Los Angeles: In a matter of days, the whole cultural landscape shifted.
Protests against racial injustice — sparked by the police killing of an unarmed black man, George Floyd — sent the entertainment industry on its biggest housecleaning in years. Companies canceled popular and lucrative TV shows featuring police officers, pulled movies glorifying the Civil War days, and banned the appearance of Confederate flags at sporting events. A multiplatinum-selling band even changed its name.
The real work of fighting discrimination is still ahead, but it’s a good sign that the industry is taking on these issues, said Ana-Christina Ramón, a sociologist and co-author of a UCLA report about diversity in Hollywood. “It’s really going to be all about the details, and the work they’re doing, and if they’re going to be transparent, and if they’re going to hold themselves accountable.”
The momentum began to build earlier this month when the music industry held a “blackout” on June 2 to call attention to racial injustice. Movie studios, television networks, toy companies, sports leagues and celebrities followed suit and posted black squares on social media to show their support.
But it was this week that everything boiled over.
Actor Hartley Sawyer is fired from the CW show “The Flash” after racist tweets he posted in 2014 resurfaced. Eric Wallace, the showrunner of the Warner Bros.-produced superhero drama, says the tweets are “indicative of the larger problem in our country.” Sawyer apologizes, saying he’s “ashamed and disappointed.”
Adam Rapoport, editor in chief of Bon Appetit magazine, steps down over accusations of discrimination and racist behavior. He apologizes for his “failings.” Rapoport is one of three high-profile departures in journalism this week: James Bennet quit the New York Times after the publication of an op-ed that called for using the military to quell protests, and Refinery29 editor Christene Barberich left over criticism of workplace culture.
ViacomCBS Inc.’s Paramount Network confirms that it has canceled “Cops,” a reality show that’s run on various channels for more than three decades. The series has drawn criticism for giving a skewed perception of policing.
British comedy “Little Britain” is jettisoned from streaming services, including Netflix Inc., the BBC’s iPlayer and BritBox, over its repeated use of blackface. A BBC spokesperson tells the Telegraph newspaper that “times have changed” since the sketch-comedy program first aired in the mid-2000s. Netflix also ends up dropping “The Mighty Boosh” and “The League of Gentlemen,” two other British comedies that used blackface.
More than 300 theater artists sign a letter calling some in the industry “part of a house of cards built on white fragility and supremacy.”
HBO Max subscribers discover that “Gone With the Wind” has been pulled from the service. The AT&T Inc. division says it will bring the 1939 movie back once it can add “a discussion of its historical context” and a denouncements of its racist depictions.
Comcast Corp.’s Bravo fires four cast members from the reality show “Vanderpump Rules” for racist behavior. “We all have a part to play to create a kinder, more just society,” Lisa Vanderpump, the show’s star, says later on Instagram.
Nascar bars the Confederate battle flag from its events and properties, saying the symbol runs against its commitment to make fans feel included. Bubba Wallace, Nascar’s only black driver, had previously called for the ban.
A&E cancels “Live P.D.,” a law-enforcement reality show that once filmed a black man dying at the hands of police. “Live P.D.” was A&E’s top show, and the network had just renewed it the previous month. (The show may return with changes, a network representative says.)
The Recording Academy changes the name of the “urban contemporary” Grammy Award, part of a broader push by the music industry to stop using “urban” to refer to black artists. But the academy doesn’t totally abandon the term.
Country group Lady Antebellum, whose name celebrated the Old South, says it will now go by Lady A: “We are regretful and embarrassed to say that we did not take into account the associations that weigh down this word referring to the period of history before the Civil War, which includes slavery.” A blues singer later complains that she’s already using the stage name Lady A.
An advertiser revolt is underway against Fox News host Tucker Carlson after he made controversial comments about the Black Lives Matter movement. Walt Disney Co., Papa John’s International Inc. and T-Mobile US Inc. say in recent days that they’ll no longer advertise on his show.
Amazon.com Inc. is considering pulling the television show “The Dukes of Hazzard” from its video-streaming service, a person familiar with the matter says. The series, which aired on CBS in the 1970s and ’80s, featured a car emblazoned with the Confederate battle flag that was dubbed the General Lee.
Disney’s ABC casts its first black lead for “The Bachelor,” responding to pleas for more diversity on the long-running reality show.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences says films will have to meet new standards for inclusion or they won’t be eligible for Oscars. “We will amend — and continue to examine — our rules and procedures to ensure that all voices are heard and celebrated,” says Dawn Hudson, the academy’s chief executive officer.
UKTV, a broadcaster owned by the BBC, says it removed an episode of British comedy “Fawlty Towers” because it contains slurs. The 1975 episode shows a character using racist insults in a conversation about the West Indies cricket team. John Cleese, the show’s star, decries the move on Twitter, saying the character using the slurs was being satirized and the BBC was “gutless and contemptible.”
The industry is likely to continue to change policies and purge questionable material. But the bigger question is whether media and entertainment companies can follow through on diversifying their ranks.
More than 90% of studio heads are white, while almost three-quarters of film leads are white, according to the report from the UCLA College of Social Sciences. White people only account for about 60% of the U.S. population.
Ramón said the entertainment business must address deeper, structural issues to bolster equality. Minorities need to be actively sought out, hired and then championed by people within the organization, she said.
“It’s a good sign to think about it and get rid of something problematic, but it’s an easy thing,” she said. The hard part comes now.- Bloomberg