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Netflix To Invest $100 Million in Diversity Initiative

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  • Netflix will invest $100 million into a creative equity fund over the next five years in an effort to boost diversity both in front of and behind the camera. 
  • This comes after the streaming service released a report on diversity in its original programming, which found that the company made strides for women and Black characters on screen but lacked in other areas.
  • For both film and television, Latino characters only made between 1.7% and 5% of lead roles and main cast members, despite being 12% of the U.S. population.
  • The report also found that just 2% of speaking roles in film and 3.3% of speaking roles in series were for LGBTQ characters.

Netflix Invests in Diversity

Netflix announced plans on Friday to invest $100 million into a creative equity fund over the next five years in an effort to boost diversity in all areas of production.

Ted Sarandos, the co-CEO of Netflix, wrote in a blog post explaining that this fund will invest in company programs aimed at identifying, training, and providing job opportunities for-up-and coming talent in the industry. It will invest in numerous organizations with “a strong track record of setting underrepresented communities up for success in the TV and film industries.

This comes as the streaming giant just released a massive report on its own diversity, done by Dr. Stacy Smith and the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. The study analyzed 180 scripted series and 126 films Netflix released in 2018 and 2019 to find where the studio has succeeded and where it needs to break ground. 

Dr. Smith said a report of this nature is both unique and historic. 

“At the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, we’re not aware of any other company taking a leadership role and making their findings as transparent and rolling out those results to all the communities,” she claimed in a video explaining the results of her research. 

“Given the size and scope of Netflix content, particularly as it relates to its entertainment industry peers, the results show one thing very clear — Netflix is committed to inclusion across its content portfolio,” she continued. 

Findings of the Report

Among the more positive findings, the report said that Netflix programs reflect gender equality when it comes to main roles, with 48% of films and 54% of shows having women leads or co-leads. It also found that 19% of lead roles went to male and female characters with unrepresented backgrounds, which is more than the industry at large did in the top grossing films of 2018 and 2019.  

When it comes to behind-the-camera film roles for women, Netflix is also outpacing the progress the industry is making overall. The company hired women to direct 23% of its movies, compared to just 7.6% of women who directed the top grossing films of 2018 and 2019. Netflix also employed female writers and producers at a significantly higher rate. 

The report found that the more women were working behind the camera, the more women wound up in front of it as well. 

“Inclusion happens when women are given the keys to the kingdom,” Dr. Smith said in a video explaining the results of her research. 

Still, there were many strides Netflix has yet to make when it comes to representation. While it did hire women of color to direct its films at three times the rate the industry in general did, they still only totaled just over 6% of directors for the studio. When it came to women of color directing television, Netflix fell behind industry-wide statistics. 

The report found that 15% of leads and co-leads were Black characters and almost 20% of main casts were Black, which is on par for the U.S. population. However, when it comes to other underrepresented groups, the studio lacked. 

For both film and television, Latino characters only made up between 1.7% and 5% of leads or main cast members, despite being 12% of the U.S. population. Additionally, the report noted that when it came to series, just 3% of creators and producers and 2% of writers and directors were Latino. For film, the studio employed just one Latino writer and director and only five producers. 

LGBTQ characters and characters with disabilities were likewise underrepresented. Just 2% of speaking roles for film and 3.3% of speaking roles for TV went to characters that identified as LGBTQ. 

Less than 2% of speaking film characters and 2.4% of speaking television characters had disabilities, compared to 27% of the American population identifying as having some sort of disability. 

What Netflix Will Do Next

Netflix plans to take this data and build upon its findings. 

“Great stories can truly come from anywhere, be created by anyone, whatever their background, and be loved everywhere,” Sarandos wrote. “And by better understanding how we are doing, we hope to stimulate change not just at Netflix but across our industry more broadly.”

During a virtual symposium, leaders at Netflix discussed the research and why it is important to the industry and the company. 

“Part of young boys and girls seeing themselves, seeing who they are in those roles and making sure that we don’t have ‘Black Panther’ once a decade, that we have films where young people of color, young women can see themselves as heroes in active roles,” Netflix’s Vice President of Global film, Scott Stuber said. 

He added that the new Netflix film “Jingle Jangle” starring Kegan Michael Key and Forest Whitaker was just one recent example of diversity on screen making a difference. 

“The outpouring from the Black community, having a holiday film that represented them and their families, was an incredible thing for our filmmaker and for our company. And I think we have to continue to think in those terms.”

Sarandos says Netflix is committed to its work with Dr. Smith and the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. The two will work together to release a report every two years between now and 2026. 

See what others are saying: (Variety) (Deadline) (New York Times)

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D.A.R.E. Accuses HBO’s “Euphoria” of Glorifying Drug Use

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The organization believes the drama series could have “negative consequences on school-age children who today face unparalleled risks and mental health challenges.


D.A.R.E. Slams “Euphoria”

HBO’s “Euphoria” has become synonymous with its explicit depictions of teen sex, violence, and addiction. The substance abuse awareness organization D.A.R.E. condemned the series for its lurid content, arguing that it glorifies drug use. 

While drugs can weasel their way into any aspect of the show at a moment’s notice, the primary storyline around addiction follows Rue, a high schooler who often resists the help she needs to recover. Zendaya won an Emmy for portraying the struggling protagonist in 2020. 

D.A.R.E., also known as Drug Abuse Resistance Education, told TMZ on Wednesday that “Euphoria” is reckless in its handling of such weighted subject matter.  

“Rather than further each parent’s desire to keep their children safe from the potentially horrific consequences of drug abuse and other high-risk behavior, HBO’s television drama, Euphoria, chooses to misguidedly glorify and erroneously depict high school student drug use, addiction, anonymous sex, violence, and other destructive behaviors as common and widespread in today’s world,” a representative for the group told the outlet. 

“It is unfortunate that HBO, social media, television program reviewers, and paid advertising have chosen to refer to the show as ‘groundbreaking,’ rather than recognizing the potential negative consequences on school-age children who today face unparalleled risks and mental health challenges,” the representative continued. 

“Euphoria” Cast and Creator Speak on Heavy Subject Matter

Ahead of the season two premiere, Zendaya warned her followers that much of the content in “Euphoria” is not suitable for all viewers. 

“I know I’ve said this before, but I do want to reiterate to everyone that Euphoria is for mature audiences,” she wrote on Instagram. “This season, maybe more so than the last, is deeply emotional and deals with subject matter that can be triggering and difficult to watch. Please only watch it if you feel comfortable.”

Sam Levinson, the creator of “Euphoria,” has been open about his own experience with addiction. Now over a decade sober, Levinson struggled with substance abuse as a teenager, much like Zendaya’s Rue. He feels a personal connection to the story, and therefore, a responsibility to honestly represent the tribulations of addiction.

“The hardest thing about portraying a drug addict is — there are a lot of cautionary tales, there are a lot of after-school specials — but what I really wanted to get to the core of is the pain and the shame about what you’re doing and you’re inability to get clean despite the havoc and destruction you’re wreaking around you,” Levinson said of the show during the ATX Television Festival in 2019, per Deadline.

Levinson noted that he does have to be “mindful of” the risk of glamorizing drug use “just by the sheer nature of it being on screen.” 

“We have to be authentic about it,” he explained. “If we’re pulling our punches and we’re not showing the relief that drugs can bring it starts to lose its impact. Drugs are not the solution but they can feel like it at times, and that’s what makes them so destructive.”

Drug Use on Euphoria

Still, D.A.R.E. is far from the first group to express concern over the impact “Euphoria” might have on younger viewers. Before the second season debuted earlier this month, the Parents Television and Media Council released a statement warning of the show’s “imminent threat to the health and well-being of children.”

Before each episode of “Euphoria” airs, HBO flashes a warning to alert viewers of the drug abuse, language, violence, nudity, and sex that will appear in the program. The show might be cavalier in the casual and frequent manner it depicts drug use and other dangerous behavior, but more often than not, characters await the consequences of their actions. 

In the most recent episode of “Euphoria,” Rue’s addiction lands her in a visceral screaming match with her sister. The scene underscores the tragic and harsh reality of substance abuse.

While critics push back against the show for a variety of other reasons, they generally praise Rue’s arc, largely thanks to Zendaya’s gripping performance. 

But D.A.R.E. argued that the show goes a bridge too far and offered to meet with HBO to hash out the issues. 

“We would welcome the opportunity for our team, including members of our high school-aged Youth Advocacy Board, to meet with individuals at HBO who are involved with producing Euphoria to present our concerns directly,” D.A.R.E.’s representative told TMZ.

HBO has not publicly responded to the criticisms.

See what others are saying: (TMZ) (Vanity Fair) (Complex)

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Neil Young Asks For His Music to Be Removed From Spotify Over Vaccine Misinformation

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The “Harvest Moon” singer told his representatives that the streaming service “can have Rogan or Young. Not both.” 


Neil Young Wants Music His Off Of Spotify

Musician Neil Young wrote an open letter to his management and record label demanding that his music be taken down from Spotify over concerns about vaccine misinformation. 

The “Heart of Gold” singer initially posted the letter on his website, but it has since been removed. According to Rolling Stone, which reported on the document before it was taken down, Young specifically took issue with podcast host Joe Rogan. 

“I want you to let Spotify know immediately TODAY that I want all my music off their platform,” he wrote. “They can have Rogan or Young. Not both.” 

“The Joe Rogan Experience” is exclusive to Spotify and was the most popular podcast on the platform in 2021. Rogan has regularly received criticism for spreading COVID-19 misinformation that contradicts public health recommendations, specifically when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines. 

Rogan previously said that young people should not worry about getting vaccinated against the coronavirus. He has also regularly cited faulty studies questioning their efficacy and interviewed controversial medical personalities who are known for promoting conspiracy theories about the vaccine. 

Young said he is afraid of the ramifications of these kinds of remarks.

“I am doing this because Spotify is spreading fake information about vaccines – potentially causing death to those who believe the disinformation being spread by them,” the singer wrote. “Please act on this immediately today and keep me informed of the time schedule.”

Concerns About Joe Rogan’s Vaccine Comments

Young’s manager, Frank Gironda, conf​​rimed the authenticity of the letter to The Daily Beast.

“It’s something that’s really important to Neil,” Gironda said.  “He’s very upset about this disinformation. We’re trying to figure this out right now.”

Young is far from the first person to express frustrations over the anti-vax views on the audio streaming service platforms. Earlier this month, a group of doctors and other medical professionals wrote a letter to Spotify urging the company to implement a policy to fight disinformation.

“We are calling on Spotify to take action against the mass-misinformation events which continue to occur on its platform,” the letter said. “With an estimated 11 million listeners per episode, [The Joe Rogan Experience] is the world’s largest podcast and has tremendous influence. Though Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform, the company presently has no misinformation policy.”

“This is not only a scientific or medical concern; it is a sociological issue of devastating proportions and Spotify is responsible for allowing this activity to thrive on its platform,” the expert cautioned. 

Spotify has not made a public statement regarding Young’s letter.

See what others are saying: (Rolling Stone) (The Daily Beast) (The Verge)

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Ana de Armas Fans Sue Universal For Removing Actress From “Yesterday” Film

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The fans argue that because there were no scenes with de Armas as promised in the trailer, “consumers were not provided with any value for their rental or purchase.”


Ana de Armas Scenes Cut From “Yesterday”

Two fans of Ana de Armas are suing Universal Pictures for including the actress in a trailer for the 2019 film “Yesterday” even though she does not appear in the final cut of the picture. 

In a class-action lawsuit filed in California, Conor Woulfe and Peter Michael Rosza said they each spent $3.99 to watch the film after viewing the accompanying trailer on Amazon. They argue the studio’s “advertising and promotion of the movie Yesterday is false, misleading, and deceptive.”

The Danny Boyle-directed comedy follows a man, played by Himesh Patel, who wakes up in a world where no one knows who The Beatles are but him, so he starts playing their music and claiming it as his own. De Armas appears briefly in the trailer as a character competing with the primary love interest, played by Lily James. Writer Richard Curtis said they had to cut de Armas’ part to strengthen the character arcs.

“That was a very traumatic cut, because she was brilliant in it,” Curtis previously told Cinema Blend. “I mean really radiant. And [that] turned out to be the problem…I think the audience did not like the fact that his eyes even strayed. Because then some people would go, ‘Oh, he really doesn’t deserve her. He really doesn’t deserve Lily.’ You know, it’s one of those things where it’s some of our favorite scenes from the film, but we had to cut them for the sake of the whole.”

For Woulfe and Rosza, the choice to cut de Armas is a dealbreaker. They are seeking $5 million on behalf of all impacted consumers. 

Fans File Lawsuit Against Universal

“Because consumers were promised a movie with Ana De Armas by the trailer for Yesterday, but did not receive a movie with any appearance of Ana De Armas at all, such consumers were not provided with any value for their rental or purchase,” the lawsuit states. 

Patel and James each had credits of their own prior to the release of “Yesterday.” Still, the fans believe that Universal instead used the star power of De Armas, who had recently appeared in “Blade Runner 2049,” to “entice viewership.”

Unable to rely on fame of the actors playing Jack Malik or Ellie to maximize ticket and movie sales and rentals, Defendant consequently used Ms. De Armas’s fame, radiance and brilliance to promote the film,” the suit continued. 

Just a few months after the release of “Yesterday,” de Armas would go on to receive critical acclaim for her role in “Knives Out.” She has since appeared in the latest James Bond film, “No Time to Die.”

Now a much bigger name than in spring of 2019, the lawsuit claims de Armas still appears in trailers on services like Amazon and Google.

“Despite knowing that Ms. De Armas was not in the released version of the movie Yesterday, Defendant has consistently promoted Ms. De Armas as a character starring in the film, by including her scenes in Yesterday’s movie trailers,” the suit states. “Indeed, Defendant continues to promote Ms. De Armas as appearing in the film more than two years after its initial release, in advertisements for movie sales and rentals.”

Universal has not released a statement in response to the lawsuit.

See what others are saying: (Deadline) (Variety) (IndieWire)

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