Amazon Studios’ Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion team released an “inclusion playbook” that sets standards for the number of minority and underrepresented employees and characters required to create a movie or series.
The playbook is based on Amazon Studio’s inclusion policy, which requires that “Each film or series with a creative team of three or more people in above-the-line roles (Directors, Writers, Producers) should ideally include a minimum 30% women and 30% members of an underrepresented racial/ethnic group.” The media giant aims to increase these goals to 50 percent by 2024.
Amazon’s policy also aims to include one speaking character from the following categories, with half of them being women: “LGBTQIA+, person with a disability, and three regionally underrepresented race/ethnic/cultural groups.” According to the policy, a “single character can fulfill one or more of these identities.”
The hiring portion of the playbook appears counterintuitive as directors are told that hiring based on inclusion is not about “giving people a chance,” though using work experience as an indicator of success is considered inappropriate.
The playbook claims that “The ultimate goal of every production should be to build a talent pool and hire individuals with skill sets that enable them to execute on the story on time and within budget. This isn’t about ‘giving people a chance’; it’s about hiring the best and most qualified person for the job taking into account both their work and lived experiences.”
In a separate portion, the playbook tells directors not to emphasize work experience in hiring the best people.
“One note of caution: Given the historic inequities in Hollywood, many of the [qualifying] indicators could favor the status quo (i.e., work experience). As such, those filmmakers and content creators outside of the status quo are often framed as a ‘risk,’ or as bringing less-than-ideal experience to a particular job.”
The playbook also insists that movies and series showcase LGBTQ+ and underrepresented romantic partners in stories. Directors must ask the following questions to ensure that movies and series are not stereotypical of the LGBT community.
- Are LGBTQ characters solely defined by their sexual identities?
- Are people with disabilities infantilized and/or desexualized?
- Are LGBTQ+ characters in overly feminized or masculine occupations? For example, are gay characters shown in appearance-related professions (fashion, entertainment, etc.)?
Inclusion standards for comedy and satire were established in the playbook as well. Comedians were told that they can only make fun of groups of which they are a part.
“Begin by thinking about whether, as the storyteller, your humor comes from outside or inside the group at the center of the comedy,” the playbook reads. “Out-group members using humor to mock or joke about characters from underrepresented groups can be highly problematic. Humor may reflect insensitivity, play to broad stereotypes, and reinforce historical tropes for members of underrepresented groups.”
The playbook also insists that “chivalry” and “rescue storylines” can be “problematic.”
Amazon has joined the ranks of other big tech companies moving towards more “inclusive” standards. Google has been perpetuating standards of “inclusivity” by shifting its suggestions and edits predictive algorithms to remove gendered language. Google Docs technology will now correct gendered words such as “mailman” to “mail carrier,” or “chairman” to “chairperson.”
Google has also teamed up with a California-based nonprofit linked to the “cancellation” of Dr. Seuss’s books to create an “anti-racist” book list for K-12 teachers. Google aims to put books such as “Woke Baby,” “M is for Melanin,” and “Hey Black Child,” in the hands of millions of students nationwide.
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