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The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

PATEL: Racism in film industry still issue

The main characters of the television show “How I Met Your Mother” are white. Photo via Flickr

It’s 2005 and it’s been over a year since the sitcom “Friends” ended after bringing in an estimated 50 million viewers to see the finale. Fans are restless to see a new sitcom that will hopefully live up to the potential of “Friends.” A new show called “How I Met Your Mother” looks promising and follows a similar setting of a group of 20-somethings living in New York and navigating romance, career and life. 

While both of these popular shows bring laughter and focus on friendship, they lack diversity within the casting. It would be another seventeen years until “How I Met Your Mother” would reboot itself to “How I Met Your Father,” which has more of a more diverse cast. 

According to the United States Census Bureau, only 38% of actors identify as people of color. 

Furthermore, they are victims of racism while on set. The media and entertainment industry needs to work on not promoting racism and cast people based on their acting abilities. 

Many popular television sitcoms that aired in the 1990s and 2000s lacked diverse casts. For example, TV shows such as Friends” or Seinfeld” feature all white leads and are among some of the highest watched TV shows.

When the “Friends” reunion special came out in May 2021 the creators of the show said that the all white casting choice wasn’t intentional. However, there is more of a push these days to incorporate people of color into the main cast compared to almost 30 years ago.

The media and entertainment industry needs to be better in terms of addressing racism on set.

To really strive for diversity, they need to make it a safe space for actors of color. On the Netflix show “Dear White People,” Black actor Jeremy Tardy quit the show in 2020 due to ongoing discrimination on set when it came to him receiving lesser pay than his white cast members.

Additionally, the industry has also been accused of “whitewashing. This means that white actors are cast in non-white roles. Marvel Studios has also been accused of whitewashing by casting white actors in roles originally played by people of color in the comics. In the movieDoctor Strange,” a white actress was cast to play the role of The Ancient One who had originally been portrayed as an Asian man in the comics.

People of color are also not getting enough screen time compared to their white counterparts. This is obvious in reality TV shows.

For example, “The Bachelor” franchise, comprised of “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” shows, has only had five leads that are people of color out of nearly 50 leads during the show’s entire run since 2002. Additionally, people of color, especially Black contestants, do not get enough attention for their time on the show. Fifty-nine percent of Black contestants are eliminated in the early weeks of the show. Until recently, a majority of the contestants on the franchise have been white.

Recently, in 2021, Matt James was chosen as the first black lead of “The Bachelor.” Additionally, his cast was the most diverse cast in all of the show’s history. 

There have been noticeable strides in improving diversity in film such as casting techniques as well as celebrating the success of actors of color.

The TV showGrey’s Anatomy” uses a colorblind technique to cast actors, which was an unpopular idea when the show first came out in 2005. This means casting without considering the actor’s ethnicity, skin color, body shape, sex and/or gender. Nearly half of the original cast were people of color when the show first came out. In the following seasons, more diverse actors would the join the cast. 

In the 2022 Academy Awards, two notable actors of color took home Oscars. Actress Ariana Debose won Best Supporting Actress for her role in the film “West Side Story.” She is the first openly queer Afro-Latina to be nominated and win. Additionally, Will Smith won his first Oscar for Best Actor for his role in the the film “King Richard.” Smith is the fifth Black actor to win in this category

Acting is a career that should be open to everyone. Implicit bias shouldn’t get in the way of someone’s dream.

This story was written by Krisha Patel. She can be reached at [email protected].

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