Flanked by a powerful group of luminaries, the project will monitor popular entertainment content for issues related to reproductive rights, marriage equality, race relations and gun violence and offer ideas for creating change.
Amid protests and fallout from the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wadeone group is taking a step to examine how often the topics of reproductive health, marriage equality and race relations, voting issues, and gun violence appear in one specific context: entertainment.
“With the restriction of reproductive rights, not only is it necessary to find legal solutions to protect marginalized communities, but it is essential to educate and inform the public about these topics,” said 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 highlight the number of opportunities to use storytelling as a tool to expand conversation and create substantial change in attitude and Politics.
Smith and the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative regularly publish studies on inclusion in the entertainment industry. Today’s announcement moves the group’s work in a new direction to examine indicators related to reproductive health, voting and gun use. This decision also expands the initiative’s existing research to focus more on romantic partnerships and family representations of the LGBTQ+ community and racial/ethnic groups.
The announcement is in response to the restriction of legal access to abortion for women in the United States and will also respond to comments made by Judge Clarence Thomas in his supporting opinion on the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization Case. A strong response from across the entertainment industry emerged in support of the initiative’s new work. Notable figures working on screen and behind the camera have lent their support, including actors Meryl Streep, Kerry Washington and Eva Longoria.
Leaders from multiple sectors, including political and academic, have also pledged to support the work of the Initiative, including: Jody Gerson, President and CEO of Universal Music Publishing Group, Dawn Ostroff, Chief Content and Advertising Officer of Spotify, and Congressman Joaquin Castro.
In addition to measuring entertainment portrayals of these political topics, Smith and the initiative plan to develop and disseminate solutions for change. Drawing on Smith’s expertise as a media effects specialist, the project will provide a set of evidence-based best practices for content creators across the entertainment spectrum. Additionally, from its position at the University of Southern California, the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative is uniquely positioned to address these issues and incorporate the perspective of the next generation of leaders and content creators. The initiative plans to share its solutions at a meeting of students and industry leaders after the report is released.
Another solution from the initiative is the launch of a Reproductive Rights Acceleration Program to support undergraduate film students whose work bears on the subject. Funded by several Women Moving Millions members, the Accelerator program will provide at least three students with $25,000 in funding to support script development and production.
“Through this Accelerator program, we hope to support storytellers as they tackle some of the most pressing issues facing their generation. By harnessing the power of entertainment, these students can shape the hearts and minds of their peers and wider audiences in ways that influence culture and decision-making,” said Monika Parekh, President of Psquared. Charitable Foundation. More information about the Accelerator program will be announced this fall.
With their work, Smith and the initiative join a long line of academics and advocacy groups working to answer questions and address societal inequalities on these topics.
“The entertainment community plays a vital role in educating people about their sexual and reproductive health and rights, including abortion,” said Caren Spruch, National Director, Arts and Entertainment Engagement, Planned Parenthood Federation of America. , who endorses the project as one of the top reproductive health thought leaders in the story. “With Roe vs. Wade overthrown and birth control, LGBQT+ and other rights under threat, this new Annenberg Inclusion Initiative research project will provide an invaluable tool to ensure the public is reached with medically and legislatively accurate narrative on these issues. And, above all, it will monitor the progress made. As we fight for every person’s right to bodily autonomy, working with the Initiative and its supporters will be essential to changing the culture to achieve this goal.