Hollywood needs more color
America prides itself on diversity and equality, but the movies shown at theaters continue to disprove this.
The vast majority of films I see are centered around a white male protagonist. Even Neil Patrick Harris noted this when he hosted the 2015 Academy Awards, jokingly saying, “Tonight we honor Hollywood’s best and whitest, I mean brightest.”
So, where is the diversity in the American film industry?
As an Indian-American, I often saw a barrage of stereotypes and misrepresentations of my ethnicity through characters like Apu from “The Simpsons.”
My first time seeing a brown character who I could relate to was when I saw the first “Harold and Kumar” movie.
Whitewashing holds the spotlight while diversity struggles to escape the shadows.
According to a 2013 report by the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA, only 16.7 percent of lead film roles went to minorities. Yet, when we walk through any spot of the UH campus, we see the various cultures that make up this city.
“Not only is Hollywood overlooking amazing talents outside of the Caucasian spectrum of actors,” an exploratory studies sophomore and aspiring filmmaker George Chuang said. “It’s misrepresenting characters in movies who should be another race to begin with.”
The movie “21,” inspired by a true story, contained a lead cast of four Caucasian and two Asian-American actors. However, in actuality, five of those real life characters, including the one portrayed by Kevin Spacey, were of Asian origin. The upcoming live action adaptation of anime, “Ghost in the Shell,” will cast Scarlett Johansson for the lead character, who was originally Japanese.
If Hollywood cannot stay true to the characters it portrays, what does that tell us about our culture?
“Even at a time when minorities account for almost 40 percent of the American population, when Hollywood wants an ‘everyman,’ what it really wants is a straight white guy,” comedian Aziz Ansari told the New York Times. “Even though I’ve sold out Madison Square Garden as a standup comedian and have appeared in several films and a TV series, when my phone rings, the roles I’m offered are often defined by ethnicity and often require accents.”
Despite the troubles minorities face in the film world, TV shows have started evolving as shows such as “Fresh off the Boat” and”Dr. Ken” take flight with positive reviews. This only proves that people are craving diverse stories not just stories that enhance stereotypes, but stories that enhance authenticity.
If TV shows can push boundaries and excel, why must the film world follow the redundant formula it has been using for decades?
“Television and web series entertainment are boldly and successfully telling stories that reflect the many colors of the world,” alumnus Dominique Champion, a theatre graduate and aspiring actor, said. “Film producers, for the sake of the dollar sign, don’t attempt to try and step into racial openness.”
Filmmakers need money to continue working. The paying audience determines their decisions.
Our stories determine our culture and values. If diversity must be promoted, it’s time we support movies that are more inclusive like the upcoming “Star Wars” movie or even independent films that actually cast minorities while staying true to the art.
Over time, change may come. But that change starts with us as consumers.
Opinion columnist Krishna Narra is a marketing junior and may be reached at [email protected]