January 17, 2016

Diversity is "an artistic necessity"

More on the #OscarsSoWhite controversy:

Oscars 2016: It's time for Hollywood to stop defining great drama as white men battling adversity

By Mary McNamaraBefore chalking all this up to a discussion of political correctness, Hollywood should take note that there is money at stake.

The movie and TV industries won't solve their main problem—how to capture the eyes of young audiences—by hewing to hallmarks of excellence set by previous generations. Millennials and post-millennials aren't just big franchise fans, they are also the most racially diverse and socially tolerant generations in history. As the crossover audiences for "Straight Outta Compton" and "The Hunger Games" series proved, they don't "need" their heroes to be white and don't expect them to be male or straight or anything but interesting.

So instead of panicking about the logistical challenges of the digital era, Hollywood should remember its own time-honored mantra: What matters is the story. The size and shape of the screens are, to a certain extent, outside the entertainment industry's control. What is playing on them, and how much it moves the audience, is not.

"Diversity," the lack of it and need for it, has been discussed and debated ad nauseam. But diversity isn't a civic duty, it's an artistic necessity. For any art form to remain relevant, it must grow with the society it explores, questions, criticizes and represents.
#OscarsSoWhite, Again: A Symptom of Hollywood's Racism

By Jacqueline KeelerThis generation of Native Americans actors do not follow their dreams to Hollywood in order to continue to play buckskin and loincloth Potemkin villager parts that serve only to provide a backdrop to a white male actor’s heroics. I agree with Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie when she said in her TED Talk that “The Danger of a Single Story”—that is, the world seen only from the perspective of the white male—is that, “it robs people of dignity. It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult. It emphasizes how we are different rather than how we are similar … Many stories matter.”

In light of this, I call for a moratorium on “buckskin and loincloth parts” until portrayals of Native people are balanced with those featuring modern Native American protagonists. We must get away from the portrayal of Native people as either savage warriors of the past, “Indian princesses” to be courted and conveniently killed off before giving birth to a Mestizo nation north of the Rio Grande, or as stoic stereotypes.
And:In this vacuum of diverse portrayals, it is no wonder that stereotypes are all most Americans know about Native people.

The result of this whitewashing of racially diverse American stories—both those based in the real world and those in fantasy—was found in a 2014 UCLA study to reduce minority representation in films by more than half. Racial minorities make up 40 percent of the population but only 17 percent of leads in films, while 83 percent of the lead actors in films are white.

America is rich in stories—embarrassingly so. Let’s bring all the missing stories to the table and then we can begin to see each other as people.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Why Are Oscars So White? and #OscarsSoWhite2016.

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