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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

JOURNAL: Far from Black and White

Photo by Alex DeBuhr

Despite the majority of movies showing in color now, the history of black and white film has not ceased. The film industry still remains very black and white in terms of diversity. Oftentimes, this mentality overlooks talent and passion for acting and film. As the film industry continues to evolve, it needs to understand that true talent does not come from the color of one’s skin.

The film industry has been around for over a century. Despite its longstanding history, diversity has only become a priority in recent times. In 2011, 89.5% of the actors were white. That number would drop to 61.1% in 2021. While the data has shown that the film industry is incorporating more diversity, it needs to do much better.

Hollywood began making space for more Black actors in television and film in the 1950s. Despite this new progressiveness, many Black actors still face racism in the film industry. 

Emerging Black actors face much more hardship in the industry than white actors. This is due to less diversity as is in the film industry and bias toward white actors.

The most common issue is not enough appreciation for their talent, which often gets overlooked because of implicit bias.

For example, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is a popular movie that came out in 2019 and is directed by Quentin Tarantino. This movie reflects the golden age of Hollywood in the 1960s. 

The movie was very well acclaimed and it has won several accolades such as Academy Awards. However, the majority of the cast is white, which is rather concerning since the movie came out in 2019. This was a year that saw a 7% increase in diversity from the year before, and having a popular movie that lacked representation took away from all that effort to diversify films. 

Similarly, in the movie “The Avengers,” most of the superheroes are white. It would take more sequels to be developed to further diversify the cast.

Eventually, Marvel would create the movies “Black Panther” and “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” two successful movies that reflected a cast filled with minority actors and showcased their talent.

By increasing diversity in film, it will strongly influence diversity and opportunities for people of color in society. People of color have already gone through much oppression in the past, and changing the film industry is integral to changing that for the future.

When it comes to depicting a historical event, many directors have shown that they don’t necessarily need an all white cast to be historically accurate. It all comes down to acting ability.

For example, Lin Manuel-Miranda, the director of the Broadway play “Hamilton,” chose several actors who identified as people of color despite the fact that the historical events of the film involved white people. Miranda, who is Puerto Rican, played the role of Hamilton himself.

This further proves the point that race does not have anything to do with talent.

In the new live action “Little Mermaid,” the role of Ariel went to Halle Bailey, who is a Black actress. While Ariel has been portrayed as a white female in the animated films, Bailey represents a change in film by showing how important talent is.

Film allows us to show what a world could be and offer a space to provide a voice to the experiences of several people. Increasing diversity in upcoming films can shift the mindset of film to focus more on talent rather than race.

The film industry showcases talent and passion that draw in a large audience. However, in the past, it has focused more on race.  Acting is a talent that not everyone can showcase and unfortunately, bias has dictated who gets to be on the big screen.

By having implicit bias and racism on set, the film industry is not setting a positive example for people wanting to pursue their passion for acting. Having increased representation in films will show more talent and make actors feel worthy of all their hard work. It proves to be very progressive in terms of how the world is combating racism. More importantly, it will inspire many people to follow their dreams in acting and show how film is truly about talent and not race. 

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

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