Recently, I saw a rather delightful film released by a huge Hollywood production company. It should come as no surprise that the film starred fresh unknown white actors as the heroes while People Of Color (albeit VERY famous POC) were the throw-away antagonists. The plot was predictable and the end message was strong: hoodlums can change, they can improve their lives and become noble, respected, gentlemen…as long as said hoodlums are Caucasian.
Later that night, I lay in bed re-thinking the film and wondered to myself: “How would the movie have been different if the main character was, say, Latino or Black?” And it came to me…producers probably wouldn’t have had the main character be anything other than white because: A) it would have alluded that the story was “trying to make a statement,” B) it would have put a Male POC in a position of aggressive power which most of Hollywood deems too threatening for a blockbuster protagonist, or C) they honestly didn’t even think twice about it (which might be the worst of all.)
Statistically, nearly all the major studios are run by caucasian men and for the most part, unless there’s a pre-existing target audience for a female hero (The Hunger Games,) a black hero (Blade,) or a non-caucasian actor (Will Smith or Dwayne Johnson) they’re not going to take what they deem as “risks” with casting non-white and/or female leads. This is surprising since the majority of movie goers in the U.S, are latino. When the big wigs** in Hollywood imagine the average person, it’s seems to always be the image of a white man popping-up into their brains. And that is horribly unfortunate.
But there is change on the horizon. Independent filmmakers have less interference from Hollywood, gifting them more creative control and the ability to take “risks.” We are entering an age where ANY person can raise money via crowd-funding to produce a movie! People who want to see themselves (or in some cases something other than themselves) represented on screen, now have the tools to do so. Society literally has the power to directly alter the history of film! I predict within the next few years a surplus of, what the industry deems, atypical protagonists flourishing in independent cinema. Hopefully, this success will have a spill-over effect into the mainstream, proving to Hollywood once and for all that “minorities” are worthy of representation. Even when merely existing should have made it so.
What do you think? Comment in the section below.
**Please understand I am not attacking nor am I diminishing the accomplishments of these folks, merely making astute observations.