Diversity in Hollywood has been a huge topic of conversation lately, especially on the heels of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy. However, despite the national debates about gender and pay inequality as well as racism and discrimination in the industry, little has been made in the way of concrete change. This is all the more frustrating when you consider the fact that studies show diversity sells. In fact, a UCLA study published last February suggests that shows and TVs that feature diverse casts might make more money than homogeneous ones. Clearly, people are ready for change. Here are six specific things we hope to see Hollywood do in 2016.
Leading roles for minorities
Where are the black superheros who save the day or Latina presidents? Rarely
do we see a movie where a person of color is portrayed in a powerful, admirable
light or as a role model. While Marvel has introduced a few minority superheros recently, such as Falcon from The Avengers and Gamora from Guardians of the Galaxy, they're still rare and mostly supporting roles. Marvel
has announced their lineup for superhero films through 2019, none of which include any superheroes of color.
Stronger female roles
Your average female lead is universally attractive and desperate for love, and when they're not, it can make audiences uncomfortable. Actresses like Melissa McCarthy have been criticized for their appearance because they don't fit our society's standards for how a woman should look or behave. The few actresses who break the mold are hyper-sexualized female protagonists who are skilled and appear powerful, but are actually just there to pleasure male viewers. Movies like The Hunger Games prove that a woman can be a strong, complex character without having to wear a crop top. Films where the woman is independent, more than just a pretty face, and sexy on her own terms should be the norm, not the exception.
Diversity in writing rooms
Writers' rooms are overwhelmingly white. According to a 2013 report from the Writer’s Guild of America, staff employment for people of color actually decreased since 2011, from a peak of 15.6 percent to 13.7 percent, and when it comes to screenwriting in particular, the numbers are even more dismal, with minorities only making up 5 percent of screenwriters. What does this mean? It means the scripts for most movies and TV shows are written by white, middle-class males who have no idea what it is to be a woman or a minority. This leads to inaccuracies, reliance on stereotypes, and bias.
Quite often, black men are cast as intimidating characters or criminals in movies about inner cities or crime shows like Law & Order, while heavily accented Indians are depicted clicking away at a computer screen in an IT room or secluded in the STEM field in shows like Outsourced and Big Bang Theory. These stereotypical roles aren’t an accurate depiction of gender, ethnicity, or socio-economic background and give society a distorted view of these groups. By constantly typecasting actors we aren't be able to see them as anything more than these stereotypes, which can affect how we view and interact with people in real life.
Diversity behind the camera
Women in Hollywood already face a lot of challenges, but those behind the scenes face even more disadvantages. A Variety report from last October shows that women only comprise 7 percent of directors in Hollywood, and while recent big stars have spoken out about gender inequality in Hollywood (think Jennifer Lawrence on the pay gap between her and her American Hustle co-stars) that hasn't translated into measurable change.
Powerful people speaking up
Change begins with those in power — we’re looking at you, white male executive producers and CEOs. While everyone can make a difference, it helps when those with a platform, following, and resources take a stance. If they create more opportunities for women and minorities, mass media will become more diverse and we will see a more accurate reflection of American culture.