Frances McDormand's cryptic Oscars speech could start a revolution in Hollywood

With two powerful words, she told her fellow actors how to weaponize their own contracts to demand diversity and equality

Frances McDormand accepts the Oscar for best actress
(Image credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

If the Oscars amounted to the ultimate test of how the industry would address #MeToo, the answer is clear: Hollywood failed. No woman pitted against men for high-profile awards won, and several men accused of violence against women did. But a much bigger movement may have been launched thanks in part to Frances McDormand, who used her best lead actress win to recruit everyone present into the use of "inclusion riders." No one knew what she meant when she said it, but her stagecraft was impeccable. She managed to make a fairly recondite aspect of contract law mainstream overnight. And if her call to action works — if leading women and men start using their contracts to demand diverse and representative casts and crews — the industry could be quickly and permanently transformed.

In order to understand what McDormand's speech achieved, it's worth quickly noting both what the Academy Awards handled well and what it did poorly. First, its triumphs: The ceremony was careful and polite, and it gave a variety of artists, including Salma Hayek, Lupita Nyong'o, and Kumail Nanjiani, a platform to talk about diversity in Hollywood. Host Jimmy Kimmel did his best to set the tone for an inclusive Oscars that respected the momentum of female-led movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp — and it's entirely to his credit that his monologue managed to do this as well as it did, especially since he'd told some outlets he had no plans to address these questions himself.

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Lili Loofbourow

Lili Loofbourow is the culture critic at She's also a special correspondent for the Los Angeles Review of Books and an editor for Beyond Criticism, a Bloomsbury Academic series dedicated to formally experimental criticism. Her writing has appeared in a variety of venues including The Guardian, Salon, The New York Times Magazine, The New Republic, and Slate.