Opinion: Hollywood’s “race” to success


Hollywood sign

Peter Vo, Review Staff

Feature Photo Credited to: Getty Images – The infamous Hollywood sign sits on a hill top in California. Since the beginning of Hollywood, minority groups have been grossly underrepresented and neglected in entertainment and film industries.

As a young kid, movies have been a paramount part of my life. Stretching as far I can remember,  I recall lying in bed with my mom as a four year old kid watching The Lion King. Film captivated me at a young age and I always wondered why. “Was it the plot lines, the animations, cinematography, genre?” I questioned myself continuously.

Through more evaluation of film, I realized why I adored cinema and everything about it– it was unique. You’re putting separate shots, separate animations, all made over different periods of time by different people, and collaborating it together until it’s an impeccable masterpiece.

As I developed as an individual, I began to take more substantial perceptions into movies and how they are made — the lighting of scenes, and how an actor/actress portray their emotions. But, more importantly, I pay close consideration to how the movie affects me. Morality is a huge role in it, movies can mend or corrupt a person. And how a film industry chooses its widespread of movies graciously affects the audience.

Barry Jenkins, director of Moonlight, holds up the Best Picture Award along with the cast and crew that contributed to the movie. Moonlight was a groundbreaking film providing insight on the life of an African American boy. (Daniel Pinto, the Stony Brook Press)

Hollywood especially, is arguably the most successful film industry in the U.S., with a record breaking year for revenue. According to Hollywood Reporter, “2016 Box Office Revenue Hits $11.17B for Another Record Year.”  But through these analyses of Hollywood, I realize something crucial lacked in these films: diversity.

According to IMBd, Since 1990, “21 Black actors and actresses have been nominated for Best Actor/Actress awards and over 240 White actors and actresses have been nominated for the same position.”

What does this say about the race? It’s not because minorities lack the talent or white people are more exceptional when it comes to acting. It’s not that at all. On Sunday, February 26th, the annual Academy Awards, better known as the Oscars, showed the power of African-American actors/actresses and films about them.

This just shows the racial problem within this industry. It’s not who’s better, it’s not who’s richer or poorer, it’s the fact that minorities and “out of the ordinary people” aren’t getting the shot at being in this elegant art.

Bar graph on media diversity and social change. From the graph it is clear that African American and Asian American directors are drastically underrepresented. (USC Annenberg’s School for Communication and Journalism)

Research at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California states, “Hollywood has a diversity problem. The film industry still functions as a straight, white, boy’s club.” Minorities have little screen time and are almost always aiding characters, transgenders, and homosexuals are merely just a dream.

The Study, Inclusion or Invisibility, tackles this topic head on. “‘We’re seeing that there’s not just a diversity problem in Hollywood; there’s actually an inclusion crisis,’ Stacy L. Smith.” The study showed that only 7% of films had a full cast that was balanced ethically and culturally for the film being portrayed.

Over the past few years, the problem is slightly easing up with the recent Oscars but just two years ago, all the nominations for acting roles for the Oscars for colored people ceased to exist. This brought up a lot of criticism from the Hollywood community and lead to Twitter outrages with tweets like #OscarsSoWhite.

But, this year is a turning point for the Hollywood industry, with the recent Oscars and awards for the minorities. With Viola Davis winning Best Supporting Actress, Mahershala Ali for Best Supporting Actor, and Moonlight winning best picture, it’s a turnaround from the past Academy Awards.

This complication is still distant from a solution, though. It’s not because we don’t have enough minorities going into the film industry, it’s the people running it. When such a vast industry is run by people who are narrowed minded and whose perceptions are limited, products that are composed are to reflect that.

Graph on Hollywood racial diversity in 2013 by UCLA Research Center. The vast majority of all lead actor, writers, directors, and creators are male. (Casey Bruce, Generation Progress)

From the looks of it, Hollywood is using the method tokenism. It’s a method used by many big companies, industries and even schools– hiring and  incorporating a small number of underrepresented people to demonstrate to the public of their support of racial or sexual equality within a company.  

Roxane Gay, a journalist for the New York Times, wrote an opinion column on the Hollywood racial problem and commented on the race aspect. “[Hollywood] continues to ignore the simple fact that people of color want to see their lives reflected in the movies they watch. Representation is not a lot to ask.”

And representation is all we need. Movies like The Great Wall and Ghost in the Shell are all movies based off of Asian culture, yet the main actor for the The Great Wall is Matt Damon, and for Ghost in the Shell, Scarlett Johansson. Even though they’re both incredibly inspiring and magnificent actors/actresses, casting crews still neglect to choose actors and actresses that represent the culture and aspects of these films.

Film has always been about the people. From the moment I grasped on to the world of cinema, I knew how unique this art was. Pictures moving across screens don’t seem like much but it’s uplifting to many people and it’s a form of self-expression.

Self-expression is a key part of human nature.

As an Asian-American person, my chances of ever getting close to the Hollywood industry are slim. According to Hollywood reporter, “Asians represented just 5.1 percent of speaking or named characters across film, television and digital series in 2014, and at least half of those projects featured no such Asian characters at all.” This just shows the struggles an Asian American or even a minority just to step into the professionalism and world of film.

Director Ava DuVernay on set directing film, Selma. DuVernay was the first African-American female director to be nominated for a Golden Globe. (Lisa Capretto, the Huffington Post)

It’s not a far dream, it’s a close one– diversity in Hollywood. Although there are still growth and development to be made within the industry, with every year it seems the film industry is catching up with American society and how things are in today’s world; diverse.

We as people have to fight together to bring out representation we want in these films. From peaceful protesting, to having the confidence to rise up and go for these crucial roles that tremendously have an impact on who gets representation in films. We need to lead and pave honorable paths for forthcoming generations.

Films are a way to solve world violence, a way to bring together individuals, a way to show admiration for people you respect, a way to bring reconciliation within a society, and diversity is one step closer to composing an alluring industry whose purpose is to create, to inspire, and to love.


To find more information on Hollywood Diversity go here:

http://www.bunchecenter.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/2017-Hollywood-Diversity-Report-2-21-17.pdf – (UCLA’s report on Hollywood’s diversity for the 2016 year)

To look at the results of the recent Academy Awards go here:

http://oscar.go.com/news/winners/oscar-winners-2017-see-the-complete-list – (Oscar’s list of nominees for 2017 and it’s recepients of the awards)