Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, South By Southwest has been canceled this year but fortunately, you can still go over to Amazon Prime and watch some of the feature films, documentaries, and shorts that were scheduled to be featured this year. That’s what I’m going to be doing tonight and tomorrow.
I started things off by watching Affurmative Action, which is a 5-minute short film that is largely made up with shots of various “Meet the Team” pages. Those are the pages that appear on almost every business’s website, where you see smiling pictures of all of the people who are in leadership positions. This is especially true of small businesses, where the idea is that you look at all of the smiling, cheerful, hip faces and you say to yourself, “These are people who I want to work with!”
The majority of the “meet the team” pages that are featured in Affurmative Action come from advertising, media, and other creative companies that are located in either New York or Los Angeles, which are two very diverse cities with reputations for being culturally liberal. Director Travis Woods points two things out to us over the course of five minutes:
First off, it’s very common to see a dog (and, in one, case a cat) listed as being a part of the team. Sometimes, they’re listed as being “mascot.” One lucky dog was a Vice President of Barking or something like that.
Secondly, it’s very rare to see any black faces on the Meet The Team pages. In fact, the film makes the argument that you’re more likely to see a dog on the Meet The Team page than you are a black person.
Now, I have to admit that, when I first watched the documentary, I had what is probably a very stereotypical white girl reaction to it. “Awwwww!” I said, “those dogs are so cute!” (I’ll also admit right now that I was the one who suggested to Arleigh that Doc Bowman should become a contributor to the Shattered Lens.) But, once I got over the cuteness of the dogs, I also realized that the documentary was making a very valid and important point about the lack of diversity in many companies, especially when it comes to upper management. The dogs may be cute but they’re not the ones who are being shut out of leadership positions and who aren’t being given the same opportunity to advance in their careers. If nothing else, Affurmative Action is a film that I will remember every time that I look at a “Meet The Team” page.
As I said, it’s a short film. It’s only five minutes long. The dogs are cute. The film’s point is serious and will make you think.