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Netflix Has Raised The Bar For Representation, But Many Stories Are Still Untold

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Every year, Netflix produces hundreds of original movies and shows, many of which have been touted for their inclusion and representation. A new study released Friday shows that the streaming giant has helped raise the bar for gender equity and Black representation with its storytelling, often doing better than the entertainment industry at large. But the company, which prides itself on prioritizing inclusion in its content and its hiring, has also fallen short in several areas of diversity, with many identities remaining largely invisible on-screen, the report said.

To conduct the study, Netflix executives approached University of Southern California professor Stacy L. Smith and her team at the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, which has worked on many influential studies of representation in Hollywood.

“Often, companies or even audiences think that storytelling is better than it actually is,” Smith told HuffPost in an interview. “Data like this is always great because it anchors it in evidence, not in what I think is happening.”

Using similar metrics to those in the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative’s annual industrywide research, the Netflix study examined representation and inclusion across all of the company’s original feature films and scripted shows released in 2018 and 2019. The researchers evaluated each project’s on-screen and behind-the-camera representation in the areas of gender, race and ethnicity, LGBTQ identity and disability.

We need to see more. … Proportional representation is literally the first step, and if they’re not there, that’s a major problem.
Stacy L. Smith, founder of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative

Overall, Netflix’s original films and shows reached or came close to achieving gender parity on-screen — for example, 52% of its original films and shows featured a female lead or co-lead character. But beyond the stories’ central characters, there was less gender equity. For instance, only 38.8% of the speaking characters across all of the movies and shows were women, and only 20% of the movies and shows had gender-balanced casts, meaning they “featured girls/women in roughly half of all speaking or named roles.” As is common in Hollywood, the researchers found that films and series with more women in directing, writing and producing roles were more likely to have equitable representation of women on-screen.

At the intersection of race, ethnicity and gender, Netflix has made gains in centering women of color in its stories, but the percentages were still below proportional representation, especially behind the camera. Among every behind-the-camera position analyzed in the study — film directors, screenwriters, film producers, TV creators, TV writers and TV directors — no category had more than 9% women of color.

In representation of racial and ethnic groups regardless of gender, the study found that Netflix’s Strong Black Lead initiative and other work around improving Black representation had produced strong results.

Just over 15% of Netflix’s original shows and films in 2018 and 2019 featured Black lead characters, and 19.5% of main cast members were Black, notably higher than U.S. population statistics. The percentages of Black creatives in behind-the-camera roles were still somewhat below that of the population, but did increase significantly from year to year, the study found.

In nearly all other racial and ethnic groups, Netflix fell short of — and in many cases, far below — proportional representation. Most glaringly, Latinx representation both on-screen and behind the camera was abysmally low, mirroring an industrywide problem. Only 4% of Netflix’s original films in 2018 and 2019 featured Latinx lead characters, and only 3.6% of main cast members identified as Latinx. Similarly, just 1.7% of Netflix’s original shows had Latinx lead characters, and only 5.1% of main cast members identified as Latinx. It’s a missed opportunity for the streaming giant, as Latinx audiences have long been an influential force in entertainment and make up a significant portion of the market.



The cast and creators of Netflix’s “One Day at a Time,” one of a handful of major series with a Latinx cast before it was canceled in 2019.

Researchers did not find much diversity within racial and ethnic groups either. For example, Indian, Chinese and Korean actors were overrepresented when compared to members of other Asian communities.

Consistent with Hollywood as a whole, Netflix’s original programming featured few to no Middle Eastern/North African (MENA), American Indian/Alaskan Native (AIAN) or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (NHPI) individuals on-screen or behind the camera.

Finally, LGBTQ and disabled people were also substantially underrepresented in Netflix’s original programming, especially when it came to intersectionality. When a disabled character was featured in a story, for instance, that character was likely to be a straight, white, cisgender man.

The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative’s report notes some of the limitations of approaching inclusion through the lens of proportional representation, which Smith stressed should be just a baseline. Underrepresented creators should get opportunities to tell stories about anyone and everyone, just like white male creators typically do.

“You can literally look to the full range of storytelling, whether it’s, you know, suffering to superheroes, the full range of humanity across a variety of different ethnic and racial groups and in the LGBTQ+ community and people with disabilities ― we need to see more,” she said. “And if there’s as much content on a platform as there is ― not only on Netflix but all of the companies ― there’s no excuse. Proportional representation is literally the first step, and if they’re not there, that’s a major problem.”

Jordan Fisher, Lana Condor and Noah Centineo starred in "To All the Boys: P.S. I Love You," one of several Netflix rom-c



Jordan Fisher, Lana Condor and Noah Centineo starred in “To All the Boys: P.S. I Love You,” one of several Netflix rom-coms featuring Asian American leads.

The way the industry approaches representation and inclusion also needs to go beyond storytelling and hiring practices, Smith said, pointing to the ways disabled people have been historically excluded in Hollywood because of barriers to accessibility.

While she said 27% of the U.S. population identifies as having a disability, there’s “a historical precedent” of excluding people because sets and productions were not accessible. “So here’s another place where Netflix can disrupt and do business differently for different historically marginalized communities,” Smith added.

She said she has been encouraged by Netflix’s efforts at being transparent with its data and putting that information directly in the hands of executives who are responsible for greenlighting projects and hiring talent. That’s a good first step in holding themselves accountable.

“We want one consequence of the report to be that other companies realize that this type of audit and transparency is important to setting inclusion goals and creating a map towards meeting those goals in the years ahead,” Smith said. “So we’re hopeful that this will create, hopefully, the perfect storm so that other companies will do the same thing.”



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Joe Rogan Admits He’s A ‘F**king Moron’ After Offering Selfish COVID-19 Vaccine Advice

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Wildly popular podcast host Joe Rogan admitted he’s a “f**king moron” and “not a respected source of information, even for me” when he addressed his selfish comments about young, healthy people not needing to get vaccinated from COVID-19.

Rogan, whose audience is in the hundreds of millions, drew backlash — and a rebuke from Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious diseases expert — when he said on an episode of his “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast released on Spotify last week that “if you’re a healthy person and you’re exercising all the time and you’re young and you’re eating well, I don’t think you need to worry about this.”

On Thursday, Rogan clarified in a video shared on YouTube that he was “not an anti-vaxx person.” “In fact, I said I believe they’re safe and I encourage many people to take them. My parents were vaccinated,” he explained. “I just said, ‘I don’t think that if you’re a young, healthy person that you need it.’ Their argument was, you need it for other people.”

“So you don’t transmit the other virus,” said his cohost.

“That makes more sense,” agreed Rogan. “But that’s a different argument. That’s a different conversation.”

Rogan, whose show was snapped up by Spotify in a $100 million deal last year, later attempted to explain away the comments by saying how he doesn’t plan what he says on air.

He’s often high or drinking alcohol during the shows, he said, before accusing “clickbaity” journalists of blowing his comments out of proportion.

“I’m not a doctor, I’m a fucking moron and I’m a cage fighting commentator who’s a dirty standup comedian who just told you I’m drunk most of the time and I do testosterone and I smoke a lot of weed but I’m not a respected source of information, even for me,” he said.

“If I say things, I’m always going ‘check on that Jamie, I don’t know if that’s true,’” Rogan added. “But I at least try to be honest about what I’m saying.”

A HuffPost Guide To Coronavirus



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Gabrielle Union Talks Baby Kaavia’s Free Spirit: ‘Shade Is Her Super Power’

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Gabrielle Union recently talked about her daughter, Kaavia James, and her funny “shady” moments, characterizing those times as her 2-year-old’s “super power.”

“Shade is her super power because when Kaavia gives you a look, it’s either you’re not respecting her boundaries or something is happening that she doesn’t like,” the actor told People in an interview published Wednesday.

Union and her retired NBA star husband, Dwyane Wade, welcomed Kaavia in November 2018.

The couple has since poked fun at the toddler’s occasional adorably shady facial expressions — and hilarious side-eyes — like when a photo of Kaavia seated on a couch looking pensive and slightly unbothered became a meme last year.

Or when the little one looked less than pleased with the outcome of her face paint design at her second birthday party:

Inspired by Kaavia’s witty personality, Wade and Union created an Instagram account for the little girl, often using the hashtag ”#Shadybaby” in the posts’ captions. The couple also collaborated to write a Kaavia-influenced children’s book titled “Shady Baby” due for release next month.

Union explained in Wednesday’s People interview that she celebrates Kaavia’s freedom to be her authentic self amid a long history of harmful ways Black women and girls have been treated in society.

“The main takeaway is that she’s free to be this amazing, dynamic, shady at times, loving at times Black little girl when the world has not been so kind to Black girls and women,” she added.

In addition to Kaavia, Wade is father to Zaya, Zaire and Xavier. Union and Wade also parent his nephew Dahveon Morris.

Wade told People that he and Union make a point to encourage their children to be their true selves.

“If we allow our kids to be their true selves we don’t have to worry about them conforming with anything or anyone,” he said. “Why wouldn’t we push our kids to be their authentic selves?”

Last month, Kaavia took a side-eyeing break to enjoy a sweet play date with 2-year-old Cairo, the daughter of actors Tia Mowry and Cory Hardrict.

After some hugs, Kaavia generously took Cairo for a spin in her toddler-sized electric car:





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Anne Heche Says Ellen DeGeneres Didn’t Want Her To ‘Dress Sexy’

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Anne Heche took an unexpected swipe at former girlfriend Ellen DeGeneres this week during an online fashion retrospective.

In a short TikTok video Tuesday, Heche looked back at some of her favorite looks from years past, including the 1998 VH1 Fashion Awards and a memorable “Dancing with the Stars” routine from last fall.

The actor’s enthusiasm for nostalgia, however, notably dipped when she came upon a photo of her and DeGeneres from the 1998 Golden Globe Awards. The pair appear to have color-coordinated their outfits, with DeGeneres in a navy suit and Heche in a blue velvet gown and matching coat.

“Why do I look like a hippie? It’s because Ellen didn’t want me to dress sexy,” Heche, who has starred in films like “Donnie Brasco” and “Six Days, Seven Nights,” declared. After giving the look a zero out of 10 and a thumbs down, she added, “Bye, no!”

Heche and DeGeneres dated from 1997 to 2000. During their time together, the women were among Hollywood’s most-buzzed-about same-sex couples.

The former couple has remained mostly tight-lipped about the specifics of their relationship in the media. Heche, however, touched on her ex in a number of interviews timed to her appearance on “Dancing with the Stars” last year.

Chatting with Mr. Warburton magazine last year, she recalled angering Hollywood executives when she brought DeGeneres as her date to the premiere of 1997’s “Volcano.”

“I was told by Fox Studio executives that if I brought Ellen to the premiere, my contract would be terminated,” she told the publication. “I brought Ellen despite those threats, and we were escorted out of the theater before the lights came on by security and not allowed to attend the premiere party because they did not want any photos of us together.”



Ellen DeGeneres (left) and Anne Heche at the 1998 Golden Globe Awards.

“I was a part of a revolution that created social change,” she added, “and I could not have done that without falling in love with her.”

In an interview with Entertainment Tonight last October, Heche noted that she hadn’t spoken to DeGeneres “in years,” but would be open to a reunion under the right circumstances.

“With relationships, I think many of us have [been there], you come to a fork in the road, ‘What do you want and what do I want?’” she said. “Those goals, that intent in life, is determined by the individual. Her intent and my intent were different and that’s why we separated.”



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Elliot Page Emotionally Shares What’s Given Him The Most Joy Since Coming Out As Trans

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Elliot Page is sharing the moment that has brought him the most joy since he announced he was a transgender man in December 2020.

In a peek at an interview with Oprah Winfrey slated for release on her Apple TV+ series “The Oprah Conversation” on Friday, the 34-year-old said that he’s found “the most joy.”

“Getting out of the shower and the towel’s around your waist and you’re looking at yourself in the mirror and you’re just like, ‘There I am.’ And I’m not having the moment where I’m panicked,” he said, before breaking down in tears. “It’s being able to touch my chest and feel comfortable in my body for the — probably the first time.”

The actor added his tears were “tears of joy.”

Earlier this year, Page talked to Time magazine about his decision to get top surgery and described the experience as something that allowed for him to recognize himself. Page recalled puberty as “total hell” and told the publication that the surgery “has completely transformed my life.”

He also told the publication that he spent much of his energy being uncomfortable with his body and the surgery has helped bring that energy back.

Page notably came out to fans last year with a heartfelt Instagram post, sharing that he would be using the pronouns “he” and “they” and said: “I feel lucky to be writing this. To be here. To have arrived at this place in my life.”

He went on to say: “I love that I am trans,” Page wrote. “And I love that I am queer. And the more I hold myself close and fully embrace who I am, the more my heart grows and the more I thrive.”  



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‘Bachelor’ Matt James Is Seeing Final Rose Recipient With Racist Past

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It isn’t over.

Matt James, who became the first Black lead of the dating reality series “The Bachelor,” told People on Wednesday that he’s been seeing Rachael Kirkconnell, the woman he chose but then rejected after her past racially insensitive social media posts were unearthed.

“I’ve seen Rachael a handful of times,” James said. “I’m not pursuing any relationships right now outside of that. I said I was going to focus on my relationship with her and that means focusing on it.”

Kirkconnell received James’ final rose on ABC’s reality series. After the season was in the can, pictures emerged on social media showing Georgia native Kirkconnell attending a slavery-era plantation-themed party and liking photos containing Confederate flags.

Kirkconnell apologized and said she “will continue to learn how to be anti-racist.” James said in the “After the Final Rose” episode last month that they broke up and that Kirkconnell had work to do on her own.

As for her progress, James told People “that’s something you could talk to her about.”

A report last week said the two were not speaking to each other, but that does not appear to be the case.

Stay tuned.





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Halle Berry Reacts To A Joke About Her Blunt Bob Debut At The Oscars

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Halle Berry joined the fun on Twitter after she debuted her new bob hairstyle at the 2021 Oscars on Sunday night.

The Oscar winner responded to a Twitter user who linked her new ’do to a popular lighthearted video from rapper Saucy Santana, who channels Nicki Minaj from the B.o.B. song “Out of My Mind” while rocking a bob.

“Halle Berry tonight,” the user tweeted on Sunday alongside the video. Berry retweeted the post on Tuesday and playfully responded with two emojis, including a laughing-face one:

Berry stunned on the Oscars red carpet in a pink-toned Dolce & Gabbana gown that featured a prominent bow. She showed off her new bob with bangs after she teased the hairstyle on Twitter earlier in the evening with a photo that only showed her hair chopped off.

Her hairstyle sparked a lot chatter on Twitter, with people sharing memes and all sorts of opinions of the ’do.

The legendary actor and style icon, who made history becoming the first (and still only) Black woman to win an Oscar for Best Actress in 2002, apparently wasn’t phased by the blunt-bob-detractors.

Berry arrived at the ceremony with her Grammy-winning musician boyfriend Van Hunt.

Hunt posted photos on Instagram Monday of him and Berry getting ready to attend the ceremony. His caption said it was the couple’s first date night. The two publicly confirmed their relationship on Instagram in September last year.





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Kate Middleton, Prince William Mark 10th Anniversary With New Portraits

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Kate Middleton and Prince William are celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary with brand-new photos.

Kensington Palace released two portraits on behalf of the couple on Wednesday, one day before their anniversary. The new pictures were snapped earlier this week at the palace by photographer Chris Floyd.





The two appear to have recreated the official photo William and Kate released for their engagement, which was taken by Mario Testino:

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who have been together nearly 20 years, officially tied the knot at Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011. Millions lined the wedding procession route, while an estimated 2 billion tuned in from around the world.

Celebrities including Elton John, Guy Ritchie and David and Victoria Beckham made up some of the 1,900 guests invited to the ceremony. Ellie Goulding performed at the couple’s evening reception, an honor she called quite “scary.”

“I did their first dance and like, talk about scary,” the singer told Vanity Fair in 2016. “I was so nervous, my hands were shaking.”

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge smile following their marriage at Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011, in London.



The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge smile following their marriage at Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011, in London.

Ten years since their wedding day, the duke and duchess now have three children: Prince George, 7; Princess Charlotte, 5; and Prince Louis, 3.

William and Kate celebrated Louis’ birthday last week by releasing a brand-new photo of their little one taken before his first day at nursery school.

Louis’ birthday is just two days after his great-grandmother Queen Elizabeth’s big day.

The queen turned 95 on April 21 and released a statement thanking people for the tributes to her late husband, Prince Philip.

“My family and I would like to thank you for all the support and kindness shown to us in recent days,” she said. “We have been deeply touched, and continue to be reminded that Philip had such an extraordinary impact on countless people throughout his life.”

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Kate Middleton’s Most Memorable Looks Of 2019



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