Deadpool is a box office hit, pulling in $260 million worldwide on opening weekend.
Ryan Reynolds and I have something in common – comic books saved our lives. After a string of flops following the last successful project he was cast in Reynolds was considered by most in the industry as an actor that couldn’t seem to find success. In fact, if you googled Ryan Reynolds career just a few months before Deadpool, you’d find a string of headlines asking various questions about why he hadn’t yet become the Hollywood star that so many believed was lying dormant inside him.
In the span of 3 days the critics have changed their tune. The most popular hot take on Ryan Reynolds after Deadpool‘s opening weekend is that he is now back on the Hollywood A-list. His paparazzi flicks are worth more bands. He is once again worthy of the coveted prime time late night interview to promote whatever it is he does next – which will be whatever he wants because he’s the man with the sauce right now. In theory this is great. To this very day, I watch Ryan Reynolds’ films that bricked and enjoy them. He’s a talented, funny guy and he’s got range as an actor. However, Ryan Reynolds is representative of a problem that’s been happening in the film industry for a long time.
On paper, this is not a movie that any Hollywood studio would ever entrust to an actor with a resume like Mr. Reynolds’. Buried, Green Lantern, Turbo, R.I.P.D., four box office failures in the span of 3 years and all films that were supposed to be hits. Ryan Reynolds is their only common denominator, so while other factors may have likely contributed to the failures, that’s not what the industry said about them. Sure, there’s Safe House, but Denzel was in Safe House. The Proposal did well, too, but Sandra Bullock and Betty White were in that movie. Ryan Reynolds has been the equivalent of that kid from school whose parents buy him a new luxury vehicle every time he totals the one before. This isn’t Ryan’s fault, but it is his privilege.
Hollywood gave Ryan Reynolds the time he needed to catch his tempo, and he did…finally.
Deadpool is the perfect role for the actor’s style and sensibilities. It deserves to be successful and so does he. But, as the fight for representation for PoC in film continues, it can’t go without saying that before many actors of color even get a chance to shoot their shot and prove whether they can deliver, there’s push back from the studio and the consumer-side alike.
Idris Elba is too street to play James Bond. John Boyega doesn’t belong in a Star Wars trilogy. #CaptainAngelaBassett in a Star Trek television series would just be another example of politically correct (pc) casting. The Oscars aren’t devoid of black nominees because we’re racist, there just aren’t any films with black actors, directors, composers worth mentioning this year. These are real things that some people actually think.
Black actors and actresses are constantly being represented as bad fits for leading roles in film and television that are not considered Black films. Slave movie? Great. Biopic about a person of color? Love it, unless we can slide in a white cast and put spray tans in the budget. As soon as an actor of color is cast as a lead in a story that is not specific to the heritage of their people, or surrounded by an entire cast of other PoC, there’s a problem. When one of us gets cast in a highly anticipated film or show some people decide the only way a person of color could ever be hired is because of an unspoken affirmative action-like pact the film industry has made with the NAACP. It couldn’t be that actors of color are talented, multi-dimensional artists capable of box office success in mainstream movies — except that it is.
The casts of the movies we go to see and the shows we watch on television should be reflective of the people watching them.
The last few years in Hollywood have been unprecedented in that we’ve had the chance to see PoC hired as more than just tokens or stereotypes, but there is still more work to do. According to the Theatrical Market Statistics study for 2014, higher percentages of the Black and Latino communities are frequent moviegoers than in the white population, and the Latino community buys tickets at a higher volume per capita than any other. There are also more women going to the movies on a regular basis than men.
So yes, Ryan Reynolds is back on the A list. And everyone, including me, is very glad because now he has a franchise that he performs well in to take up his time. Maybe we can start giving all of his second, third, and fourth chance roles to actors of color, not because we’re trying to fill a diversity quota, but because there is a wealth of untapped, underused talent in that community. Every main character on every silver screen everywhere does not need to be a white man, especially since that’s not the only person who’s in the theater — or the world.
Thanks for reading Strictly 4 My Blerds.
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