This weekend, the highly anticipated film Black Panther opened to huge success, smashing box office records in Hollywood. But the film isn’t significant only for its prompt financial success it also marks one of very few films to come out of Hollywood in recent years with an all-Black cast, a Black writer and a Black director.
The 2018 release introduces a film about Black people by Black people, and how often do people of colour get to tell their own stories in Hollywood?
We all know Hollywood has a gender equality problem and a race problem. But the industry also has a tendency to overlook the stories of differently-abled people, trans people, queer people and pretty much everyone who isn’t a straight, cis, white person. In short, Hollywood has a diversity problem.
Diversity is a buzzword that gets thrown around a lot, especially in the arts. Most people use it to talk about something that’s “different from the mainstream,” but diversity is more about having a group of people who differ from one another. In Hollywood, however, no one tends to differ from one another because everyone is as previously mentioned straight, cis and white.
It starts with the stories Hollywood tells. Though there’s been some recent progress in having more women on screen; they still tend to be white women. And there’s still a prominent issue with getting women behind the camera in leading roles. Research from Dr. Martha Lauzen out of San Diego State University tells us women counted for 11 per cent of directors and four per cent of cinematographers in the top 100 films of 2017.
White women have trouble finding a spot at the table in Hollywood and it becomes even harder for women of colour. Rarely are there movies that star a person of colour, let alone a movie with an all-coloured cast. That’s beginning to change, but slowly that’s why films like Black Panther still feel so revolutionary.
No one fits into one box; no one’s identity is made up of one thing. Hollywood needs to start creating films that feature intersectional identities. I want to see trans people on screen, but I don’t want to see exclusively rich, white, trans folk. I want to see people of colour on screen. I want to see queer people on screen, I should have more options than just Moonlight.
Hollywood’s diversity problem isn’t just about race or gender; it’s about every single marginalized group that’s underrepresented both on-and-off screen. The work that comes out of Hollywood is rarely intersectional.
Art is political, and my politics are intersectional; therefore, the art I create is intersectional. I would expect the same from Hollywood.
Black Panther, diversity, Hollywood
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