A Lack of Effort in the Industry to Create Content

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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With the first moving picture created in 1888 and an estimated 500,000 more made since then, it seems unfathomable that minorities have only just begun to gain representation in Hollywood. Despite the recent push in Hollywood for more movies and television shows featuring minority roles, there still remains a lack of effort in the industry to create content that truly gives predominantly silenced stories a voice. This issue has a negative effect on minority populations involved in the film industry and society as a whole.

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Representation in the film industry is valuable because of the positive impact and opportunities it provides both minority populations and the film industry as a whole.

Lack of representation has been an issue since the beginning of the film industry, and it has created a system that favors straight, cis, white, able bodied men. Minority populations are often excluded entirely, let alone given priority. Early portrayals of black people, for example, were offensive caricatures played by white people in blackface.

Even though Hollywood has slowly become more diverse, there is still work to be done in terms of dismantling systemic racism in the film industry. Additionally, women have been purposefully excluded from Hollywood demographics. Although women were involved as actresses in the film industry almost from the start, they were not the decision makers and were held merely as objects, exposing both themselves and the women watching to harmful stereotypes.

In more recent history, movements like Me Too have served as examples of resistance to the treatment of women in the film industry that continues today. Also in more recent history, until 1973 homosexuality was considered a mental disorder, and it took until 2015 for same sex marriage to be legalized in the United States. An effect of these detrimental setbacks is that there has been little to no LGBTQ+ representation in early, and even current, film.

The least addressed of all of these issues is the lack of disability representation. 18.7% of the United States population is disabled, yet only 2.5 percent of characters on screen are disabled. This divide only fuels the stigma surrounding disabled people, which already exists without the added misrepresentation and underrepresentation in Hollywood.

The film industry has a history of excluding racial minorities, both in the telling of their own stories and film as a whole. Film has never really represented how diverse America really is. This is not only because a lack of racial minorities getting cast in film projects, but because of the gatekeeping of the industry as a whole. Actors who are part of racial minorities are standardly represented by smaller agencies, which in turn get them smaller roles, creating a cycle that leads to a lack of visibility for minorities on screen in big productions, because “The talent getting through the gate… are largely non-minority”. Even when racial minorities do break into the industry, they are capitalized upon and used for the validation of white people. This is problematic because “White people in Hollywood need to stop using stories about black people and other people of color as vehicles for their own success”.

Film often presents white people as the solution to minority problems, which as a result minimizes the success that those minority groups have achieved on their own. Taking credit for the progress of racial minority groups, in its own way, writes a redeeming narrative for all the white people inevitably involved in creating that type of film.

The insidious images of the white savior and supporting black character exhibited in mainstream Hollywood films misrepresent the reality of race relations by revering white characters, marginalizing black characters, and attempting to create the illusion of a race blind world. Some argue that racial diversity in film shouldn’t be celebrated, instead it should become the new standard, pointing out that “Trumpeting diversity undermines what you are trying to achieve in the first place. It should happen without fanfare”.

Films should not be judged solely on their inclusivity, but rather substance and quality in filmmaking should continue be held in high regard. Ideally these films should include minorities, but that should not be questioned or even uplifted. While this is true, it is important to acknowledge triumphs in the fight for inclusivity. Especially while racial diversity in today’s film industry is limited, championing the success of such inclusive films serves as inspiration for others to follow suit. Racial minorities have difficulty getting cast in roles at all, let alone roles that work against perpetuating harmful stereotypes or lack of depth, begging the question, “Is it enough to look like the artist if you do not recognize yourself in the art?”.

Hollywood often attempts to fulfill today’s standards for representation by placing a minority character in a film without fully developing that character’s sense of self and purpose, often mistaking stereotypes for depth. The repetition of this narrative in film is damaging as it creates a false sense of representation, when in reality the only connection present is the color of the character’s skin. Racial minorities being exposed to an industry that systemically views them as inferior perpetuates lasting feelings of internalized subordination. Add one more sentence here.

The film industry has a history of portraying female characters through negative and two dimensional stereotypes, and women struggle to find roles that exist for purposes other than furthering the male narrative. Many women share the experience of having “learned much from watching the screen, including things about men and women that [they] later had to unlearn or learn to ignore” (C, 2). Stereotypical portrayals of women and the dynamics between women and men in film leave a lasting negative impact on the women viewing them, supporting the viewpoint that positive representation does matter.

Some argue that representation is no longer as important as it was in, for example, the 50s and 60s, because a lot of minorities have made progress in how they are viewed in society, and that “Back in the 50s and 60s [representation] was actually important… it was perfectly legal to pay women less for the same work as a man… however, times change”. This belief stems from thinking that diversity and representation only matter if we are living in a time when people are being excluded and treated as inferiors because of who they are.

Those who believe representation is no longer an urgent issue are those who do not require it. In reality, almost every minority population still experiences lack of representation. In a male dominated film industry, women face gender discrimination and experience gatekeeping both in front of but especially behind the camera. Historically “women helped make American movies as filmmakers, performers, and consumers, yet by the time movies were called talkies, women had been largely pushed out of directing”.

Gatekeeping in the film industry directed at women is an old problem that has lived on far beyond its time. Women contribute just as much, if not more in some instances, to the film industry, so there is no reason for them to be continuously blocked from it. Analyze the long term effects of under/misrepresentation. Internalized subordination, etc.

The film industry rarely includes LGBTQ+ roles in films, and the small percentage of characters that do exist are often played by non-LGBTQ+ actors, creating a struggle for LGBTQ+ actors to find work. Statistics highlight the severity of a lack of LGBTQ+ representation with one powerful word: “Zero. The number of transgender characters represented in the top 100 films of 2017. Additionally, 81 of these films had no gay, lesbian, or bisexual characters”. There is a stigma around the LGBTQ+ community in hollywood, stemming from the fear of portraying LGBTQ+ characters to the mainstream viewer.

The lack of representation caused by that stigma is harmful for both working LGBTQ+ actors and audiences who want to recognize themselves on screen. Some LGBTQ+ activists argue that LGBTQ+ roles should be open to be played by straight actors as well, because ensuring otherwise would create pressure and lack of opportunities for LGBTQ+ actors not out with their sexualities.

People within the industry and out of it agree that “It seems unworkable to say that when an LGBT part is up for grabs, only the out should have a shout. It could operate as a kind of outing by default”. Pushing for solely LGBTQ+ actors to play LGBTQ+ roles would either eliminate an entire demographic of actors who don’t want to disclose their sexualities. Everyone has a right to their own privacy, and a person’s career shouldn’t suffer for it. In the past, if an actor were to disclose their sexuality as anything other than straight, it could potentially ruin their career. LGBTQ+ characters in film are often portrayed as marginalized, invisible, and additionally “Many of these characters only existed to be punchlines, establish urban authenticity… many audiences likely missed several of the characters altogether”.

Hollywood and straight actors love to profit off of LGBTQ+ stories full of characters that hold their sexuality as their entire sense of self, lacking the depth to truly represent an entire diverse community. These stories are marketed towards straight audiences to create an illusion of inclusivity, when in reality the people who aren’t benefiting are the LGBTQ+ community themselves. One common practice is where LGBTQ+ characters are created to generate excitement from LGBTQ+ fans, only for those characters to be killed off or removed early on, some characters coming to the conclusion that they were never really LGBTQ+ at all.

This trope was originally created as way for LGBTQ+ writers to write about LGBTQ+ characters without coming under fire for breaking laws and social mandates against the endorsement of homosexuality, and has existed far too long past its time period. Hollywood fails to portray LGBTQ+ characters broadly across the board, but the time has come for the film industry to step up and show the full diversity of the world that movie audiences are living in today instead and end the outdated humor seen in many films.

The film industry continues to profit from stories about disabled people despite almost never featuring disabled actors, causing a struggle for disabled actors to find work. There is a misconception that very few disabled people want to enter careers in acting, but this is not true and thousands of disabled actors struggle to find work. In reality, “2200 actors are self-identified as persons with disabilities with Actors Access, a well-known national casting service”.

Without real disabled people playing disabled characters, film lacks accurate portrayals of the disabled population. However, there are reasons Hollywood executives might argue that able bodied actors should be cast as disabled characters. It can be considered more convenient for all parties involved and “It’s not hard to understand why: Financial realities necessitate stars in leading roles, and there aren’t many disabled actors who are big box office draws”.

Money is the driving force in Hollywood, and that is something that probably won’t ever change. The reason that there aren’t many disabled big box office draws is because they aren’t being cast due to financial reasons. This creates a seemingly unbreakable cycle, keeping disabled audiences silenced and able-bodied audiences misinformed.

The stories that are centered around disabled people often romanticize disability, using disability as a metaphor to serve a greater meaning. This illusion creates a stigma around real disabled people, which is harmful for both the disabled community and able-bodied audiences. At awards shows “It is reassuring for the audience to see an actor… after so convincingly portraying disability… get up and walk to the stage. There is a collective ‘phew’ as people see it was an illusion. Society’s fear around disability, it seems, can be magically transcended”.

Audiences go to the movies mostly for enjoyment, not necessarily to feel uncomfortable. The general population is often made uncomfortable by exposure to what they don’t understand or personally go through, so Hollywood takes the disabled experience, waters it down, and makes it easier to process. This practice means that real disabled people suffer from over-simplified and beautified versions of themselves, both in feeling a lack of representation and the stigma that is created by those versions.

Film encourages free thought and inspires social commentary in all kinds of communities. Film can allow people to gain a deeper understanding of their own existences, as well as the existences of those around them, and how they fit into the culture in which they operate. They have the ability to define social movements and serve as visual documentation to reflect on.

The more accessible film becomes, the more important it is that film reflects the rapidly shifting and expanding demographics of humanity as a way to bear witness to who we are as a people. How can film achieve this if it only represents such a small amount of its audience?

The film industry has been populated predominantly by straight, white, able-bodied men for decades, which as a result has perpetuated practices of gatekeeping and silencing valuable voices and stories. Representation is fundamental in building a positive and progressive future both in the film industry and out, because more diverse demographics want to be represented both in front of and behind the camera. Representation provides powerful examples for people to look up to, serving as a source of empowerment and solidarity, planting the seed of possibility in minds young and old. Hollywood needs to take strides towards not just token inclusion, but towards minority populations becoming fully involved in the film industry.

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A Lack Of Effort In The Industry To Create Content. (2020, Nov 02). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/a-lack-of-effort-in-the-industry-to-create-content/