USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative Will Begin Tracking How Hollywood Tackles Abortion and Other Major Political Issues

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The USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative announced a new project Wednesday that will explore how often film and television projects in Hollywood address major political issues in their stories, most notably abortion and reproductive rights.

The Annenberg Inclusion Initative, which was founded by Dr. Stacy L. Smith, has for several years conducted annual surveys tracking Hollywood’s progress in hiring more women and people of color in lead acting roles as well as in major roles behind the camera. Now, following the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court, Smith says her team will investigate how Washington and Hollywood intersect in the media that millions view daily.

“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,” Smith said. “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.”

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The new project will examine portrayals of issues such as reproductive rights, firearm usage, and voting rights, as well as expand the Initiative’s research into the portrayal of LGBT couples and families. Smith and her team will also develop a set of evidence-driven best practices for content creators across
the entertainment spectrum.

The Initiative is also collaborating with the philanthropist organization Women Moving Millions to start a grant program that will provide at least three undergraduate film studios $25,000 to support script development of projects that focus on reproductive rights. More details on the grant program will be revealed later this fall.

Dozens of Hollywood actors and producers have signed on in support of the Inclusion Initiative’s new project, including Meryl Streep, Scarlett Johansson, Kerry Washington, Julianne Moore, Tessa Thompson, Amy Schumer, Gemma Chan, Laura Dern, Eva Longoria, and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Other supporters include Congressman Joaquin Castro, Participant CEO David Linde, and Planned Parenthood’s national director of arts and entertainment engagement, Caren Spruch.

“The entertainment community plays a critical role in educating people about their sexual and reproductive health and rights, including abortion. With Roe v. Wade overturned and birth control, LGBQT+ and other rights threatened, this new Annenberg Inclusion Initiative research project will provide an invaluable tool to ensure audiences are reached with medically and legislatively accurate storytelling about these issues,” Spruch said.

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