When April Reign’s #OscarsSoWhite hashtag ballooned into a social media campaign with major offline impact — making headlines, galvanizing mass demonstrations, and prompting decisive change by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences — a chief critique of the effort was that the Oscars were actually the last stop on the train ride of Hollywood production. The production pipeline, not the awards show and its nominating body, was the problem. After all, the Academy can’t nominate a film or performance if the studios aren’t making movies with diverse actors in lead roles.
As Hollywood has begun to shift into an onscreen beast more diverse, inclusive, and representative of the sea of moviegoers — with writers, producers, directors, and other behind-the-scenes talent slowly following suit — studio executives with the power of the purse are still largely white, cis, and hetero men. That means that for every Lena Waithe or Tanya Saracho or Justin Simien, there are five Bob Iger’s, a Jim Gianopulos, a Donna Langley, and all of their representatives from whom these queer creatives of color have to ultimately receive approval. So what might production slates look like if these studios were led by Black trans folk?
It’s been said that we’re not free until we all are free. If one is to truly believe this, Hollywood won’t ever have the representation we crave until Black trans people manage studio mandates and control the coin purses. Sure, there are Black-owned, independent production companies for whom diverse representation is a key tenant — from Charles D. and Stacey King’s Macro to Waithe’s Hillman Grad Productions — but for the industry to truly transform, the studio system must undergo a facelift. Imagine what it might look like with Oscar-nominee Yance Ford, actress and producer Angelica Ross, or up-and-coming filmmaker Fatima Jamal at the helm. Maybe we’d finally have a Best Picture nomination that truly feels like nothing the Academy has ever seen before.
This is one of our 50 Radical Ideas, featured in Out's June/July 2019 issue celebrating Stonewall 50. The three covers feature the enduring legacy of activist Sylvia Rivera, the complicated candidacy of presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, and the triumphant star power of actress Mj Rodriguez. To read more, grab your own copy of the issue on Kindle, Nook, Zinio or (newly) Apple News+ today. Preview more of the issue here and click here to subscribe.