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Why Diversity in Entertainment Matters
by Grady Jane Woodfin
It’s actually really simple.
Diversity in entertainment matters because there are diverse people that exist in the world. That’s it. That’s why we should write diverse characters. They exist. And they deserve to be in our stories.
In honor of black history month, I really wanted to talk about black representation and how there is a lack of diversity in popular entertainment today.
Sometimes it’s easy for a movie about non-racist white people to seem progressive. But a question I ask myself a lot when watching movies or TV shows or when I’m playing video games is, “Where are all the black people?”
When we really start looking into our favorite things, there is a real problem. Black people aren’t there. At least not as much as they could be and should be.
Viola Davis, the first black woman to win an Emmy for best actress in a drama, said in her acceptance speech, “‘In my mind, I see a line. And over that line, I see green fields and lovely flowers and beautiful white women with their arms stretched out to me, over that line. But I can’t seem to get there no how. I can’t seem to get over that line.’ That was Harriet Tubman in the 1800s. And let me tell you something: The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.”
Let’s really look at that last line. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.
*slams fist on table*
This is the problem. Everyone says, “Oh, yeah, we’re all for strong black characters… as long as they’re sassy and fit all the stereotypes we’ve written them into.”
Just no. No no no no no no no.
It is 2016. It’s time to start creating roles for real live humans that exist. And it’s time to stop pretending like there are enough roles for people of color to fill.
The first step to fixing the lack of diversity problem is being aware that there is a problem. So here, we’ve taken the first step together.
Now, let’s talk about some recent productions that have gotten it right.
First and foremost, Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
As someone who has watched a lot of the original Star Wars, I’ve noticed there is-- of course-- a lack of black people in the main cast.
But, Grady, there’s--
OKAY. Yes, I know there’s Lando and Mace Windu. Big whoop. But I’m talking about leading characters. Not just secondary characters.
That’s where the Force Awakens got it right.
Finn. Precious, sweet Finn who has dropped out of the galaxy to protect us from the First Order.
Finn, played by John Boyega, is a beacon for little boys and girls all over who have never gotten to see features of their dark skin reflected in a famous Star Wars character’s merchandise.
Representation is so important.
Next up is my queen (who I mentioned earlier in the blog) Viola Davis.
Viola Davis plays Annalise Keating in How to Get Away With Murder. And she slays. Not only is she a A1 lawyer and teacher, but she’s the true definition of black excellence. (And she’s bi!) How cool is that?
It comes back to the writers and creators. Annalise Keating exists because somewhere down the line someone saw that people like Annalise exist in real life and deserved representation and appreciation in the mainstream media.
Unfortunately a lot of my favorite shows lack a lot of diversity. Such as How I Met Your Mother, Bates Motel, Game of Thrones, Friends, and the X Files. Sure, there are characters that look like me (a white female). But what about the black people?
There’s a real problem, and we gotta fix it. The time for racial representation is now. And the way to approach it is to write real characters into our stories. Real characters that aren’t just straight, white, male protagonists.
By writing more diverse characters, we’re creating more opportunity for people of color to represented in our favorite shows, movies, and video games. And regardless of your race, that should really matter to you.
Happy Black History Month! And happy Editors Month!
Who are some of your favorite black protagonists? Let us know in the comments below.