Minorities make up nearly 40% of the U.S. population but are significantly underrepresented in Hollywood productions. Luckily, since 2015’s #OscarsSoWhite, Hollywood has made progress in casting people of various races as major leads.
While the film industry has started to change, it is up to audiences around the nation to welcome the growing diversity in Hollywood, and Georgia must take an active role in promoting diversity as the state’s film industry continues to grow.
Last year, "Crazy Rich Asians" became the first movie with an all-Asian cast and an Asian American lead since The Joy Luck Club in 1993. It was a huge step for Hollywood to produce a film that represented the large population of Asian Americans in the U.S., but it did not come to theaters without overcoming difficulties.
Based on Kevin Kwan’s top-selling book, "Crazy Rich Asians" is a modern Cinderella story that includes rich Eastern Asian history and culture. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Kwan was forced to make tough decisions while battling multiple producers who wanted to buy the rights to create the film. One producer reportedly told the author, “it’s a pity you don’t have a white character,” and many wanted to make the female lead white. In the end, Kwan passed up a large amount of money from Netflix in favor of having the film produced by Warner Bros. so he could accomplish his goal of having Asian representation on the big screen. "Crazy Rich Asians" ended up not only making $20 million over its five-day opening weekend, but it also broke the racist Asian stereotype Asian American actors have been subjected to for years.
This past July, Disney announced that Halle Bailey, an African American actress and singer, had been cast as Ariel in Disney’s upcoming live-action movie "The Little Mermaid." The moment it was publicized, Halle Bailey received intense backlash for not being the iconic white-skinned, red-haired mermaid portrayed in the animated film. This is the first time Disney has taken the initiative to cast a colored actor in a traditionally white role. However, instead of celebrating racial diversity, people took to social media and created #notmyariel.
Bailey has weathered the negative comments and controversy surrounding her role as Ariel in the upcoming film and remained positive in her journey toward becoming the Little Mermaid. Even Jodi Benson, the original voice of Ariel, told the media that it is the spirit of the character and telling the story that matters, not the color of the actor’s skin. While Disney will not be able to appease the race controversy over Ariel, casting Halle Bailey is a step forward for the traditionally safe company.
This topic is especially important to Georgia. One of Georgia’s biggest industries is the film and entertainment sector. The state has become America’s number one filming site and has become well known for its role in the filming of beloved Marvel movies such as "Captain America" and "Guardians of the Galaxy." Due to the increasing growth of the industry, A Georgia House committee recommended legislation in 2016 that would allow for a “study committee on minority participation in the state’s growing film and television industries.” Sponsors of the bill believed it was important to include racial diversity in Georgia’s growing film industry, and as the diversity of audiences in the state grows as well, inclusion is vital to represent the state’s growing minority population.
Though Hollywood has been making strides, the industry has a ways to go before being able to represent the U.S. population accurately. According to a report from UCLA’s Division of Social Sciences, minorities remain underrepresented in every career in the film industry. Fewer than 1 out of 10 film writers are people of color, and the majority of Oscar and Emmy winners are white actors and actresses. Minorities cannot relate to the majority of actors and actresses on screen, and, as America grows more diverse, it is imperative that its population can feel represented by the media
Racial diversity in Hollywood will not be instantaneous, but audiences can encourage the movement. Social media took the Oscars by storm in 2015 when #OscarsSoWhite began trending and demanding a change in the film industry. Audiences around the nation have the power of the consumer to pressure Hollywood into casting more diverse leads and characters. So let’s make sure that racial diversity is not just a trend for Hollywood to follow because every single group deserves to be represented on the silver screen.