The Importance of Representation

Something that has become more prevalent as time goes on is the severe lack of representation in the movies that we watch. Recently the film industry has come under heavy fire from a generation of movie goers that wants more representation on screen. With race relations, LGBTQ issues, feminism and many other topics dominating the headlines this year, I have decided to compile my thoughts on these various subject matters.

Note, I am a white, 21-year-old male who has grown up surrounded by people on both sides of the spectrum; those who oppress and those who liberate. I am also very aware that people who look like and come from the same background as me have been represented on screen more than any other demographic. We live in a white, patriarchy that pushes this image through the various mediums at their disposal.

I think that everyone deserves to see a version of themselves on screen. People of color comprise nearly 40% of the United State’s population and this seems to me like a very large demographic that is being very underrepresented. I don’t see why Captain America can’t be black or have a Muslim woman play Wonder Woman.

Some may say that these characters are traditionally white but isn’t everything when it is created by a society that deems those of a darker skin tone as less than. Also, if having someone of color playing Captain America or Wonder Woman seems far fetched to you, maybe you should consider that fact that anyone with the powers that these character possess is pretty out of the realm of possibilities. I also think that this isn’t a huge issue because Hollywood likes to cast white actors in roles that should be played by a person of color so why can’t a person of color be in role meant for a white person?

For example, 2014’s ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’ came under fire after Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton were cast in roles meant for someone with much darker skin. The two roles in question are Moses (Bale) and Rameses (Edgerton) who came from a place lacking white people. Ridley Scott responded to this in a piece done by Variety by saying:

"I can’t mount a film of this budget, where I have to rely on tax rebates in Spain, and say that my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such. I’m just not going to get it financed. So the question doesn’t even come up."

What studio isn’t going to give one of the most successful and visionary directors ever the money to do whatever movie they want to make? It makes me angry that money takes priority over equal representation. Also it is ridiculous to suggest that a film featuring a lead actor of color can’t make money. Just off the top of my head, ‘Life of Pie’ made more than $600 million and was granted a budget of $120 million and had a lead actor who was Indian. I have heard the excuse that ‘Life of Pie’ is based off of a popular book and would do well no matter what. This may be true but last time I checked, the story that ‘Exodus’ is based off of comes form a book that has sold a billion copies and would have probably done just fine with Egyptian actors. Also, it looks like those white actors didn’t pay off because the movie tanked and is going to have a tough time making back its production and marketing budgets.

Another example of whitewashing came within the last couple days when Scarlett Johansson was cast in ‘Ghost in the Shell’ which is based off of a Japanese anime. I get that Scarlett Johansson is a huge name but why not do an accurate adaptation and cast a Japanese actress in the role of a Japanese character in a Japanese created anime?

It is really important that everyone gets a chance to be portrayed on screen. Anthony Mackie who plays the Falcon in ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ said in an interview about how he saw a black child dressed as the Falcon for Halloween and that this is one of the first time that small children of color have been able to dress like a superhero that looks like them.

I plan on doing a couple more of these rants and expanding on this one because I think they are important. I encourage you to leave comments expressing your thoughts but I will not tolerate hateful messages. I will not approve them.

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