Diversity is coming, but not fast enough. Hollywood needs to recognize that the world is diverse and our diverse groups of people should be represented in movies and television shows.
According to a 2016 study conducted by the University of Southern California, “Across the 11,306 speaking characters evaluated, 66.5 percent were male and 33.5 percent were female … 28.3 percent of all speaking characters were from underrepresented racial or ethnic groups,” in regards to prevalence on screen.
Why diversity is important
Diversity is something that allows audiences to see people just like them. According to an article from the New York Times, one of the things that younger viewers want to see on TV is authenticity. Adding in people of different ethnicities, disabilities and sexualities allows people of these various groups to feel represented. It also adds another layer of realism, because real life isn’t just comprised of a bunch of white males.
Diversity can help increase awareness and understanding
This year, Disney will be featuring a LGBTQ main character on their TV show “Andi Mack.” While Disney has sprinkled LGBTQ characters in other entertainment projects, this is the first time one will be a main character. Showcasing diversity in TV shows or movies is important. It allows audiences to see different scenarios faced by various groups, and how the characters handle the problem. When done in a tactful manner, it might even increase awareness and understanding of certain issues each group encounters.
Portrayal is part of diversity
According to the same study by the University of Southern California, females are more likely to be sexualized by men. Group stereotypes portrayed in popular TV shows and movies are nothing new: the minority character is the funny best friend, the black guy is the first one to die, and women can’t talk about anything but men. Characters from different backgrounds shouldn’t just be added to be overshadowed by the typical stereotypes that plague them.
To put this into perspective, audiences can conduct the Bechdel Test. This test was created by Alison Bechdel, and was developed for audiences to help assess how women are presented in movies. For a movie to pass the test, it must pass three tests. The movie must consist of two or more women, the women must talk to each other, and when the women talk, it can’t be about a man. A whole website has been made where people can post and see the results of movies that have passed this test.
It should be done for the right reason
Studios shouldn’t just throw in a bunch of different characters with the hope of being considered “diverse” or “different.” They also shouldn’t just do it to win something during award season. Real change is going to take time, and it is going to require Hollywood to get a facelift in the hiring department. It’s more than having a diverse set of actors, it’s also about having diverse writers, directors and producers. And it is paying off with shows like “Jane the Virgin,” “ ‵black-ish,” “The Mindy Project” and “Modern Family.” It also leaves room for movies like “Moonlight,” which shined bright during award season and received high ratings.