In a move that appears to be draconian in nature, actress Geena Davis recently announced during her keynote speech at New Zealand’s Power of Inclusion Summit she was working with Disney to trial a new digital tool which will evaluate a script’s inclusiveness of under-represented groups and factors such as gender bias.
The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media has partnered with Walt Disney Studios to trial a new digital tool that will evaluate a script’s inclusiveness of under-represented groups and factors such as gender bias. The “spell check for bias”, as Geena Davis called it during her keynote speech at New Zealand’s Power of Inclusion Summit, will identify opportunities to “increase diversity” at the manuscript stage.
The technology, developed at the University of Southern California, uses patented machine learning tools to assess film and television scripts for gender bias and “discern the numbers of characters who are people of colour, LGBTQI, possess disabilities or belong to other groups typically underrepresented and failed by Hollywood storytelling.”
It’s a move that, while possessing good intentions, appears to suggest that artificial intelligence can positively influence raw creativity. Doesn’t that mean we’re laying the groundwork for computers to begin to write scripts for the movies we see. It’s a slippery slope that I don’t like.
If a group is misrepresented, does the new tool taken into consideration that writer’s own personal experience, the context of the story, or the creative ambitions and desires of the storyteller?
Davis says the goal is not to “shame and blame” but rather to reveal an unconscious bias that may manifest itself. But surely to take away what she terms an “unconscious bias” is a form of limiting original thought and imagination. Film shouldn’t be constrained by political correctness but free to explore our imperfections.
It is perhaps fitting Davis has teamed up with Disney. I wonder if the new tool will address the studio’s penchant – given the influence it has on young people’s minds – on its depiction of femininity, body image and beauty? Davis says only that it will help “decision-making” and “identify opportunities to increase diversity and inclusion in the manuscripts that they receive.