Where’s Everyone Else? An Essay about Diversity in Hollywood

By Julius

Let’s be blunt; is Hollywood racist? For years in the film industry, it has always seemed as if there has been some sort of favoritism toward white actors. If there is, it hasn’t gone unnoticed, especially in the last few years. More and more minorities have been coming out expressing their distain with the perception that you can’t be a successful actor unless you bleach your skin. Are these accusations of  “Prejudice in Entertainment” justified?

    One area where diversity is questioned every year by the public is the Academy Awards. Each year, the majority of nominees for each award are white. People blame this on the “out of touch judging panel,” that mainly consist of older white men. This past year, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the president of The Academy came out and promised to “diversify the overwhelmingly white Board of Governors.” Although no minorities won Best Actor, Actress, or Adapted Screenplay, this past years show was hosted by Chris Rock, who had his own opinions on the diversity issue, “Is Hollywood racist? You’re damn right Hollywood’s racist, but not the racist that you’ve grown accustomed to. Hollywood is sorority racist. It’s like, ‘We like you Ronda, but you’re not a Kappa.’ That’s how Hollywood is.”

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Another factor of this problem is a recent term, “White Washing,” meaning to cast a person of color with a Caucasian actor. This term has popped up frequently in the last couple of years, more notably in “Genre Films” (Science Fiction, Action, Comic Books, etc.) One of the biggest examples of “white washing” in 2016 was when it was revealed that in Marvel Studios’ latest film Doctor Strange, the white English actress, Tilda Swinton would be playing a character called “The Ancient One,” a character who was originally male and Tibetan. More of the people who complained and automatically criticized Marvel for casting Tilda, didn’t realize that the original version of The Ancient One was an insensitive stereotype. This lead to arguments over the Internet, having people decide which would be worse: a white woman playing a role that was originally intended for a minority or a minority being portrayed as an out of date, offensive, and (to be frank) racist depiction of that culture. There is never a clear answer for a sticky situation like this, but Tilda herself had this to say, “There may be some people who do not like these changes, but I am hopeful that when they see the film itself they may understand why these particular balances were struck.”

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One of the more common responses to the diversity question is, “Minorities won’t bring in a large audience. The Studios have to stick to white actors and actresses for a guaranteed profit.” The most recent example of this was with the upcoming film, Ghost in the Shell, a film based on a popular anime that has brought on a lot of controversy for its casting of Scarlett Johansson as the lead character. Fans of the hit show were appalled to say the least, and many actors and people who work in the film industry had something to say. The writer of Chronicle and American Ultra, Max Landis gave his two cents, “The only reason to be upset about Scarlett Johansson being in Ghost in the Shell is if you don’t know how the movie industry works. It’s infuriating. There used to be, in the 90s, diversity in our A-list actors. Jackie Chan and Jet Li were famous at the same time, they could both get movies made. We don’t have that guy any more, we don’t even have Lucy Liu any more. That is not the fault of the movie industry, really. That’s culture and movies getting more and more afraid because movies make less and less money.” Landis is no stranger to controversial comments made on either YouTube or Twitter, and though his comments regarding this topic might have made some peoples eyebrow raise, his opinions were mainly referencing the mainstream audience who goes to the movies, implying that if people want to see more color in their big budget movies of the year, they have to speak up and go see the ones that are already out and have it.

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And yes.. he meant it that way.

Max Landis

@Uptomyknees

NO I FUCKING DON’T.
I list it as PART OF A BROKEN SYSTEM that FUCKS OVER ACTORS and MINORITIES. https://twitter.com/indiewire/status/721370739916419072 

 

Another problem people  have with “Diversity in Hollywood” is representation. Many big movies do come out with minority actors in them, but many of those minorities are brought in as a supporting role or even worse… a stereotype. Unlike Tilda Swinton’s casting in Doctor Strange, where they tried to avoid being as racially insensitive as possible, some filmmakers just don’t seem to understand where the line is. Timothy Shin from The GOAT Movie Podcast expressed some of the problems regarding this, “When we talk about ‘Where are the Asians in Hollywood,’ I’m not going to sit here and say Latinos or the African Americans have it better than us, right? Because we’re still all equally underrepresented, and when we are, what are we? I mean, look at El Diablo (a Hispanic character from the film Suicide Squad) he’s just a gangster, he’s just a prisoner or when you look at an African American, he’s just a thug. How about an Asian? He’s just a Kung Fu master or a sexless nerd.” These representations of the underrepresented are ideals of the past, that show up in film often but are slowly fading away, thanks to studios finally taking risks and chances. More and more films and shows are being announced, that will star minorities.

 

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Yes, right now the majority of minorities don’t have faith in Hollywood, but this will change. Soon enough, studios will understand that black people, Asians, Latinos, Indians, and everyone who isn’t white have money also, and they want to spend it on movies that show them on screen in a developed, non insulting way. Everyone goes to the movies, and everyone wants to have just as much fun as the other guy.

 

 

 

 

 

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