Diversity in media has made tremendous strides over the last couple of years. Now minorities are no longer stuck playing the token sidekick character because Hollywood is not made up of straight white people.
As an Asian American woman, I am aware of how both of these identifiers single me out, it makes me hyper-aware of the underrepresentation in both aspects in Hollywood. Growing up I was desperate for someone I could relate to.
The United States is known for being a melting pot of cultures, why shouldn’t the movies, books and television reflect that? People should be able to readily find someone that looks like them and shares their feelings.
In the past, diversity could only be found if you were really looking for it. Now, it seems that we’re finally moving toward a more accurate glimpse of the actual diversity in the country.
The token minority role in media is harmful because it strips away our identifiers and reduces us down to overused, outdated and outrageous stereotypes. Past underrepresentation is no excuse for continued denial.
Over the past year, I’ve definitely seen an influx of media splashed with people from all different races. But is it far enough?
Actor Simu Liu will play the titular role of Shang-Chi in the Marvel superhero movie.
There was last summer’s Crazy Rich Asians hit debut at the box office, where its all Asian cast was seen as a groundbreaking feat.
All in all, while this is wonderful, the progress we’ve made is still minuscule when compared with the numbers.
According to the 2016-17 UCLA’s College of Social Science diversity report, minorities make up almost 40% of the US population but remain underrepresented 2-to-1 among film leads, 3-to-1 among film directors and 5-to-1 among film writers.
Films made up with at least 40% minority cast garnered the highest median global box office return. In contrast, movies with an ethnically homogeneous cast had the poorest receipts. Despite the box office numbers proving that media featuring a more diverse cast make a higher return, with majority-minority casts making the highest median return, movies with a homogeneous cast continue to saturate the market.
Until we completely move past the caricature of the token minority sidekick, we’ve a long way to go.
At times, I feel that while we’ve made progress towards a future where the race of an actor won’t be the defining element of their career, but at this moment in time, it’s the only thing we have to cling to.
Hollywood may be moving at a snail’s pace, but slow and steady will surely win this race.