Imagine you’re watching a romantic comedy, and the devastatingly attractive lead is someone with your skin color. Or you’re watching a superhero movie, and the main hero and villain both have your skin color. Maybe you’re watching a musical, and the entire cast has your skin color. Or perhaps it’s an animated film, in which at least half the characters share your gender. If you’re white, or a man, or both, these are not unusual occurrences. But for half the audience of mainstream Hollywood films, the experience of seeing themselves represented onscreen is special.
The examples above are collected from interviews of movie stars and filmmakers conducted by Yahoo Entertainment over the past three years. Over and over, we heard how the trend towards diversity in films was a complete game-changer for women and people of color working in Hollywood. Black Panther director Ryan Coogler, who is African American, said that he always liked superhero movies and films about people of color, “and the idea that they don’t have to be mutually exclusive is an amazing concept.”
Chinese Rogue One star Donnie Yen told us, “You never see a Chinese character in a Star Wars movie, so I’m flattered and very excited, and honored.” Crazy Rich Asians screenwriter Adele Lim described an audience member choking up with emotion at an inconsequential scene of four characters driving in a car, “because it was the first time [in a film] he had seen four Asians just in a car just driving down a highway.” Perhaps in the future, these remarks will be ludicrous reminders of a less enlightened time, when things like female superheroes and Latino leading men were considered milestones.
Unfortunately, Hollywood still has a long way to go. Though the film industry has shown great initiative for change between 2016 and 2019, thanks in part to advocacy groups like #TimesUp and social-media movements like #OscarsSoWhite, the vast majority of people in front of and behind the camera are white and male. That’s the point of view that most studio films have always represented and continue to represent today. But it’s not reflective of who actually goes to the movies, or the life experiences of most Americans.
As we look towards the 2019 Oscars, here’s an overview of the areas where Hollywood is making progress in capturing our rich, diverse world; the blind spots where progress still hasn’t happened; the expert solutions that have potential to change the movies forever; and how this year’s Oscars reflects the growing pains of an industry, and a culture, in transition.
Read Part 2: The shocking statistics.
Part 1: Where we are, how far we have to go and how we can get there
Part 2: By the numbers
Part 3: Why it’s time for change and 5 possible solutions
Part 4: Crossroads at the Oscars
Part 5: The future is now