Ah, Hollywood. A land of films, fast cars and movie stars. Also a land of dinosaurs apparently. The recent “Oscars so White” scandal certainly shone a light on Hollywood’s problems with representation in regard to awards contention. However, this proves to be only part of a larger issue that plagues the industry.
The problems begin not at the award shows, but in the writing and casting process. With racial stereotyping. More often than not, we see people of colour cast in throwaway roles. The nerdy side-kick. The victim. Rarely the lead. And even when they are placed in leading roles, they’re paid significantly less than their counterparts.
“Certain ethnicities aren’t presented in a nuanced fashion, but often as stereotypes that borderline on the caricature.”
But surely this doesn’t concern us, right? Wrong. Our limited exposure to other cultures in cinema proves to be quite problematic. Certain ethnicities aren’t presented in a nuanced fashion, but often as stereotypes that borderline on the caricature. Ultimately, these repeated stereotypes become a manner of propaganda, influencing the way in which audiences perceive those of different ethnicities, if only slightly.
It’s certainly influenced how people have perceived me.
Hollywood’s issues with race also extend behind the camera. Last year, Jordan Peele became only the fifth African-American director to be nominated for ‘Best Director’ in ninety years of the Academy Awards. Ninety years. There are five nominations for ‘Best Director’ per year. Peele also became the first African-American person to win the award for ‘Best Original Screenplay’ for his film Get Out. But lack of recognition for minorities in the award circuit is hardly anything new.
“Even the mention of Idris Elba’s James Bond sparked enough controversy and he hasn’t even been cast in the role.”
As to why there haven’t been many minority-led films to this point it’s hard to tell. A possible explanation resides in the fact that this is largely untested waters. Whenever people of colour are cast in a high-profile role that isn’t specifically written with a minority actor or actress in mind- such as Michael B Jordan in 2015’s Fantastic Four– the internet backlash definitely puts the studios on edge. Even the mention of Idris Elba’s James Bond sparked enough controversy and he hasn’t even been cast in the role.
But the numbers don’t lie. And times are a changing.
“In spite of the naysayers, people do want to see representation in films.”
Both Marvel’s Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians dominated the Box Office upon release in 2018. The films were both financial and critical darlings, having been recently nominated for Golden Globe awards for ‘Best Drama’ and ‘Best Comedy/Musical’ respectively. If the studios could learn anything its that, in spite of the naysayers, people do want to see representation in films. Plus, these films make money. A tonne of it. And for them (I’d imagine) that’s the bottom line. Hopefully these films have started the ball rolling on minority-led productions. God knows there’s plenty of stories to tell.
And it is way overdue.
Featured image courtesy of Hans Splinter. No changes made to the image.
Image use license here.