At the 2018 Academy Awards, best actress winner Frances McDormand closed her speech with a cryptic, meme-worthy sentence: “I have two words for you: inclusion rider.”
If you didn’t quite get the message what she meant, comedienne Whitney Cummings had an explanation for you: “An inclusion rider is something actors put into their contracts to ensure gender and racial equality in hiring on movie sets,” she said in a now-deleted tweet, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
“We should support this for a billion reasons, but if you can’t find a reason to, here’s one: it will make movies better.”
According to Hilarie Burton, the Hallmark Channel doesn’t want to make its movies better.
This kind of surprised me. I once sat through a bad Hallmark Channel film called “The Christmas Cottage” just to heckle it (this isn’t to be confused with “Thomas Kinkade’s Christmas Cottage,” an equally poor film about the formative years of painter Thomas Kinkade which starred Rory’s first boyfriend from “Gilmore Girls”) and, well, they need better movies. Whitney Cummings vouchsafed to all of us that they made them better! And after all, she created “2 Broke Girls,” so she knows quality.
In a Twitter thread that would be defined as a “tweetstorm” were she a Republican legislator, Burton says she was “penalized” by the Hallmark Channel “for standing up for inclusivity.”
“Just going through some old emails from a #Hallmark job I was ‘let go’ from back in January. I had insisted on a LGBTQ character, an interracial couple and diverse casting. I was polite, direct and professional. But after the execs gave their notes on the script and NONE of my Requests were honored, I was told ‘take it or leave it,'” the “One Tree Hill” actress said during the tweetst– erm, Twitter thread last week.
“I left it. And the paycheck,” she continued. “S—-y being penalized for standing up for inclusivity. I really wanted that job. It was close to my house. It paid really well. It was about the military, which you all know I hold dear.”
Just in case you don’t get the backstory here: Earlier this month, Hallmark Channel pulled a commercial that included a lesbian couple kissing after it caused controversy. That decision, in turn, caused controversy the other way, which meant the commercial was reinstated.
Here’s the thread, which we warn you contains language that some viewers will find offensive.
Requests were honored, I was told “take it or leave it”.
I left it. And the paycheck. Shitty being penalized for standing up for inclusivity. I really wanted that job. It was close to my house. It paid really well. It was about the military, which you all know I hold dear. But?
— Hilarie Burton Morgan (@HilarieBurton) December 15, 2019
Key point here: I have a wonderful husband @JDMorgan who works his ass off so I have the luxury to choose morals over paying bills. Not everyone has that! Nor should we be forced to be dependent. If I had to cover our mortgage and was told “take it or leave it”, I’d be fucked.
— Hilarie Burton Morgan (@HilarieBurton) December 15, 2019
Burton said that she would “walk away again in a heartbeat. The bigotry comes from the top and permeates the whole deal over there.”
So first off, glad to hear her husband works his butt off for them. Hate for her to be, well, you know. Kind of outmoded marriage roles there, though, don’t you think?
Beyond that, there might be a problem with Burton’s characterization, inasmuch as Hallmark claims she never really worked for them directly.
In a response to NBC News, Hallmark said that Burton “worked on projects with us under contract,” not for parent company Crown Media Family Networks.
According to CBS News, Burton has starred in several Hallmark Channel movies: “Summer Villa,” “Surprised by Love” and “Naughty or Nice,” all of which sound superb and (I’m sure) wonderfully inclusive.
Inclusivity, of course, doesn’t make a good movie, nor does it make a good Hallmark Channel movie. Also, when you come to a network with a list of demands and they don’t honor them, this is usually what happens. What’s conspicuous here, however, is that this isn’t a moral choice, it’s merely a choice.
In the last part of her tweet, Burton admits that if her husband didn’t work hard enough that she could pick her projects, if she had to make the decision based on money concerns, she wouldn’t have walked away. There was nothing at stake there, though. She was expressing a preference for working on a movie where her inclusion rider was met.
Burton didn’t take a hit for this. Trust me, starring in “Memorial Day with Maj. Moriarity” (I’m guessing the military-centric movie she was going to star in was going to be called something like that, given that this is the Hallmark Channel) wasn’t a make-or-break moment for her career. She didn’t need the money.
If this were about the mortgage on her home and she were willing to walk away because of her beliefs, yes, that would be a profoundly moral stand. If you can pick and choose your projects, this was nothing more than a choice to pass in order to pick something else.
The reason this is even a story is the fact that the Hallmark Channel is currently being criticized for its decision on the lesbian wedding commercial. I don’t think anyone remembers who Hilarie Burton even is; I looked her up and realized the only thing I’d seen her in is when she was a host on MTV’s “Total Request Live.” For her to make the news otherwise, she’d have to get caught assembling a nuclear weapon in her basement or something to that extent.
And what would her inclusion rider have proved, anyway? Viewers at home are shrewd; they realize when identity boxes are being checked for the sake of box-checking. What would that have proved? Nothing — other than that, contrary to what Whitney Cummings thinks, inclusion riders “will make movies better.”
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