Oscar-nominated actress Jessica Chastain, who happens to be a renowned advocate for equality in Hollywood, recently drew criticism for appearing on the cover of Los Angeles Times’ magazine along with a bunch of other famous white actresses.
The tagline on the cover of “The Envelope” read, “A Shift in Focus: Actresses call for change in the way many stories are told” and included a discussion about the treatment of women in Hollywood.
Given the nature of the cover story and current social scenario, one would think the editors would have had the mind to include at least one woman of color to justify their narrative. Instead, they went the opposite route and only featured Annette Bening, Kate Winslet, Margot Robbie, Saoirse Ronan and Diane Kruger.
Keeping in mind Chastain’s history of starting important dialogue revolving around sexual harassment, gender pay gap and sexism in the entertainment, it was only fair that people began questioning her presence on the all-white cover.
Honestly @jes_chastain as an outspoken voice for equality how do you pose for a photo like this and not feel absolutely mortified by the blatant exclusion? How is it possible to not understand the msg this photo sends? pic.twitter.com/nb8caRfVL6— Rebecca Carroll (@rebel19) December 22, 2017
The actress decided to answer the criticism by criticizing the magazine.
Its a sad look that there's no WOC in this pic of us promoting our female lead films. The industry needs to become more inclusive in its storytelling. What were your favorite WOC lead films this year? I LOVED @salmahayek in #BeatriceAtDinner https://t.co/tzoijwy88q— Jessica Chastain (@jes_chastain) December 24, 2017
Its TERRIBLE that I can't think of at least 5 female lead films with woc this year.— Jessica Chastain (@jes_chastain) December 24, 2017
In 12 months there's not even 5?!— Jessica Chastain (@jes_chastain) December 24, 2017
While the appalling lack of women of color in female lead films is important to note, let’s not forget not forget Chastain had the power to do or say something about the controversial cover before people began calling her out.
No one forced her to appear on the magazine. In fact, she (and the other actresses) could have refused to appear on the cover unless the magazine featured women of color as well, or could have at least brought up the issue or vowed not to be partake in such a charade again.
Calling it “sad” now is not enough by any means.
April Reign, who created the popular #OscarsSoWhite hashtag, had the perfect response to Chastain’s seemingly forced-criticism.
I believe that @jes_chastain, the other women in this photo, and lead actors & actresses generally underestimate their power. Both in film and ESPECIALLY w/ media outlets like the @latimes. #OscarsSoWhite— April (@ReignOfApril) December 24, 2017
The way photoshoots work, the media outlet decide who they want weeks/months in advance, they make the ask, then they try to coordinate subjects’ schedules. Sometimes they shoot separately & photoshop folks into one shot. So... #OscarsSoWhite— April (@ReignOfApril) December 24, 2017
The actresses’ people have to sign off on the shoot (make sure there are no personality conflicts, etc.) So @jes_chastain’s team KNEW there would be no WOC there. THAT is when @jes_chastain’s voice should have risen. #OscarsSoWhite— April (@ReignOfApril) December 24, 2017
Most actors/actresses don’t have the power to demand inclusion on a film, but they should be shaking the table at every opportunity. HOWEVER. For a photoshoot that @latimes NEEDS? You damn straight someone could’ve made change happen. #OscarsSoWhite— April (@ReignOfApril) December 24, 2017
Just talking about change is not going to make a difference unless you actually take a step on your own.
To put it simply, Chastain calling the all-white cover “sad” was hypocritical.
However, the actresses are not the only ones to blame as the onus for not including women of color in the cover photo is upon the Los Angeles Times as well.
Then why did you accept the cover? Honestly? If not you, then who? Who will stop this?— Anna (@candidginger) December 24, 2017
As a combined powerhouse of women why did you not challenge that the cover be a representation of female actresses! Lead & supporting! Instead of trying to 'think' if there had been any WOC leads this year ??why did you not use your voice to change the rhetoric? Shoddy defection!— Chloë (@Simply_Ms_Chloe) December 24, 2017
It’s just, how did y’all not look around the room at each other and say wow, this is NOT a good look— Nic (@this_nick) December 24, 2017
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Reuters, Eric Gaillard