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Thursday, 16 September 2010

It's Time For More Diversity In The Movies

I'm a white guy, and I tend to write movies about white people, who are about my age, who have names like Darren and Amy. And their problems are love and work and not loving work. And that's fine. But the problem is, often - all the other films are like this too.

It's not that I'm in to all this equality stuff in the sense that every film should have every ethnicity and gender and sexual orientation represented in equal measure (although that would be a fascinating experience!) but I am just aware that life is such a rich and complex experience and we all delve into the depths of our differences and culture every single day. Even if you live in an area lacking in diversity, that's still an experience relating to diversity. So there is so much to delve into!

But it's also time to move beyond mere diversity issues and stereotypes. As much as I love a good movie about black and white people hating each other before learning life lessons, and as much as I enjoy that every gay character in the movies has a high pitched voice and funny walk - I really think it's time to move beyond that. And before anyone says "but we have moved beyond that, I have five examples," that's exactly my point! You have five examples. But if I asked for examples of white rich Americans falling in love in New York, your examples would be unlimited. It's time to burst through whatever invisible strange barrier it is that keeps us writing the same shit over and over.

How about a disabled character whose story is about a challenge in life other than his or her disability? How about a character who is gay but that isn't part of their story, just like being straight isn't always the key part of a story? How about more films with women; films where being beautiful isn't a pre-requisite, films where women get cast in roles that aren't sexy or 'playing the guy's role' but are instead, like life - just struggles and events and ideas and emotions and action.

I dream of a world where we aren't able to 'give examples' of diversity in movies or able to make a list of films where disabled people aren't stereotyped, because instead I'd like it to be the norm. I am as guilty of this as anyone. But I am starting to see the bigger picture, and feel inspired by how different we are; we're all different colors, we have different ideas, we're fucked up in different ways, we're the same in many ways, some of our bodies work and some of them don't, some of us are good and some of us are oppressors and some of us haven't got a clue what's going on -- but how exciting! Surely exploring these differences is going to be more rewarding and fascinating and exciting and original than another Ryan Reynolds rom-com or a medium-budget drama with Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner.

When you approach writing your next project, or begin casting your next movie -- have a think, what could you do differently? Might it be more interesting? Might it be more truthful? Just a thought!

Care to share?


  1. By the way, you've a picture of the stars of The Proposal (2009) in your post. Although they predictably end up together, there is something about the film that distinguishes it from the norm of RomComs these days.

    I don't know what to call it - retro? The guy in that film starts out whipped by a woman and ends up strong [Maybe a little too strong, because he tells her to shut up at the end! Really, was that necessary?].

    This was very common in old films, particularly late 1950s/1960s RomComs when movie women were beginning to "roar" again. [There had been lots of strong female roles right up until the end of WWII; the late 1940s and 1950s brought about female roles that were more frequently without bite.]

    The movie industry began to lash back at strong females in RomComs.[e.g. That moment in It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) when British Col. Hawthorn gets angry and makes fun of Russell and argues that American men are hen-pecked. Russell becomes a more demanding guy by the end of the film.]

    I don't appreciate the idea of either gender being lambasted or subjugated, but this is just me noticing the slight difference in this film from recent RomComs.

    My expectations for modern films are fairly low.

  2. Hi Ann, your original comment here seems to have disappeared - did you delete it?

    You have an interesting perspective on The Proposal.

    I hope you can repost your original comment..

  3. Hello, again.

    You're touching a subject that I find important. I wholeheartedly agree that film, in particular, Hollywood film, or American film, should embrace further diversity.
    Although... I think the industry still embraces the money. There's no real, surefire way to tell if money could be earned on the same level if the characters of these movies were more diverse. I would argue to say it would be, but getting there, is something else. Hollywood isn't interested in postponing those earnings to simply revolutionize.
    And, it's just that, a revolution. It's going to take time. Each aspect will be a different stage. Strong women. More "ethnic" face time. Sexual orientation. The handicapped. It's a hard fight, but it will happen. Things are just too comfortable the way it currently is, to all of a sudden introduce a retread.
    Being a "writer" or potential "filmmaker" who happens to be of a diverse background with diverse interests in storytelling, I do consciously consider who and what to include. Many characters I include are placed specifically to have face time, but not specific to address their "complication" as a storyline.
    There's a careful endgame to this. Strategically placing said characters into stories, consciously, so that one day, it's no longer conscious. Further, to accepting these characters as the lead, conscious or otherwise.
    Then, hopefully, there will no longer be "tokens."
    Until then, independent filmmaking is likely where to find this. As unsuccessful as it may be, there are good films to be found.
    The next issue to be concerned with, is the talent interested in these projects. The pool is limited, in a catch-22 fashion. The roles available are limited, thereby the interest from potential talent slims and becomes limited. So, as unfortunate as this may be, the talent pool thins out to less better talent, thereby limiting the amount of viewers interested in seeing them.
    If there was a grand pool of funding to get this all started in the right direction, sure, it could be done a lot quicker. Understanding the amount of loss that would be incurred is relevant, accepting that losses will be had in order to reach the goal of revolutionizing the game.

  4. Seems like a great idea! Are you working on anything like that now? I feel like a lot of films are too similar and I'm always so happy when someone comes up with something completely new!

  5. I totally agree. I would love to see more disabled and gay characters who have plot lines outside of their disability or sexual orientation.

    A personal pet peeve of mine is the lack of mixed-race couples and families. Especially in commercials, I feel like there is the version with the white family and the version with the black family but almost never are people of two different races shown together!

    I also would like to see more interesting roles for women. I am a young Caucasian actress and at least 90% of the breakdowns for my type specify something along the lines of "hot body" or "must look great in a bikini." SO frustrating.