Inclusion and Representation in Film

Still so white and male

Peggy O'Mara
6 min readMar 7


Photo by Dimitris Barletis

Inclusion — mostly lack of inclusion— in film has become a flash point in recent years. As USC Annenberg puts it:

While some of our greatest national challenges arise from a population that continues to diversify across every dimension, popular movies paint a distressing portrait that perpetuates a version of the U.S. that simply no longer exists. By taking inclusion seriously and acting to address it, companies, consumers, and creators can ensure that entertainment moves away from a vision of the past and toward content that resembles the audience of the present.

Still far to go

In 2015 and 2016, all 20 acting nominations went to white actors. This inspired April Rein to create the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, which trended around the world and brought attention to the fact that 92% of top film directors were men and 86% of top films featured white actors in lead roles.

There was some progress in 2017 when Moonlight won best picture. Twenty people of color were in contention that year and several won major awards, including Viola Davis (Best Supporting Actress: Fences), Mahershala Ali (Best Supporting Actor: Moonlight) Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alving McCraney (Best Adapted Screenplay: Moonlight) and Ezra Edelman (Best Documentary Feature: OJ: Made in America).

At the 2018 Oscars, Jordan Peele won Best Original Screenplay (Get Out), and a record seven African Americans took home awards: Regina King (Best Supporting Actress: If Beale Street Could Talk), Mahershala Ali (Best Supporting Actor: Green Book), Spike Lee and Kevin Willmott (Best Adapted Screenplay: BlacKkKlansman) and Peter Ramsey (Best Animated Feature Film: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse). Ruth Carter became the first Black person to win Best Costume Design (Black Panther) and Hannah Beachler became the first Black person to win Production Design (Black Panther).

In 2020, the 20 actor nominations included only one person of color, Cynthia Erivo (Harriet), and eight of the nine Best Picture nominees featured overwhelmingly white casts. In addition, no female directors were nominated that year. Only three woman have ever won best director: Kathryn Bigelow (Hurt Locker: 2010), Chloe Zhao (Nomadland: 2020)



Peggy O'Mara

Peggy O’Mara is an award winning journalist. She was the Editor and Publisher of Mothering Magazine for over 30 years. Her focus is Family, Health, and Justice.