"Inclusion rider" was a powerful phrase that resonated across the Dolby Theatre as actor Frances McDormand accepted her second Oscar for Actress in a Leading Role for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Resplendent in a black and golden number, and exuding a curious mix of nervous energy and self-assurance, McDormand delivered the final eloquent address referencing the #MeToo movement when she urged all female nominees to stand up and join her in solidarity towards the end of the ceremony:
“If I could have all the women stand up with me in this moment,” McDormand cheered, “Look around, everybody, look around, ladies and gentlemen, because we all have stories to tell, and we all have projects we need to finance.”
The 60-year-old McDormand—who in Three Billboards... essays the character of a grieving, fiery mother who rents three billboards with the words "Raped While Dying", "And Still No Arrests?", and "How Come, Chief Willoughby?" etched on them in a desperate attempt to draw attention to the rape and murder of her teenage daughter—is no stranger to power-packed women-centric performances. In Fargo, for which McDormand won her first Oscar, she played Marge, chief of police who is seven months pregnant while investigating roadside homicides. She is also known for her portrayal of the DuBois sister Stella Kowalski from the play A Streetcar Named Desire; she was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play in 1984. Here, she became a metaphorical battleground for the tempestuous relationship between Stella's husband and her sister. But it was in the HBO mini-series Olive Kitteridge (2014) that McDormand took everyone by surprise and went on to win the 2014 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress. Playing the eponymous Olive Kitteridge from a faraway coastal town, she is a retired school teacher who is equal parts cynical, hard-edged, anti-social, funny and kind. It is this raging balance of delicacy and vehemence that has become a trademark McDormand style.
In a similar vein, McDormand's parting flourish at the Oscar, "Inclusion Rider", was brave, hard-hitting and humorous. As American actress and comedian Whitney Cummings explained on Twitter: "an inclusion rider is something actors put into their contracts to ensure gender and racial equality in hiring on movie sets. We should support this for a billion reasons, but if you can't find a reason to, here's one: it will make movies better." Amen!