It should go without saying that for years it’s been beyond the point of reckoning for diversity in Hollywood. From creating inherently racist stories to being completely tone deaf when it comes to portraying things like people with disabilities, women, lgbtq+ people, and people of color, Hollywood has missed the mark too many times to continue to operate in the manner that it has. For years, the status quo has been one POC person who may or may not be LGBTQ+ and that sets the mark for what it means to have a diverse cast. If you get lucky you might get two POC people as the comic relief and the tag-along sidekick.
In recent years, there have been a few exceptions to this, with representation beginning to become the forefront of conversation after the #Oscarssowhite in 2016, and huge film releases like Us and Get Out making massive waves across the industry.
With releases like Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite and Misha Green’s Lovecraft Country, it is very clear that diverse stories are needed in Hollywood because it’s current operation is no longer acceptable— and it never was, it was simply widely accepted.
The stories of minority people have often been handled by white writers writing the experiences of people that they have no idea about, meaning they reinforce stereotypes that they have seen, and in turn further damaged communities they have written about. It trickles down to every aspect of the entertainment business. Casting directors ignore POC representation in book-to-movie adaptations and rob POC actors of chances for exposure and POC people of the opportunity to see themselves on screens. Designers appropriate culture and put their designs on White models, getting praise for things minority groups are accosted for. Straight actors are chosen to play the roles of LGBTQ+ people; Music videos push colorist standards; Both TV shows and Movies cast mixed race actors to meet diversity requirements; White writers continue to write traumatizing stories based on their ideas of the Black experience and win awards for it, the list goes on and on, and yet there is still a debate on whether it’s time for Hollywood to employ minority people.
From writers to casting directors to film producers and directors, it’s time for Hollywood to get a full overhaul. The practices of the past seem to have been meant to please white audiences and no one else, and it should have never been this way in the first place. America is diverse therefore the stories being told should show that. However we are stuck watching Matt Damon scale the Great Wall of China and Scarlett Johansson be offered the role of a trans person.
The problem is not hard to spot especially for onlookers and consumers like myself. It has been speculated that Hollywood’s disregard for diverse stories has cost the industry billions of dollars. The success of Marvel Studios’ Black Panther is a true testament to this, the Black directed, majority Black cast, pulling in billions of dollars, and becoming one of the highest grossing films in the world. If this is the case, why then do we continue to act in the manner that we have? We deny minority writers a seat at the table and when they are invited, the stories likely involve trauma, under the assumption that this is…what? What we want to see?
It has been proven time and time again that diverse stories are marketable (not that this should have been a talking point anyway). Shows like Issa Rae’s Insecure, Micehala Coel’s Chewing Gum, Ryan Murphy’s Pose, are all amazing examples of diversity being done right. The representation in each of these shows are true representations of what the world looks like. We are not a society of which is made up of just one thing, why would we only give representation to one group?
The solution to these problems are simple ones in theory, however the work is where the problems start. Hollywood needs to begin giving opportunities to minority groups to begin curating their own stories and give them the platform to tell them. There are millions of stories out there but access to the people who can get them on screen or on the page is little. Things like Ava Duvernay’s new system for hiring diverse candidates for film and TV are exactly what the industry needs for minorities to begin getting their stories told and for Hollywood to begin seeing real diversity.
It’s beyond time for a change. I’m tired of still having discourse on movies with all white casts or debating someone on whether or not a superhero who was white in the comics should be Brown or Black in a film. I’m tired of seeing misrepresentations of minority people on screen. One painfully clear example of this is Sia’s movie “Music” where she depicts autism in a disgustingly stereotypical and offensive manner all while using a non-disabled person to do it.
We have accepted misrepresentation or no representation at all for far too long, and the change is necessary to ensure that Hollywood is a place where everyone feels as if they can see themselves in a positive light.
We need to hire writers, directors, actors, producers, videographers and everyone else in entertainment so that Hollywood looks like the society we have on the outside. There need to be people who can assure that those who have stories have access to getting them told and consumed by mass audiences. The time for diverse stories is beyond due, but making strides toward getting these stories out and told can start now because the time of misrepresentation is up.