Sexy Latina, angry black girl, nerdy Asian, and exotic are labels the majority of marginalized folks have been thrown into due to how the mainstream culture has portrayed them.
“’You have no idea how difficult it is to get a bunch of black and Hispanic kids to watch ‘SNL’ over ‘In Living Color,” said ‘Girls Trip’ actress and comedian Tiffany Haddish in her opening monologue on Saturday Night Live (SNL) after making history by becoming the first female black stand-up comic to host SNL in it’s 40 year run.
Meanwhile there are actors and actresses in Hollywood who are extended white privilege over actors of color. There are currently a mass amount of sexual assault and harassment allegations coming out of Hollywood such as the cases against film producer Harvey Weinstein and ‘House of Cards’ actor Kevin Spacey who has since been cut out of the Netflix original show.
So many of the shows we watch are filled with white actors with a small margin for diverse characters. Just think ‘The Brady Bunch,’ ‘Gilmore Girls,’ ‘That 70’s show’, and ‘Gossip Girl.’ The majority of the characters in these shows are from a suburb or elite class that people of color cannot even begin to identify with because the issues the they face are unparalleled to their own struggles.
Issa Rae boldly told The New Yorker in a video about her idea of a remake of Gossip Girl but with an all black cast because she would have liked to see a show as frivolous as Gossip Girl or 90210 but with characters she could actually identify with.
I never truly saw myself represented either in mainstream media while I was growing up. I read for the most part and realized in my teen years that the majority of characters in books were also white characters whose issues had no parallel to my own.
Many people of different ethnicities and backgrounds are so often forced to play roles that are most commonly a misconception of who they really are. Or in the most stinging situation, the role of a diverse character is given to white actors.
It’s difficult to feel represented in the media world when Hollywood and all of its forces continue to hide the faces of so many diverse and talented actors in the shadows of white actors.
A perfect example of this is when Hollywood decided to cast Scarlett Johansson instead of a Japanese actress when they decided to make a live-action adaptation of Ghost in the Shell based on one of Japan’s most successful anime movies. This move evidently whitewashed the film and gave away an easy opportunity for Hollywood to stay true to a rich cultural experience.
It has taken the voice of those misrepresented actors and actresses to call out Hollywood for people to start paying attention to how the entertainment industry can be.
“As a community, we’re fighting for Asians to play Asian role,” said former ‘Riverdale’ actor Ross Butler in an interview. “And then there’s the other battle which is Asian Americans playing roles that aren’t written for Asians, and I think that’s something that completely should happen; why can’t an Asian American male just play a leading cop figure…or the Matt Damon roles?”
The question here however is why has it taken so long for these actors to be cast into authentic roles?
There’s been progress in television and movies such as Auli’i Cravalho being cast to play Moana which is Disney’s first movie featuring Pacific Islander characters and Elliot Fletcher being cast in the Free-form original show ‘The Fosters’ as their second transgender character.
The Disney Channel Network has been breaking ground by introducing their first Latina princess, Elena of Avalor, which is played by Aimee Carrero. Two weeks ago, the Disney Original Show Andi Mack introduced a main character as gay and the coming-out story was done with authenticity and care.
Although there is change coming to the entertainment industry, it has been a slow progressive change. This movement on diversity within the industry has to not only include people of color but there must be a space for disabled, LGBTQ+, and indigenous actors and actresses.