It is no secret that Hollywood has an issue with inclusivity. Last year, with Oscar nominees being predominantly white, Black Twitter responded to the lack of diversity with the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. The hashtag that took social media by storm was created by @ReignofApril on Twitter. The hashtag was not only a trending topic. It was a push to face an issue Hollywood keeps trying to ignore:
In the past year, efforts have been made to be more inclusive in film and television. Major networks such as NBC have pledged to implement programs to hire and cast more people of various backgrounds, race and ethnicity in particular.
While I do appreciate these efforts, I must say that I am still not impressed. Ideally, diversity is key but I think it would be a disservice to not acknowledge that it is not that simple. Simple meaning, you can not just place people of color in roles to fill a quota. You can not just hand people of color award nominations and not seriously consider them as recipients.
What good is diversity when people of color are not being taken seriously? What good is diversity when people of color are not given purpose? Not just purpose but the same amount of flexibility and complexity that is afforded to white Hollywood creatives. That is not being inclusive. That is treating people of color as novelties. Tokenism is not inclusivity.
What these networks, brands, and studios care about is image. They view diversity in such a superficial lens. They wave people of color around like tools to fan off any accusations of them possibly being exclusionary. They don’t take the actual time to invest in creatives of color nor do they give people of color the room to provide the honest and multi-faceted representation we need to see in the media.
For example, at the Golden Globes last night, reporters and presenters kept grouping up Black films such as Fences and Hidden Figures as one film. One reporter, in particular, asked Pharrell Williams about his work regarding “Hidden Fences.” I wish I could say that was the only time it happened, but one of the presenters slipped up and said it too. Although Black Twitter’s response was hilarious, one has to stop and think: Why are they having such a difficult time distinguishing between two Black films?
It is as if they do not take these two films seriously enough to get their names correct or understand that they are two distinct films. Subconsciously, they grouped Black films up together which speaks to my point I made earlier: What is the point of diversity if you do not gauge art from Black creators with the same amount of respect and seriousness as you do with white creators?
Another example: Sofia Vergara was the first Latina actress to grace the stage that night and a large part of her spiel was poking fun at her accent. Not only is this joke tired but Vergara deserves more than to be a punchline. That was a great opportunity for her to just be and to represent for Latinx people. Not to have her be an oddity white people get a kick out of.
Last example: For Moonlight to be arguably the most critically acclaimed film from 2016, it sure did not feel like it at the Golden Globes. The film, cast, and production team were constantly snubbed to the generic, predominantly white musical film La La Land. Again, what is the point of having Black filmmakers present when you do not give them the credit that they are due. While Moonlight was snubbed, Fences was ignored far too much.
I am happy to see Donald Glover, Viola Davis, Tracee Ellis Ross take home wins but the fact that Ross is the first Black woman after 30 or so years to win award for best comedy actress…. That shows that we still have work to do.
Diversity in film and television is not enough if people of color are not given the space to show our stories and our truths in our own light. It is not enough if Hollywood sees our art as monoliths instead of the distinct works of art that they are. Diversity is the surface. It is time we dig deeper and complicate what diversity actually looks like in film and television.