The Last Hopi On Earth: The Rhetoric of Entertainment Inequity

I can’t mount a film of this budget … and say that my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such. I’m just not going to get it financed. So the question [of casting non-White talent] doesn’t even come up.

– Ridley Scott, Director

Do not say it’s not racist it’s just words, or it’s just a TV show, or it’s just a movie. These are the things that matter. These are how we create meaning.

– Hope Wabuke, Writer, Essayist, and Poet

While #OscarsSoWhite brought attention to the Academy’s overwhelmingly White, male membership, the underbelly of the entertainment industry itself is rife with inequitable hiring of not only on-camera and on-stage performers but also directors, writers, and others behind the scenes. While there are several organizations from Racebending.com to the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media that seek to usher in more equitable representation, push back against the Industry’s disparate employment practices has been documented for more than fifty years with what many argue is not proportionally positive movement. White males still garner almost half of all theatrical and television roles and represent more than 80% of episodic directors while entertainment hubs Los Angeles and New York City are more than 50% people of color and female. What will it take to attain equity in the entertainment industry? Why does it matter?

In this course, students will examine rhetorical issues in promoting, defending, and opposing entertainment industry practices – writing and speaking across genres in persuasive response – and ultimately develop a collaborative 5-year strategic plan to usher in equity.