Arecent source of controversy in the news has been the Oscar nominations. This year, as like many past years, not a single person of color was nominated for an award in the four main acting categories. Once again, Hollywood showcases its complete lack of diversity in regards to race, gender, and sexuality.
When you think of the common protagonist in a hit movie, how do you imagine them? Most likely you picture a young white man. This man is probably also cisgender and straight. It’s so strange that this is what most protagonists look like despite the fact that our population is much more diverse. According to statistics, 63% of US citizens are white. 12% are black, 18% are Hispanic, 6% are Asian, and 2% are Native American. 49% of citizens are male and 51% are female. So why is it that every movie seems to star a white man?
People may ask, is representation so important? The answer? Extremely! When you think of your favorite characters, typically they’re people you can relate to, people who remind you of yourself. But when you don’t see characters that look like you or experience the things you do, it can be damaging, especially for children. Growing up as a lesbian, I never saw positive examples of girls like me in the media. The only lesbians I saw were extremely stereotypical and often showcased in a negative way. Finally, when I was about 12 years old, I saw, But, I’m a Cheerleader, a film about a cheerleader named Megan who is sent away to a program that turns people straight because her friends and family believe that she is a lesbian. However, throughout the film she begins to accept herself and falls in love with another girl in the program. I finally saw an example of someone like me in a positive way, and it helped me immensely with my journey towards self-acceptance. And it’s examples like Megan that show us how important representation truly is.
Senior, Bianca Saenz, had a lot to say on the issue. “I feel the lack of diversity in Hollywood is incredibly ridiculous especially with our current time. America is supposed to be this country filled with equal opportunity and acceptance but most Americans don’t express this way of thinking. Most films are filled with Caucasians, and while most of them are indeed talented, I wish I could see more people of color represented. Especially when there is a film about people of color and a white actor is chosen for a part they clearly shouldn’t be playing. We should stop white washing everything in our society is more fun diverse anyways.” And she’s completely right, even when roles are written for people of color, white actors are cast for the roles. For example, Emma Stone, a white actress, was cast for the role of an Asian woman in the movie Aloha.
And when we finally do get representation in big time films, people across the country react angrily. In the recent Star Wars movie, the two main protagonists of the movie are a woman and a black man. When the trailer was released, people everywhere expressed their anger and disappointment about having a black storm trooper in the series. Yet no one seemed to care that millions of little boys were seeing a hero that looked like them in a movie franchise as big as Star Wars. Not to mention to little girls everywhere that were amazed by Rey, a female protagonist who was not the damsel in distress, but the hero who saves the day.
Am I saying that we shouldn’t have movies with white male leads? Of course not. The actors that are nominated are extremely talented and deserve to be recognized. However, it’s time we stop catering to them. We need movies starring women, people of color, and legitimate LGBT actors because those people deserve to have their talent recognized just as much, and children around the world deserve to have someone on TV or in movies that are just like them.
Photo Credit: http://www.boredlion.com/10-most-shocking-oscar-snubs-in-history/