Hollywood, Hire More Diverse Actors

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Hollywood, Hire More Diverse Actors

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By Arianna Chen

Box office successes such as Crazy Rich Asians will hopefully pave the way for more representation in Hollywood. (Courtesy of Flickr)

According to Forbes, Black Panther shattered the record for the biggest solo superhero movie launch of all time with its opening weekend with $202 million; this record was previously held by Iron Man 3 at $174 million in the box office. Among other honors such as the BET and International Online Cinema Awards, Black Panther was also cited by The Tribune to be the third top-grossing movie of all time, surpassing the renowned Titanic.

The release of Black Panther not only resulted in mass fiscal success and fervent public support, but also the acknowledgement and commendation of black culture and African society. Contrary to the popular portrayal of Africa holistically in the media as “other” or primitive in nature, Black Panther embraced natural African beauty in the landscape of a sophisticated, futuristic and prosperous African society.

Just one of the many benefits of minority casting shows through this: Black Panther vastly widens the stream of narratives that black characters and plots can successfully depict, far beyond the culturally binding and insensitive stereotypes of the past.

Featuring a primarily Asian-American cast, the release of Jon M. Chu’s Crazy Rich Asians has also challenged Hollywood standards of a classic love story, or more so, who can participate in a classic love story. As reported by NBC News, the movie earned a whopping $35 million within the first five days of release, has been ranked number one at the box office for the three consecutive weeks since release and earned enough to crown it the highest-grossing Labor Day box office film.

As shown by the 2017 film adaptation of the Japanese manga Ghost in the Shell, in which the Caucasian Scarlett Johansson plays the Japanese lead character Motoko Kusanagi, Asians have been blacklisted and pigeonholed by Hollywood. Julie Rodriguez launched a petition to call for Scarlett Johansson to either step down from the role or be booted for the rationale that “it’s a self-defeating cycle: Hollywood insists viewers won’t be drawn to unknown minority actors, but they’re never given the chance to break out of a narrow set of background roles to prove themselves,” Rodriguez said.

According to the U.S. Census, the population of Asian-Americans in America in 2016 was 21.4 million people. Of those 21.4 million people, at least one hopeful and talented Asian-American actor or actress must have applied and been just as qualified as the talented candidates described above. In layman’s terms: there is no reason why prominent white actors should pose as Asian-Americans, or any minority for that matter, in Hollywood film.

With the uproar over false speculations concerning Idris Elba playing the esteemed secret service agent James Bond 007 in the next remake of the franchise, critics have been calling the views of those who seek minority representation in the media unequal in their perspective.

But the difference lies in this: James Bond’s identity does not lie in the fact that he is portrayed as a white male in the same way that Doctor Who’s character is not wholly defined by gender. However, the plot of many shows and movies that feature a minority cast are majorly based around the culture and heritage of aforementioned minorities. For example, in Crazy Rich Asians, Nick Young struggles to prove love to his family, whose wish is that he marries a woman who fiscally and etiquettely suits the Youngs.

In America particularly, being a minority shapes and defines one’s identity in ways that being white does not. The fact of the matter is this: being a minority directly impacts the way that people are perceived, the interactions that one has with others and consequently, one’s life holistically.

Unfortunately, being a minority in America also affects the opportunities that one receives not only in the film industry, but in all fields and practices.

Minority inclusivity in Hollywood films has not only proven itself to be fiscally rewarding, but has also helped also help extend the potential narratives for minorities far past the limited opportunities provided from modern day America.

 

Arianna Chen, FCRH ’22, is a political science and English major from Wayne, New Jersey.