Friday, January 22, 2016

Topic Of The Day: How To Solve The Diversity Problem

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of Topic Of The Day. For today's topic, I figured I will yet again offer my input into the whole diversity situation present amongst the Oscars. But because I think this is more of an industry problem, here is my input on how they can fix it.

First off, when I bring up the diversity situation, I don’t just think of stories dealing with race. But also stories dealing with gender and/or sexuality. The problem that the industry is facing is that they heavily promote films dealing with the racial or the gay experience that send the same continuous message.

The Help did very nicely at the box office and scored a Best Picture nomination and Supporting Actress win for Octavia Spencer. But the biggest problem that I have with its success is how it gives us the same tired storyline of "the problems of minorities can be solved if a kind white person is on standby" and if more films like The Help do well, then it encourages the suits to churn out more films that put blacks in a box, forcing black actors to continue to play subservient characters to earn recognition. The very same year that film came out, we also had an unsung indie named Pariah which depicts an African-American lesbian woman living in Brooklyn. That film doesn't necessarily deal with an external racial struggle, but rather the main character's internal struggle as well as the struggle of a family unit. So Pariah's themes are much more universal, allowing it to be something anyone can relate to and beyond just a black film.

If the suits were brave enough to put their weight behind films like Pariah, then we will start to see some progress. Even though we have recently given Oscars to names like Octavia Spencer and Lupita Nyong'o, we're still handing out awards to blacks for playing maids, slaves, chauffers, crooks, etc. I don't want to take away from the work given from the actresses I just mentioned or any other talent of color that works hard to secure a nomination for the roles they are given. But if we keep seeing blacks, as well as Lations or Asians, win and get nominated for the same kind of roles, then we won't see much progress in my opinion.

Obviously, stories about slavery and civil rights are important. But I don’t want them to be the sole representation of the black community. The day we see a performance along the lines of Adepero Oduye in Pariah, Michael B. Jordan in Creed, or Pam Grier in Jackie Brown win an Oscar for a performance that isn't a stereotype is when we start to see progress.

It's just like how when we reward cis actors for playing gay, they still win for playing gay characters suffering from AIDS or fighting for gay rights. Again, these stories are important. But they shouldn't be the sole representation of the gay community. Not when we have movies like 2011's Weekend, a romance between two men that transcends being just a gay romance. When we see performances along the lines of Tom Cullen and Chris New in Weekend or Adele Exarchopoulos in Blue Is The Warmest Color win an Oscar is when we see progress.

Of course, audiences have proven that they want to see rich and complex roles for women. But whenever the studios campaign for actresses, their roles tend to be wives or mothers or real-life women and so on. Even if we saw a performance along the lines of Emily Blunt in Edge of Tomorrow, Emma Stone in Easy A, or Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl win an Oscar, that would be progressive and a game-changer in terms of what is considered awards worthy.

If Hollywood, or audiences, want to see progression, then give us something different. Some of the films I just mentioned were smaller independents. But if the suits become brave enough to give us more films that celebrate the racial, gay, and/or female experience, then we will see progress. The studios are the ones who have a say in what movies get made as well as what films get campaigned for awards. They have the power to make this happen.

So that is my proposal on how to fix the diversity problem in Hollywood and the Oscars as well. Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!