Representation is a huge issue. It matters very much when a person cannot see themselves in the heros of popular culture. For most of history, unless a person was male and white, they had to subsist on crumbs of progress. There are outliers, as there always are; the odd Sigourney Weaver role or Will Smith blockbuster. However, even present-day Hollywood is incredibly homogenous in the products that are put out. Casts are always predominantly white, as are protagonists; with the exception of movies which are specifically about ‘Black History’. A little under 75% of lead actors are male, 89.5% are white, 4.1% of directors are women and 12.2% are part of a minority.
The 2015 Oscars ceremony was a parade of men. Not a single writer, director or cinematographer who was nominated was female. Despite Selma, which had a predominantly African-American cast, being nominated for best picture; not a single person of color was nominated for any ‘Best Actor’ category. In the entire 85 years worth of the Academy Awards, only seventeen actors and actresses of asian descent have been nominated for any acting category. Four have won. One hispanic actor and five actresses have been nominated in the same time. The sole winners; Rita Moreno and Mercedes Ruehl each won in the ‘Best Supporting Actress’ category, in 1962 and 1991 respectively.
Media is representative of a culture’s worldview. The stories people create come from within them. Often, people ‘write what they know’. Their creations are pieces of themselves. Anthropology is an entire study dedicated to examining the remains of societies and their people. Much of what they find is the art and writing they created. If, as a culture, our works do not reflect the diversity of our voices, then what are we leaving behind?
Each genre of movie has different conventions and rules that do not apply in the real world. To watch a movie, one is often required to suspend their belief in order to immerse themselves in the reality the story has created. Explosions in the real world deafen and destroy, romance is not a series of mishaps a couple has to overcome before happily ever after. People do not burst into song during emotional revelations, there are no tap dance numbers where groups of strangers exclaim their zest for life. Hollywood is clearly not representative of the realities of life and the world. Though it may seem odd, the genre that encapsulates what our culture believes in, fears and feels has, for some time, been science fiction. Science fiction has become the most real.
The purpose of the most acclaimed works of science fiction was creating a way to contextualize the present world. Many works of early science fiction were critiques of politics and current events. The works of George Orwell were created out of his fears of the future. Nineteen Eighty-Four was a post-World War II warning of the future. The Terminator was created out of the fears of technology overtaking humanity. Modern science fiction is often post-apocalyptic, which isn’t surprising in a world filled with war, nuclear weapons and global warming. There are so many ways for the world to end, most of the ones portrayed in the present, are of our own making. Long ago humanity was afraid of invaders, then technology. We have come to be our own worst fear now.