Diversity and Hollywood

Opinion by Mysia Anderson
Oct. 27, 2015, 11:59 p.m.

It was my childhood dream to be an actress.

I knew all of the words to the animated movies “Cinderella” and “Sleeping Beauty,” and I felt like if they made a human version, I could do it better.

It wasn’t until I shared this dream with the type of friend you should never reconnect with in your adult life over Facebook that I realized: Regardless of talent, some people just want a white Cinderella.

I am a film and media studies major because I should have been Cinderella, and there should have been many before Tiana. There should have been more space for me to have aspirations more badass than being a princess, or someone more masculine-presenting.

The diversity question is the problem of the century for Hollywood.

Tensions flared when Nellie Andreeva’s alarmingly off-key article titled, “Pilots 2015: The Year of Ethnic Castings — About Time Or Too Much Of Good Thing” hit the internet on DEADLINE. Andreeva pointed out the increase of “ethnic” castings in television this year, and instead of celebrating a victory for diversity, Andreeva decided to employ an argument just a ridiculous as reverse racism.

That’s right. Just like that article, reverse racism is ridiculous.

While Andreeva was creating a rally cry for privileged white actors and actresses who traditionally and currently dominate Hollywood, it was clapback season over at Salon with Sonia Saraiya’s concise and spot-on piece titled, “‘Ethnic’ actors aren’t stealing white roles: The racist, clueless backlash to TV’s greatest season begins.”

In Pilot Viruet’s article “Are This Season’s Diverse Shows Ushering in a New Era of Multicultural Television?” Viruet points out how diverse television was in the ’90s with household favorites, such as “Moesha,” “Sister Sister” and “Kenan & Kel.”

I heard Spike Lee put it best when he said, “It seems like every 10 years Hollywood discovers black people.”

As Viruet has pointed out, black shows have done well in the past, but producers have no incentive to keep them around. They see them as flukes, and a white show will do better in that time slot.

Diverse shows are dominating television now with rating success stories, such as “Fresh Off the Boat,” “Empire,” “Scandal” and “How to Get Away with Murder,” but if history is any indication, they may not last.

Why are Hollywood and big media companies the arbiters of what we watch? Of what represents us? Diversity to them is not a way of doing entertainment. It is a money maker with an expiration date.

I am not satisfied.

Why are they the only ones to decide which stories are told and untold? Art, film and media shape an entire culture. They introduce us to characters, communities and ways of thinking and being.

The cultural revolution comes before the political revolution.

I love Shonda, I love Cookie, but we need more stories. These black women do not represent the entire gamut of experience for blackness, and there should not be a quota for “ethnic stories.”

Diversity means allowing for more than one story to exist, without falling into a single-story way of thinking. Diversity means telling the truth with love.

Hollywood should be stopped from determining what is our truth as a people. In this new age of media when filmmakers can get started over YouTube, we need to support our creatives. The ones who aren’t backed by hegemonic Hollywood. The ones who are here to tell the truth and do it out of love. Writers Issa Rae and Justin Simien are examples of filmmakers to watch.

The dream is to take film, television, media, news and entertainment as a whole out of the hands of Hollywood and big media corporations. Imagine how beautiful that would be.


Contact Mysia Anderson at mysia ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Mysia Anderson '17 is a sophomore majoring in African & African American studies. She is from Miami, Florida and is an unapologetic Black feminist. She enjoys poems about love, free food, and dancing to Beyoncé. You can contact Mysia at [email protected].

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