Why I Believe Hollywood Has A Moral Responsibility To Be Inclusive
In 2020, there is no excuse to have an all-white cast.
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2020 — The beginning of an exciting new decade, filled with the promise of new stories being told, new faces appearing in the film industry and an entire future to be shaped. The last 10 years have seen such wonderfully progressive steps when it comes to diversity in film and media. From revolutionary Oscar wins to major box office hits, people of color (POCs) are finally receiving their moments in the sun.
Or so we thought.
Despite the success POCs have achieved, Hollywood is still distinctly lacking when it comes to overall inclusivity.
With every When They See Us comes several shows with all-white casts. For every Guillermo Del Toro award win, comes at least 15 award snubs for POCs. For every chant of feminism and openness, a myriad of negative “-isms” and phobias continue to plague the industry and are rarely addressed by those within. Time and time again, we see how these injustices are loosely covered up with the classic responses; recycled apologies, followed by crocodile tears and victimization, and finally, all wrapped up with gaslighting those who called it out.
Hollywood has a moral responsibility to allow accurate representation of human life that does not completely center on white individuals.
Disney’s 2019 live-action remake of their 1992 animated film, Aladdin, was a box office sensation, garnering over $1 billion dollars worldwide. Yet, in spite of Aladdin’s success, Mena Massoud, who portrayed the titular character, is struggling to find work in mainstream media. According to his IMDB page, the only project Massoud has on deck is voice work in Alexander Kronemer’s upcoming animation, Lamya’s Poem. It’s strange, Massoud was plastered on every billboard when Aladdin rolled into town, and now, it’s as if he’s fallen into obscurity. It seems that Hollywood has no issue with profiting off the work of POCs, but refuses to let them into the room to audition.
This is an issue. Regardless of their achievements, POCs still aren’t invited to a seat at the table. Hollywood uses POCs for their diversity and work, then bleeds them dry and throws them away after they make a buck. It’s upsetting. It’s unjust. It’s blatantly exclusive.
POCs should not have to wait until their award speeches to beg directors for opportunities to be seen and heard. We’ve grown so used to glamorizing the struggle POCs endure in such a flourishing industry, that we applaud their words as if we’re hearing them for the first time. POCs deserve far more than simple viral speeches that are only repeated the next time one of us wins. What's worse, we applaud white individuals for calling out this oppressive system on award stages as if we're to be thankful they're finally recognizing the mess they've created and/or preserved. And deep down, there is a small part of us that wants to be grateful for the allies in our corner and share in the cries for more representation, but after so many years of being silenced, it's difficult to join in these calls to action that fall upon those unwilling to change.
We look to film and television to see ourselves, and by excluding POCs, it feels as if our stories do not matter. Stories like Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther, and Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma are vital, because it allows POCs to finally see ourselves on screen outside of damaging and racist stereotypes. This is why representation matters — so we can finally see ourselves centered in stories outside of whiteness.
Honestly, in 2020 there is no excuse to have an all-white cast. It’s irresponsible, and quite frankly, it’s inaccurate. And yes, only having a single POC in a film is just as detrimental. This decade must mark the end of tokenizing POCs in the media and excluding them to make room for white-centered stories. New York is one of the most diverse cities in the world, yet most television series that take place in the Big Apple are heavily centered on the lives of white individuals. Shows like Sex and the City, Friends, Girls, How I Met Your Mother and even Seinfeld considerably lacked diverse casts and only utilized POCs as disposable love interests or one time plot points to move whiteness forward.
There is no doubt that POCs bring unbridled imagination and perspectives into Hollywood; their work speaks volumes. Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, Get Out, garnered over $100M in domestic totals and over $250M worldwide. Girls Trip
also crossed the $100M mark back in 2017. Crazy Rich Asians
earned $238.5M worldwide in 2018. Shonda Rhimes, renowned showrunner, has owned Thursday night television since Grey’s Anatomy’s premiere back in 2005. Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang’s Master of None became a master of success, with an Emmy win for Lena Waithe, proving that while POC storylines matter, so does the representation of LGBTQ+ individuals. It’s undeniable that there is resounding success where POCs are concerned, which is why Hollywood’s upsetting lack of representation is all the more insulting.
We can only do so much in an industry designed to propagate harmful narratives of POCs. And while our strength to overcome adversity is always at an all-time high, where does change finally occur? The waves of representation and recognition constantly ebb and flow, but at what point do we stop and say enough is enough? At what point do we, as a collective, achieve visibility? Isn’t Hollywood tired?
Aren’t they tired of perpetuating racial exclusivity? What will it take before more POCs are welcomed into the rooms where they belong? Aren’t they exhausted whitewashing roles meant for POCs for the sake of sticking with the status quo?
The year 2020 is supposed to be the year of clear vision, and if that’s the case, maybe Hollywood won’t be so blind to the immorality tarnishing the industry.