The cover of Vanity Fair's annual "Hollywood" issue is surrounded by a special kind of lore. Over the years, it's become both a representation of the film and television industry and a statement of where the industry is going. There's scrutiny over where certain actors appear in the multipage, foldout cover photo and the number of actors of color who are included, among other things.
Last year, for example, the cover featured barely any nonwhite actors, a sign that Hollywood and Vanity Fair's definition of it had regressed.
This year's cover — which debuted Monday on Snapchat — is notable because it only features women, and because the four women who appear before the fold are Jane Fonda, Cate Blanchett, Viola Davis, and Jennifer Lawrence:
The cover is more diverse than any of the four major acting categories at the Oscars this year. There's also a nod to older actresses, an acknowledgment of Hollywood's persistent problems of ageism and sexism, which it still hasn't solved — roles for older actresses are much rarer than roles for older actors, and female characters of a certain age are often played by much younger actresses.
What's also fascinating is that each of the four women pictured before the fold has spoken out about the problems with Hollywood in the past year. Blanchett spoke about the "lazy thinking" that means women — behind and in front of the camera — aren't given enough chances to succeed; Davis has been vocal about the need for diversity and the lack of roles for people of color; at Cannes last year, Fonda talked about the need for equal representation in movies; and Lawrence has been an advocate for equal pay.
It's a bold statement to feature women who have become some of Hollywood's biggest and most visible critics on the cover of your Hollywood issue. And it's one that many people in Hollywood should listen to.