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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCD chapter.

Since it is Black History Month, I felt it was only fitting to talk about how underrepresented the Black community is within the movie industry. In Hollywood, there is always an underrepresentation of the Black community, from a lack of diversity in movie projects to tropes in animated films.

In animated movies such as The Princess and the Frog and Soul, it was exciting to see a movie that would star a lead Black character. However, what seemed to start off as a shift towards representation for the Black community was in fact not. Even though the main characters were supposed to be Black, in the majority of the movie they were animals instead. Tiana was essentially a frog for the entire movie while trying to find a way to change back in order to save her restaurant. It was not until the very end where she was able to turn back after figuring out that she was indeed a princess once she married Naveen.

crowded movie theatre
Photo by Erik Witsoe from Unsplash
In Soul, Joe Gardner was supposed to be the main character of the movie, but it seemed more centered around Soul-29 and trying to help her find a purpose in life. He was advertised in all the promos as the center of the movie and yet it felt as though he was the side character. It also did not help that for a majority of the movie he was portrayed as a cat and a soul rather than a person. Animated movies like these are examples of ways that Hollywood has displaced race. The racial representation and idea of having “something for everyone” glosses over the real issues of diversity in the movie industry.

Another important note to take into consideration is the significantly large gap towards more diverse projects. The big movie production companies such as 20th Century Fox, Paramount, and DreamWorks are all run by White executives who tend to pass on diverse projects. They tend to stick to more generic movie plots that are on the safer side rather than risk in investing in movies that could potentially fail. However, today’s world contains such a large audience for more representation that can no longer be ignored.

Selma 2014 movie directed by Ava DuVernay
For instance, in order for Black movies to be made, Black filmmakers rely on crowdfunding in order to finance the production. Indie film production companies also tend to fund Black filmmakers as well, which is great, but it lacks the exposure that the movie could potentially have if it were funded through bigger production companies. Selma, for example, was almost never made because Ava DuVernay had trouble finding the funds to get the green light for the movie. Major production companies passed on the historical movies, and it was not until Oprah backed up the movie with her own company that it started to make progress towards filming.

There needs to be more of a push for change in Hollywood. Black voices and stories deserve to be heard, as well as any other POC voices. There needs to be a fair chance for the Black community to let their stories be shared and it is well over due.

Jolene Fourth-year English and History double major, and pursuing a minor in professional writing at UC Davis.
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