“And now I’d like to get some perspective,” Frances McDormand said, setting her newly minted Oscar for Best Actress on the floor, “because I’ve got some things to say.”
After a night that somehow managed to both acknowledge and skirt the big issues of the day — like #MeToo and Hollywood’s ongoing attempts to diversify its ranks — McDormand stared out at the rapt Academy Awards audience and decided she was going to be a little more direct.
“If I may be so honored to have all the female nominees in every category stand with me tonight,” she said, imploring the room with her arms spread. “The actors ... the filmmakers, the producers, the directors, the writers, the cinematographer, the composers, the songwriters, the designers! Come on!”
And lo, they did. After all, McDormand — displaying a canny sense of how Hollywood works — had encouraged Meryl Streep to stand, reasoning that “if you do it, everybody else will.”
But McDormand wasn’t satisfied with just making the room erupt in cheers for the women nominees. “Look around, ladies and gentlemen, because we all have stories to tell and projects we need financed,” she said. “Don’t talk to us about it at the parties tonight; invite us into your office in a couple days — or you can come to ours, whichever suits you best —and we’ll tell you all about them.”
Going one step further into true industry inside baseball, McDormand left with an instructive mic drop: “I have two words to leave with you tonight ... inclusion rider.”
The phrase might have sent plenty of confused people watching the ceremony straight to Google, but McDormand made a safe bet in assuming that the people in the room with her knew exactly what she was talking about. A “rider” is part of a contract in which someone can specify their individual needs or demands on a project; a powerful Hollywood player like, say, Streep, could fight for an “inclusion rider” to ensure that the project they’re signing on to will include a more gender- and race-inclusive talent pool.
With this speech, McDormand didn’t just make a heartfelt speech celebrating the creative women in that room and beyond. She also laid out legitimate, practical ways that the industry can grow and change to support the talent it has so long ignored and abused. What she and many of those standing nominees know is that it’s easy for people to say they support women, and another thing for them to actually support women in practice. Hopefully, more powerful people will see McDormand’s speech and understand that they can — and should — work to bridge that gap.