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The entertainment industry is a forefront of today’s society, but unfortunately is far from inclusive. A fair amount of Hollywood stars are white. According to USC Annenberg’s MDCD Initiative in 2014, approximately 75% of actors in films were white. People of color made up just 26.9% of film actors that year.
In the event people of color are embraced in Hollywood, they are commonly misrepresented and are casted in order to portray a stereotype influenced role. This does nothing for the progression of marginalized groups. In actuality, it has a reverse effect and instead contributes to systematic oppression. Although the production is including actors from a group with little representation, it is negatively impacting the image of the group because their scripts often portray people of color as one-faceted characters. In relation to this, a plethora of people still believe the actions of one person in a group represents the character of the population as an entirety. The stereotypes in the productions are often used as a form of comedy. This encourages the audience to repeat these jokes in a daily setting, which is immensely ridiculing to minorities.
Representation of marginalized groups in the media is critical.
According to a Nielsen report, the average American from ages 2-11 watches twenty-four hours of television for week. Twenty hours if they are 12-17 and twenty-two hours if they’re within the range of 18-24 years old. Roughly 30% of America’s population is comprised of people of color. A multitude of these children and adolescents are watching a great deal of television every day. However, when they are indulging in their favorite shows and movies they frequently do not spot important cast members who look like them. It is important that the youth has role models to look up to. This will lead them to embrace themselves for who they are instead of desiring to be someone or something they are not, which is a harmful mentality.
Shonda Rhimes, TV producer and writer, does an exceptional job of including minorities in her award-winning productions. ‘How to Get Away with Murder’, in particular, has a main cast consisting of three black characters, a young latina woman, and a gay white man. Only one of the characters is a straight white man. The lead actress, Viola Davis, does a profound job of articulating the struggle for women of color in Hollywood. She states, “The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity.” Women of color specifically have a greater disadvantage in Hollywood in landing great roles, simply because they are women. It is unfortunate for aspiring actors of color who have to work twice as hard to get to the position countless white actors are offered.
On a positive note, the amount of television shows with diverse casts are growing. ABC network in particular has a number of socially conscious shows with diverse casts. It is essential to support minority groups by watching the productions they have created, or are included in, in order to keep them on the air and give them the recognition they deserve.
Shows with diverse casts to begin watching: