Hey, remember that Sony hack that happened in November/December last year? You remember, this was the one that we hilariously blamed on the Koreans because of The Interview. Eventually Obama even enacted sanctions on North Korea, even though evidence eventually pointed to disgruntled former employees within America acting as run of the mill blackmailers. The blackmail eventually got turned into rah rah free speech marketing for a movie people were planning on ignoring, and were made into high drama.
The most cosmetic punishment of the Sony hack is that Sony ousted co-chairperson Amy Pascal from her position, a sacrificial lamb for the “damage” that Sony was facing. Amy Pascal was the only woman at Sony Pictures earning over $1m annually, leaving the rest of the board in the hands of rich white men. She was still making far less than her male counterparts, but having a woman was still seen as progress, even if she was revealed to be a catty kind-of racist. Under her tenure, white men still dominated Sony’s releases, but one hoped she might have eventually changed that around.
But, Amy is gone. This week, Sony revealed that Amy Pascal would be released with the angry tempermental white man, Tom Rothman. Tom Rothman’s career is defined by an 18-year career at Fox under Rupert Murdoch. He founded Fox Searchlight in 1994, catching lightning as the “indie” market was taking off. He eventually moved up through the ranks to become president of Fox Filmed Entertainment through 2012.
Fox Searchlight had a reputation for taking chances, and eventually settling in to the indie niche market that would fill in for the mid-budget adult movie market left behind as the studios increasingly became dependent on tentpoles and franchises. Searchlight was not only indie, but also filed niche markets, releasing films that appealed to minorities and women. Since diversity in Hollywood is a hot topic right now, it’s a good time to take stock of Fox’s diversity under Tom Rothman’s watch.
Fox Searchlight released 140 films from 1994-2012, including both films they produced and films they merely distributed. 63% of those films (88) had at least one straight white male director. 24% (34 films) had a minority director, 15% (21 films) had a female director, and 6% (8 films) had a queer director. These numbers add up to more than 100% because of intersectionality, as there were some movies directed by minority women, some by minority gay men, and one film by a lesbian.
20th Century Fox was even worse. From 1996-2012, Fox released 275 films. 74% of those films (204 films) had at least one straight white male directors. 18% (50 films) were directed by minorities, 4% (11 films) were directed by women, and 5% (15 films) were directed by gay men. Just in case you didn’t notice, that’s fewer than 1 film directed by women a year.
These statistics say nothing of the types or quality of movie that Fox released, including black movies with titles like Phat Girlz, but merely mention things from a hard number statistic perspective. Much like the Bechdel test, all of these numbers just state how often Fox deigned to hire somebody other than a straight white male.
If the end goal is equal representation in our multimedia conglomerates, the hiring of this straight white male is not encouraging. In fact, it looks increasingly like we’re going to be getting more of the same from Sony. At Sony’s newly created Tristar Productions, where Rothman has been idling for the past year, of the 6 films greenlit, 5 are directed by straight white men, and the last is directed by Ang Lee.