Film industry lacks minority representation


Used with permission by Universal

The Great Wall centers a Chinese theme around a white, male lead.

Amanda Mcnatt, Features Editor

Despite the fact that the movie industry is full of fantastic plotlines and characters, it lacks the ability to truly encompass diversity, evident by the dominance of white actors in popular films.
Within Hollywood, even the most renowned actors are guilty of supporting a flawed system. Emma Stone, the Oscar winning actress, is seen as socially aware celebrity in the media’s eyes. She is a feminist, is not known to do drugs, and when dating Andrew Garfield would hold up signs supporting charities when the two were spotted by paparazzi. Yet, even Stone is guilty of supporting the lack of diversity seen in the film industry.
In 2015, Stone starred in Aloha as a Hawaiian native. Stone, who in reality is as white as Wonder Bread, still took the roll when it should have gone to an actress with Hawaiian lineage. While it is true that another white actress would have most likely gotten the role had Stone refused the part, she could have chosen not to feed into the corrupt, racist system that feeds off of the cultures of people of color without using minorities to portray their own cultures. If larger, white actresses like Stone begin rejecting the system, then there is a possibility for things to get better.
Not only does the film industry use nonwhite cultures as accessories to a white characters storyline, but it also deliberately whitewashes said cultures. Egypt in particular is constantly whitewashed in the movies. It is evident Ancient Egypt was one of the greatest African dynasties due to its vibrant history. These films are great opportunities for black representation in the film industry but they are next to never acted upon. One would expect white casting from 1934’s Cleopatra due to how racially divided the world was, but continuing the trend in modern times is unacceptable and highlights how there is still a lot of work that is needed to reach equality.
God’s of Egypt, which came out in 2016, had one black god, Thoth, played by Chadwick Boseman. The rest of the gods are white with one half Cambodian actress thrown in the mix. A movie about Ancient Egypt should have black gods as well as black leads because that’s how it would have been in the time.
Sometimes the way a film is written causes white people to be cast when roles should be going to people of color. The Great Wall, which came out in 2016, takes place at The Great Wall of China and has a large focus on Chinese culture. That being said, the lead in this movie is Matt Damon who plays a European missionary. Having a white lead in a movie about China takes away yet another opportunity for Chinese representation, but this time it was the fault of the director, producer, and writers.
Director Zhang Yimou said that he never planned on casting the lead as any type of Asian person in an interview with The Lady Miz Diva, a Screen Anarchy representative. This is all problematic because this is a movie focused on Chinese culture. It wouldn’t be terrible to have white side characters, but have a white person as the main character is not okay. By putting a white man as the lead, it makes it as though Chinese culture is just an accessory to his storyline rather than focusing the movie completely on Chinese culture. Writers and producers of all races need to take responsibility for their bad habit of writing and seeking white leads. It is not completely the fault of actors for the lack of representation in the media.
This most recent Oscars has proven that movies focusing on people of color are recepted well by the public. Moonlight won best picture, Moana was nominated for best animated feature film, and black actress Viola Davis won best supporting actress. This proves that the public is ready for more representation for people of color.
This being said, it is not entirely the fault of Hollywood that there is little representation of people of color. Movie goers are just as guilty. As previously stated, Moonlight won an Oscar, but before that the movie did very poorly in theatres. When it comes down to it, the film industry only wants to make money. If the public does not go out and see films that feature people of color in main roles, there will be no increase of them in the future.
It is the duty of the current generation of actors, writers, directors, producers, and movie goers to make it normal to see people of color on the big screen. The film industry is a storytelling industry, therefore it needs to stop only telling the story of one race and properly represent all people.