[UPDATED] Let’s go to the Movies: the Slow but Necessary Solution

Despite how much we tell ourselves that money shouldn’t be our first priority, it definitely plays a big role in our lives. I sometimes kid myself. I tell myself that I can get by with a low paying job, as long as I enjoy it. But, I have to admit, even if I am happy, life would be a lot easier if I had a job with a higher salary.

Money makes the world go round.

In that case, why don’t minorities have the upper hand in society? Minorities do make the majority of the U.S. population; we should make up the majority of the market too, right? Well, we do, or at least, when it comes to Hollywood.

There is a misconception in Hollywood that majority of moviegoers are white males. But, like most misconceptions, it is wrong. According to MPAA’s 2015 Theatrical Market Statistics, not only do females make the majority of moviegoers BUT minority groups, Hispanics, African Americans, and Asians, on average attend the movies more frequently than Caucasians.

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One would think that if this is the case Hollywood would try to make more films that accommodate minorities’ tastes and preferences. Yet, Hollywood continues to make movies for a white cis-heteronormative male audience. Hollywood films enforce stereotypes and further instigate white dominance. They show white individuals as the only group of people able to become heroes in stories. As seen in our reading, AWUC’s Making Waves, there is no shortage of Asians or Asian Americans in California. Yet, white actors and actresses, like Scarlett Johansson, keep on being cast in films, even to play Asian roles. Yes, I am referring to 2017’s Ghost in the Shell’s casting. (The producers do try to argue that Motoko Kusanagi’s race is “ambiguous”, since she is a cyborg in the manga. BUT if that is the case, why would they try to hire Lola VFX, a company known for its visual effects, to make Johansson appear more Asian.)

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Sadly, it is not the case that Hollywood makes films for minorities’ eyes. This is a shame for Hollywood producers. In a study by the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies titled “2015 Hollywood Diversity Report: flipping the Script”, data shows that films that include a diverse cast result in higher box office numbers and higher returns of investment. This just demonstrates that social “norms” play a bigger role on media than your typical “maximize profits” model does.

I guess, it is partly because we have boxed ourselves in. Or rather, Asians or Asians Americans have become part of a never-ending cycle.  Asians do not have an A-list celebrity to represent them in media and break social norms. Why? Because Asians are not cast to act in mainstream films. Why? Because Asians do not have an A-list celebrity to represent them in media and break social norms. ETCETERA. When an Asian is allowed to play a role in media, when an Asian IS cast, they are forced into stereotypical roles or heavily Americanized ones. The show Glee praises itself for its diversity, but in reality, the plot never focuses on a character’s complex background. Similarly, the show Dr. Ken is about a very Americanized Asian family, but the show also relies on stereotypes as its source of humor. In this industry, you must either avoid it or stick to the stereotypes. None of which are attractive options.

To step away from all the negative, the increase of backlash, due to lack of diversity in films, has been adding up.  There has been an increase in articles regarding the film Academy’s promises to increase diversity. Yet, this can prove to be all bark and no bite. If we were to take this route in order to fix this issue, we’d need to stick to our word and boycott if need be. It sounds foolish to think we’d need a solution similar to one that got the American Civil Rights movement going, but as stated, this issue is DEEPLY rooted in old norms, something that can’t be excused with “we want to make more profits”, and it should be treated similarly.

Regardless, my solution is not this extreme. Though it would be wonderful to boycott media and see what happens, I offer the solution of simply going to the movies, if it is worthy of watching, and not going, if the movie instigates further stereotyping. With the recent push to diversify films, a minority showing their support means more than it has in the past. We must continue to be consumers in this market, and eventually (hopefully) Hollywood would go back to focusing on what actually matters: money.

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