USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative Launches Study Of Hollywood’s Depiction Of Abortion, Gun Violence & Marriage Equality

The USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, known for its oft-critical reports on Hollywood’s hiring practices and portrayals of underrepresented groups, is launching a “new focus” that will measure the film and TV industry’s depictions of a wide range of political issues, including abortion, gun violence, voting, marriage equality and interracial relationships.

The new approach comes in response to the Supreme Court’s overturning Roe v. Wade and concerns that other long-held rights also might be in danger.

“With the curtailing of reproductive rights, it is not only necessary to find legal solutions to protect marginalized communities, but it is essential to educate and inform audiences about these topics,” said Dr. Stacy L. Smith, founder of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. “Entertainment has a unique ability to reach viewers and provide that education. Our goal is to illuminate how many opportunities there are to use storytelling as a tool to expand the conversation and create substantial attitude and policy change.”

With respect to the erosion of other rights, Smith told Deadline, “We want to take a look at them to see how when and under what context these themes appear in storytelling.”

Smith, whose background as a professor and student is in media violence, added that “research demonstrates that exposure to media violence can contribute to aggressive thoughts, attitudes, behaviors, emotional desensitization and fear of victimization. So it’s important to measure the frequency of violence in general, and gun violence specifically, in storytelling.”

With regard to abortion rights, the Initiative is working with Caren Spruch, an expert on reproductive rights in storytelling, and has received the support from numerous celebrities including Meryl Streep, Kerry Washington, Scarlett Johansson, Eva Longoria, Julianne Moore, Amy Schumer and Laura Dern. See the full list of supporters below.

In addition to measuring film and TV portrayals of these hot-button topics, the Initiative says it plans to “develop and disseminate solutions for change” by providing “a set of evidence-driven best practices for content creators across the entertainment spectrum. Moreover, from its position at the University of Southern California, the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative is uniquely poised to speak to these issues and incorporate the perspective of the next generation of leaders and content creators.”

The Initiative plans to share its solutions at a convening of college students and industry leaders following the release of a report later this year. The Initiative also announced a new program for student filmmakers whose work focuses on reproductive rights. The program will award a minimum of three student directors with $25,000 for the development and production of short films focused on reproductive health.

Those working on screen and behind the camera who have lent their support include:

Meryl Streep, Actor
Scarlett Johansson, actor-producer
Kerry Washington, actor-director-producer
Julianne Moore, actor-producer
Tessa Thompson, actor-producer
Amy Schumer, actor-comedian
Laura Dern, actor-producer
Gemma Chan, actor-producer
Eva Longoria, actor-director
Maggie Gyllenhaal, actor-filmmaker
Jennifer Beals, actor
Mila Kunis, actor-producer
Rosario Dawson, actor-artist-producer
Alysia Reiner, actor
Jenny Slate, actor-producer-author
Kate Walsh, actor-producer
Emmy Rossum, actor-director-producer
Jurnee Smollett, actor-producer
Busy Philipps, actor-author
Ilana Glazer, actor-writer-producer
Rachel Bloom, actor-writer
Jameela Jamil, actor, founder of I Weigh
Attica Locke, showrunner-writer-producer-author
Tembi Locke, actor-producer-author

Executives from several industries, including politics and academia, have also signed on to support the Initiative’s work, including:

Jody Gerson, Chairman & CEO, Universal Music Publishing Group
Dawn Ostroff, Chief Content & Advertising Business Officer, Spotify
Congressman Joaquin Castro, U.S. Congressman of the 20th District of Texas
Julia Gillard, 27th Prime Minister of Australia & Chair of Global Institute for Women’s Leadership
Michele Jubelirer, Chair & CEO, Capital Music Group
Phillip Sun, Co-Founder & President, M88
Brenda Robinson, Board Chair, Film Independent and Annenberg Inclusion Initiative
Cindi Berger, Chairwoman, Rogers & Cowan PMK
Alan Nierob, Chairman, Rogers & Cowan PMK
David Linde, CEO, Participant
Desiree Gruber, CEO, Full Picture
Rishi Rajani, CEO, Hillman Grad Productions
Guillaume Lacroix, CEO, Brut Media
Dr. Emily Roxworthy, Dean of the School of Dramatic Arts, University of Southern California
Dr. Jessi Gold, Director of Wellness, Engagement & Outreach; Department of Psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine

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