How Has Hollywood Not Learned: This Diversity Thing Doesn't Have to Be This Hard
We’re at a point where the Hollywood powers that be are suddenly listening to audiences when we tell them (over and over and over again) that inclusion and representation of communities and demographics beyond White Male Protagonist are what we want, and what we want to pay money to see. Yet still, with every step forward, there always seems to be a giant tumble assbackwards. For every Black Panther we have another year of #OscarsSoWhite. For every Captain Marvel, we have a dozen all-male writers rooms.
Maybe those people in charge of making movies and TV should take a listen from the people IN movies and TV, because a lot of those folks are really good at explaining why, if only those in power could get their heads out of their ingrained systemic asses, this shouldn’t actually be that hard. Here are just 9 examples of great advice actors and creators have at least tried to give to their industry.
The black-ish team is really tired of talking about all of this, frankly
As Kenya Barris laid out at the TCAs last week, this TV show is just a show. It’s not a “black” show. It’s a show.
Barris appeared to grow frustrated when one reporter asked him what percentage of the show’s audience was black.
“It doesn’t matter who’s watching our show,” he said. “The fact is that they’re watching it. And I feel like every question at every panel … I get so tired of talking about diversity. These are amazing, talented actors and amazing writers who give their all and they don’t have to do this. It’s crowding the conversation.”
Star Tracee Ellis Ross, nominated in July for an Emmy for best comedy actress, turned the question back on the reporter, asking, “Is that a question that you’ve asked other shows that are not predominately of a certain color?”
“Not necessarily,” the reporter said.
“Those questions continue the conversation in a direction that does not help the conversation,” Ross added.
“We always have to box everything in,” Barris said. “Isn’t it just a good family show? It’s specifically about a black family. We’re not denying that. But don’t you see yourself in it? Don’t you see your family in it? … Why is that important, who watched the show? Why does it matter? Why do we keep having to have these conversations?”
The entire recent conversation around John Cho
In the wake of Aziz Ansari’s cutthroat Master of None racial criticism— which, first of all, please just watch Master of None-
John Cho has been promoting Star Trek: Into Darkness, and has been bringing blockbuster-level attention to the similarly themed #StarringJohnCho awesomeness.
I always feel like it’s amazing how frank people are. Even this past pilot season, I was sent a script and I was talking with my agents, and they said, “We pitched you for such and such a role, but they can’t go Asian obviously because of blah blah blah,” because it involved an era where cinematically we didn’t see Asians. And I was like, Oh, okay. But that’s a fiction created by cinema. There are people of different colors, but it was copying a film history that excluded people of color, not reality.
They’ll say, “We can’t cast an Asian because this other person is Asian,” or “We’ve got another Asian.” The fact that people are very open about it is very surprising to me, because you assume it, based upon the product. It would be weird to be in human resources and say, “Oh, we can’t hire another Asian in accounting, because there’s a black dude in accounting, so, thank you very much.”
Matt McGorry is still woke AF, just in case you stopped paying attention
#ThursdayTruthDay. Whenever I come to understand something that I previously knew nothing about (and that is seemingly obvious after the fact), I can't help but wonder what other blind spots I have. Those are the moments to dig in, do research and be better at listening to people when it comes to their perspectives that we might not experience first hand due to our privilege. We all have privilege of some sort. Whether you're white, male, straight, living without mental illness, cis gender, etc. What we do with our privilege is one of those things that defines the kind of people we are and become. And at the end of the day, it's really about extending people the same courtesies that we'd want people to give to us. We can acknowledge the systems that benefit us as the default race/gender/sexual orientation/etc without feeling like bad people. But what we do with that privilege is an indication of how much we truly care about righting systems that we benefit from as a result of someone else's discrimination. Once we know and understand at least a base level of these systems of privilege and discrimination, we must really think about how much we *say* we hate systems of oppression (like racism) and see if these beliefs actually cause us to fight them and challenge our own mindsets. If not, what does that say about us? (Pic regram from @misscocomasloco )
Geena Davis is saying everything we all refuse to acknowledge as issues in the world.
Similarly, the Bojack Horseman creators don’t get why their background scenes look different than other shows’.
Here’s an example from my own life: In one of the episodes from the first season (I think it’s 109), our storyboard artists drew a gag where a big droopy dog is standing on a street corner next to a businessman and the wind from a passing car blows the dog’s tongue and slobber onto the man’s face. When Lisa designed the characters she made both the dog and the businessperson women.
My first gut reaction to the designs was, “This feels weird.” I said to Lisa, “I feel like these characters should be guys.” She said, “Why?” I thought about it for a little bit, realized I didn’t have a good reason, and went back to her and said, “You’re right, let’s make them ladies.”
I am embarrassed to admit this conversation has happened between Lisa and me multiple times, about multiple characters.
The thinking comes from a place that the cleanest version of a joke has as few pieces as possible. For the dog joke, you have the thing where the tongue slobbers all over the businessperson, but if you also have a thing where both of them ladies, then that’s an additional thing and it muddies up the joke. The audience will think, “Why are those characters female? Is that part of the joke?” The underlying assumption there is that the default mode for any character is male, so to make the characters female is an additional detail on top of that. In case I’m not being a hundred percent clear, this thinking is stupid and wrong and self-perpetuating unless you actively work against it, and I’m proud to say I mostly don’t think this way anymore. Sometimes I still do, because this kind of stuff is baked into us by years of consuming media, but usually I’m able (with some help) to take a step back and not think this way, and one of the things I love about working with Lisa is she challenges these instincts in me.
Meryl Streep would like to remind you that your opinions, while valid, are maybe also ingrained ideas and unconsciously informed, to a really insufferable degree.
If you want to introduce gay characters, maybe that’s just totally okay, and you don’t even have to comment on it.
Time to make history indeed! First married gay couple on a Nickelodeon cartoon!https://t.co/CI5NPmd7JU— juno (@harryetIouis) July 16, 2016
Joss Whedon is still making a career being Joss Whedon because a lot of people refuse to accept that we need Joss Whedons in the world.
That time Constance Wu didn’t want any of your Matt Damon ponytail bullshit.
Can we all at least agree that hero-bias & "but it's really hard to finance" are no longer excuses for racism? TRY pic.twitter.com/mvNet5PrtH— Constance Wu (@ConstanceWu) July 29, 2016
Even if this movie particular Matt Damon movie is going to be fine, thank everything for Constance Wu, and those of her ilk. Thank you to all of those who keep reminding us that we can grow and learn and always, ALWAYS be better.