Why Vanity Fair’s Hollywood diversity cover fails to conceal industry prejudice

In straining for diversity, the magazines Hollywood issue showcasing a range female performers selected under uncertain criteria fails to adequately address the issue or reflect reality

Every year, Vanity Fair unveils its Hollywood issue, a starry affair shot by Annie Leibovitz that awkwardly assembles an array of -Alisters in an attempt to showcase the state of the industry at that given moment.

Actors are dolled up and strewn across one another in variously uncomfortable positions and, pre-Oscars, it gives us a chance to see which performers are at the forefront of the awards chattering. The options made are often an important statement and previous issues have been contentious, as was the case with 2010s all-white issue.

This year it arrives at a sensitive hour. We are in the middle of an awards season mired in dispute regarding a lack of diversity, which has in turn kindled a bigger conversation about unequal opportunities for performers of colour. The past 12 months have also shine light on an industry that still pays females less than their male counterparts, and offers few components to actresses over persons under the age of 50, with -Alisters speaking out about their experiences.

So it builds business and PR sense that this years issue, out on Friday, is all-female and features key placements for women of colour as well as older performers. The shoot traditionally takes up a three-page spread. This years options are Jane Fonda, Cate Blanchett, Jennifer Lawrence and Viola Davis, marking the first time since 1999 that a black girl has appeared on the main encompas and the first time in its history for a black girl over persons under the age of 30. In the extended image, she is joined by Lupita Nyongo and Gugu Mbatha-Raw and, while it is freshening to see diversity represented, the choices are also somewhat underwhelming.


Photograph: Annie Leibovitz/ Vanity Fair

Firstly, the past year has been a successful one for Davis, without doubt but not within movie. Her risible retaliation thriller Lila& Eve and turn in Michael Manns flop Blackhat were forgettable, but its her work on the hit TV indicate How to Get Away with Murder thats kept her in the spotlight.

Her inclusion in a shoot that highlights movie talent is an unintentionally damning reflection of how cinema is still lagging behind TV with respect to diversity. While Nyongo was part of 2015 s biggest movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens, her role was reduced to a motion-capture character and, despite winning an Oscar for 12 Years a Slave, the actor herself hasnt been watched on screen for two years.

Bi-racial British actor Mbatha-Raw is undoubtedly on the rise( anyone who considered her commanding turn in Beyond the Lights can certify her considerable talents) but a thankless role as Will Smiths love interest in middling drama Concussion and a role in critically mocked not-buster Jupiter Ascending are scarcely signs of a banner year.

The pool of commercially successful older performers is similarily, depressingly small. Fondas inclusion on the main encompas is a notable coup but her one big screen turn of the year was a exalted one-scene cameo in Paolo Sorrentinos Youth and, like Davis, she is now known more for her TV work in Netflix sitcom Grace and Frankie.

Diane Keaton, who appears on the far right wearing her own clothes, had just one role in 2015: as the matriarch in forgettable festive slapstick Christmas With the Coopers. Similarly, her next major turn is on the small screen, opposite Jude Law in the HBO drama The Young Pope. Oscar nominee Charlotte Rampling is a worthy inclusion, with her role in 45 Years among the years best, but that performance is the actors first notable big screen role for a while, with her TV work in Broadchurch and London Spy dominating.

Helen Mirren remains an exception, rather like Meryl Streep, as she continues to find roles in movie, after a year that considered her with two SAG nominations, for Woman in Gold and Trumbo.

So, while the shoot gives the impression of diversity, its another telling sign of an industry that still prefers young white females. Jennifer Lawrences year has watched her take the lead in a $651 m blockbuster and pick up an Oscar nomination, while rising star Alicia Vikander has appeared in six movies, and also received an Oscar nod.

Vanity Fair has made a bold attempt to highlight a diverse range of performers, but the fact remains that no girl of colour is being given the opportunities that her white peers are handed, at least not on the big screen. And theres no sum of crisply shot and finely Photoshopped designer dresses that they are able conceal that.

Watch the full shoot in the March Hollywood issue of Vanity Fair, on sale Friday

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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