Discussing Hollywood’s Diversity Problem

Hollywood’s Diversity Problem

It’s been almost a decade since the #OscarsSoWhite brought our attention to the lack of diversity and inclusion in the Hollywood entertainment industry. The activist April Rein first tweeted the hashtag in 2015 in response to the nomination of 20 all-white actors for the Oscars Academy Awards. 

Although the industry has tried to improve its inclusion, the proportion is nowhere near the representation of the diverse United States population. However, while the active roles for minority actors and women are increasing, there is still significant misappropriation of the roles that matter to making executive decisions and telling stories that impact cultural diversity in America.

For instance, there are approximately 15% of women directors in Hollywood. The number of screenwriters whose stories are adapted for the screen is even worse, with one in every ten writers representing the minority. The implications of inadequate diversity in important executive roles is the primary reason Hollywood cannot make effective strides toward fixing diversity problems in the industry. 

Diversity has been misconstrued as casting more women in lead roles, having more people of color in a film, or increasing the representation of minorities on screen. While these are all significant elements, the term diversity goes far beyond just inclusivity in roles. 

Hollywood has included guidelines to analyze diversity in films, such as having at least two women cast in serious roles essential to the film’s themes. Another famous guideline is the racial Bechdel test, which posits that a film that does not tell culturally based stories needs at least two non-white main characters to pass as racially diverse.

Suppose the authors are not making a period film about Queen Elizabeth or a biography about Martin Luther where the casts are obviously highly skewed towards a specific race; the screenwriting should automatically include diverse characters to represent the real-life situation in the country. 

The misinterpretation of diversity has led to the notion that casting more people of color in roles that fit the stereotypes of hood thugs and unruly characters is diversifying the industry. It is not to say that African Americans should not be allowed to embody these roles in films, but if a writer or a director cannot imagine casting a white person in a similar position, there is a problem.

Sadly, approximately 66% of “gangsters” in films are people of color. Similarly, diversification does not mean casting more women but in female-oriented roles, like nurses, receptionists, and flight attendants. That is not to say women should not play these characters, but there is a problem with script writing if the writer only writes these roles for women.

Interestingly, these stereotypes don’t hold up with incarceration rates in prisons. 58% of prisoners in US prisons are white. In film however, the situation is reversed, with 66% of black people cast as criminals. Similarly, according to data from the 2020 US Statistics and Census Bureau, approximately 30% of CEOs in America are from minority groups, over 40% are women, and 12% identify as LGBTQ+. 

Roughly 20% of registered nurses are male, and LGBTQ+ represents around 10%, barely represented in films and series. For example, 40% of police officers in the United States are non-white; in movies and television, the percentage is roughly 15%.

Similarly, approximately 45% of doctors are from racially diverse minority groups; in Hollywood entertainment, only 9% of doctors are cast from racial minorities. Another prestigious occupation are airplane pilots, where 20% are from ethnic minorities, and in film they represent a minor 3%. 

Adversely though, race-swapping white characters is not going to help anyone’s cause. Not only does it make it seem derogatory to the original character, it also shows a startling lack of creativity from the writing team.

There’s a whole wealth of myths, stories and cultural history just waiting to be mined across the world. So instead of forcing in a Black Superman or gender-swapping established beloved characters, more work should be done to actually shine a spotlight on original, interesting stories

It’s not like there’s not a lot to choose from, even within the fiction world there’s a whole world of diverse stories that could very easily be adapted and allow that aforementioned diversity we’ve mentioned to shine. 

Hopefully, there will be a time when diversity will not be a topic of discussion in Hollywood. In an ideal world, the best people will be hired for the best roles, regardless of skin colour or gender.

Art and creativity should reflect society, and while diversity does make for better entertainment, the future success of Hollywood will be determined by just how it implements this, and in a way that benefits everyone.

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