The Need for Diversity in the Film Industry

Cynthia Wang, Staff Writer

There is nothing more special to a kid than seeing someone who looks like them on the big screen doing stunts and saving lives. “Mulan,” a movie that not only had a strong female lead but was set in China where my people and culture were represented, was almost surreal to me as an East Asian.

Unfortunately, as the article implies, the majority of films star white men in their lead roles with a mostly white cast. According to Zippia, “The most common ethnicity of Actors is White (59.5%), followed by Hispanic or Latino (15.6%) and Black or African American (13.9%).” This makes sense when considering the racial diversity distribution in the U.S., but it also does not account for the fact that minorities are often cast in less important roles.

Furthermore, when people of color are cast, they often portray a stereotype. People of color are constantly typecasted into comedy relief roles which do not allow them to showcase their full potential as actors. NPR explains, “Hollywood has long perpetuated negative stereotypes of Asian men, including reducing them to nerdy, unattractive punchlines.” Though this is only one cliché of many, it is enough to show how Hollywood cast minorities for their ethnicity rather than their talent.

“Crazy Rich Asians” was not my favorite movie, both plot and representation-wise. Nonetheless, such a big hit in the box office having a completely Asian cast and producing a different view on Asian men is one of the things that I think the film did right. Another example of a movie that gave people of color what they deserve is “In the Heights,” which also has an extremely diverse cast save for one or two white background characters. It was extremely refreshing to watch a movie that was entirely cultural minority-based that is not a historical documentary. Even with just a couple of examples, it is easy to understand why movies need diversity.

Another reason why casting racial minorities is important is because children need characters that look like them. For me it was Mulan, but Black Panther, Shang Chi, and other great heroes are kids’ role models and who they look up to. High school student Dazhane Brown says, “If you see people who look like you and act like you and speak like you and come from the same place you come from it serves as an inspiration.” Additionally, a lack of diverse lead actors can cause kids to think the opposite way. This is shown when Kimore Willis, a junior at Etiwanda High School said, “It just makes you feel like, ‘Why don’t I see anybody like me?’ [It] kind of like brings your self-esteem down.”

Diversity in film matters for many reasons, whether it be to cast actors based on talent rather than what they look like, or to inspire a new generation. In fact, a report written by UCLA shows that diversity sells. It states that the median global box office has been the highest for films featuring casts that were more than 20% minority, making nearly $450 million in 2017. A good cast makes or breaks a movie, so in the long run, people asking for leads who they feel embody themselves is not at all a big request.