It Is Not Jessica Chastain’s Fault

There was a cover to an LA Times special article where six white actresses, including Jessica Chastain, was presented with the headline “Actresses call for a change in the way many stories are told – A Shift in Focus.”

The story was about empowering actresses, but a vocal few spoke out noting there was no diversity in the picture.

Well, I get it, but I’m not sure what Jessica Chastain, or any other actress on the cover, could have done realistically. First and foremost, and this is always my go to in a situation like this, what was the real focus of the story? Was the article a question about diversity in Hollywood or was it about representation about women in Hollywood? It could be a bit of both, but when the focus in the last few months has been about how many actresses have been harassed in Hollywood, that may have been a focus of the article.

Here where I think the thinking went with the set up of the article. I checked and saw that this was a list of possible contenders for best actress. The actresses on the cover are Annette Bening, Jessica Chastain, Diane Kruger, Margot Robbie, Saoirse Ronan, and Kate Winslet. To be honest, I’ve never heard of Saoirse Ronan but when I looked her up on Wikipedia, I recognized some of her films.

What I did was look at the list of women and their film careers and nominations. All very impressive. The problem is, and I’m giving LA Times maybe too much credit on this, but it was entirely possible that with the criteria they placed on the panel of women, the field was narrowed down by the fact there aren’t a lot of recognizable WOC given starring roles in film.

For instance, you could possibly put Jada Pinkett Smith on that panel, but Girl Trip isn’t a contender for an award. Just like Chastain, she has been an advocate for inclusion in Hollywood, but by what it seems like the LA Times was going for with the criteria, her film isn’t really up for awards. In articles written about Chastain and the supposed hypocrisy for posing for the photo, she mentioned Salma Hayak as a person who could be included. Agreed she would have been an excellent choice, especially with the Harvey Weinstein incident, but the focus of the article wasn’t abuse in Hollywood but opening up opportunities going forward for inclusion of women stories and representation in general.

I don’t think Jessica Chastain or any of the other actresses could have been criticized for the photo. To be blunt, they just showed up and posed for the picture. The editorial staff at the LA Times is responsible for the photo and its representation. They chose the actresses to have the discussion, they did the prep work and they did the photoshoot. It wasn’t Chastain or any of the other women who presented the LA Times with the idea of the article or the photoshoot.

Who should be responsible, who the frustration should be focused on, is the LA Times for not doing the research to find diverse voices for the discussion. It should not be the actress who have to respond after the fact and who had no control of the article or the photo.

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