Sunday, 28 February 2016

Why Racial Diversity in Hollywood is Important

by Kelvin Shiu

Why not nominated?
Racial diversity in Hollywood has been a popular topic this year. Because for the second year in a row all 20 actor/actress nominations were given to Caucasians. With Will Smith's performance in the film Concussion being notably absent. There have been improvements in diversity in Hollywood especially in TV and streaming services in recent years, such as the Netflix show Masters of None created by Aziz Ansari. In fact this show tackles the issues of diversity head on in the episode titled 'Indians on TV' as Aziz's character complains about how hard it is for indian actors to get cast and how often the characters available for them are stereotypical and borderline racist. Does an indian character have to have an indian accent? Why are so many indian characters local shop owners or janitors? The world is an incredibly diverse place so why is Hollywood not?

Michael Caine responded to the Oscar fiasco by saying that these awards should be purely a measure of talent and not skewed such as to accommodate for more racial diversity. Which is a fair comment, at the end of the day you don't want an oscar going to Kevin Hart just because he's black. It could just be that these last two years the best actors have all been white. Which suggests to me that the problem is not about who's being awarded awards. It's more to do with opportunity being given to minority actors and creative content which consists of complex characters for racial minorities being created. In 2012-2013 minority actors claimed 6.5% of the lead roles in broadcast scripted programming, the 93.5% being white. Which is a shocking statistic.

Jet Li
Minority actors are struggling a lot more than they should be. The most prominent Asian (Chinese) actors which spring to my mind in movies are Jet Li, Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee. All of which are (or were) martial artists. So in the world of film, the most interesting Asian people are the ones who can do Kung-Fu. At the end of the day, the ability to be able to perform martial arts is not what defines a race. Writers and studios in particular seem to feel more confident in their projects when they rely upon leading white actors. Many seem to not dare to skew away from this trend. Which just doesn't seem right an a world which should be inclusive and have equal opportunities for everyone no matter the skin colour, gender or sexuality. The diversity issue needs to be tackled such as to allow for significant progression of our world to evolve towards being the inclusive, embracing and open world that it should be. Progress has been made. Already massive progressions have been made for diversity such as in the film The Danish Girl and the TV series Transparent both featuring transgender characters. But there's a lot more that we can do to fully embrace diversity in all demographics.

The R-rated comedy Deadpool was a risk by Twentieth Century Fox. As it's the first R- rated comic book film of its kind, using the intellectual property of marvel comics. It was a massive success in the box office and now many studios are considering following in the footsteps of Deadpool. My point being that risks can pay off and the world of film and TV is one which should not to conform to trends and uniformity. More stories need to be created to accommodate for diversity, more studios need to take a leap of faith, and as a result more amazing cinema and TV will be produced. There are many more stories to be told and much more diversity to be embraced in our world. The sooner it is embraced the sooner audiences can enjoy it and the sooner the 'Caucasian Awards' can become the Oscars which is a true depiction of rewarding all the talent which actors of all different kinds have to offer. 

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