a fair shot? Look for talent and provide opportunity to everybody.”
This year’s backlash sent that message, though: The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences board recently endorsed radical changes aimed at recognizing more people of color, more women, and their work.
So, how does Murphy fair in all of this controversy?
Some say he’s responsible for reviving the careers of actresses over 40 — like Angela Bassett, Jessica Lange, and Kathy Bates, who have all given stellar performances in the "American Horror Story" anthology series — while others have criticized him for his less-than-stellar track record of including and showcasing those who have been historically marginalized in his work. Mic called him out for an “abhorrent record" regarding inclusion.
But Murphy’s announcement of the Half initiative implies he’s heard all the criticisms, and — hopefully — a change is gonna come… and we can’t wait to see what it looks like.