Diversity in Hollywood is a hot topic so it’s time for me to weigh in and say “Hollywood…wake up!”In February, the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite surfaced in response to the under representation of minorities on the big screen. Recently, Leonardo DiCaprio made headlines for being a potential choice to portray Persian poet, scholar, and mystic Rumi. Earlier in the year people, including me, became angry when Scarlett Johansson was cast in a live-action remake of Ghost in the Shell. Ghost in the Shell is based on a Japanese manga set. To top it off, DreamWorks reportedly tested CGI (computer generated imagery) to help her appear with more Asian features. In 2015, Emma Stone played a partially Asian girl in Aloha. *insert confused and angry emoji*
Diversity – Where is it on the Big Screen?
Nothing against DiCaprio, Stone, or Johansson, but there’s something fundamentally wrong with erasing the cultural aspects and representation of a non-white character. Fun fact: white actresses have won Oscars for playing Asian women than actual Asian women have. As a young Asian woman, this is upsetting. When a role meant for a minority goes to a white actor, what kind of message does that send? Are Asian/Black/Hispanic actors not good enough to portray a character of their own minority or play a role in representing their own culture? In my opinion, diversity on screen creates a new dimension to a film. (Another fact: Hispanics make up about 16% of the US population but receive about 3% of Oscar nominations).
Whitewashing- Bad for Business
I’m not here to advocate Hollywood must represent every minority statistic to the decimal point. I’m sure you can find people who are far more politically correct in life than me, but I passionately believe roles created and/or scenes set in different cultures be kept true to their nature. It seems minority actors are pushed aside for parts they could be great at by Hollywood’s casting efforts to keep the big screen as white as possible. Maybe producers assume white characters sell better or are more appealing by American/Western standards.
Well that formula cannot work much longer in today’s heterogeneous America. Lately, I feel Hollywood is losing creativity in terms of quality and content. Since I worked a few years at a movie theater, keeping up with what’s coming out these days is still second nature to me. New releases these days seem to be mostly remakes of classic movies (ex: Tarzan) and sequels. From a business perspective, developing content that appeals to beyond white Americans can give the industry a boost.
Unfortunately, as evidenced by the latest Rumi casting, Hollywood is slow get with the times. Perhaps that’s why many minorities seek other outlets to act and express themselves. And when they do, they often find success. Netflix original shows like Master of None and Orange is the New Black are big hits. Besides great plot lines and scripts, they appeal to both white and non-white viewers. Look at Youtube, another outlet where minority expression is valued, and the success of stars such as Michelle Phan, FrmHeadtoToe etc.
People want something beyond whitewashed white bread Hollywood. The truth is, I’m just one person witnessing the system continually negate the experiences, culture, and representation of minorities. But I’m not the only person whose tired of it. Maybe one day Hollywood will get the message its audience wants to see more representation of today’s America on screen. Just hold the CGI please.