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Inclusion matters in Hollywood, as does the way that it’s done

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In the past couple of years the star studded splendor of Hollywood, Americas gleaming entertainment titan, has been engulfed in the inky black turmoil of scandal, and plagued by by a barrage of inept and foolish decisions drawing ever more criticism from the general public. But a new day seems to be on the horizon for the city of angels, the growing presence of inclusivity and acceptance, like a soothing sea, could be slowly washing away the industries murky past.

Hollywood has a long dark history of profiting off of women and other minority groups while not giving them the respect and representation that they deserve, on screen and in real life. The objectification in women in films, often as someone for the male hero of the movie to “save” or “obtain” poisoned the outlook and attitude of generations on what it should mean to be a man or a woman. Black actors and actresses have won only 19 of the hundreds of awards presented throughout the years to leading and supporting actors and actresses. Sending a subliminal message to young black kids that they don’t matter as much.

Hollywood’s history is bad, and progress is being made. But in my opinion, this “Progress”, which many hail as a fantastic, revolutionary period for minority representation, has really been nothing more than a shallow face lift solving some of the surface problems of representation while leaving the deep underpinning issues intact.

Movies like The Help and Hidden Figures which have been honored in recent years for giving opportunities to black actors and actresses. But if you examine these films beneath a superficial level the acclaimed progress crumbles under scrutiny. Although these movies do tell the stories that for so long were never told it is often through a fairly white lense. The Helps main character is Emma Stone who in the movie is glorified as a “hero”of sorts for for being at least decent to Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, and the rest of the films African American actors. It is the same deal with Kevin Costner in hidden figures. Characters like these fell fake and forced, and as we saw this year, with much of the controversy surrounding the validity of Best Picture winning Green Book’s story, they often are.

Movies like these, that for so many years were put forth as the best Hollywood could do to include the unincluded, also shoehorned minority actors into restrictive roles. Black actors and actresses won some academy awards, but it was often for parts about racism and slavery in America. Asian actors, like Jackie Chan, grew acclaim for their roles in martial arts films.

True inclusivity is much more that telling the story of how not inclusive you were. It is about creating new intriguing stories that are not as much “about” minorities but that INCLUDE minorities.

Take for example one of this years most surprising hits Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. This movie went from almost no one knowing it even existed to unseating the much awaited Incredibles 2 to win best animated movie at the Oscars. This movie is great for so many reasons but its star Miles Morales is one of the main ones. His mother is Latina and his father is Black, but the story is never about him being the first non-white Spider-Man. And because of that it allows his character to grow beyond those tropes and broach some incredible topics.

Another great example is Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel. Wonder Woman is a great superhero, but having her story set during WW1, a time before women could even vote in the United States, really undercut the message she is sending. However in Captain Marvel Carol Danvers is never questioned by the people she meets about being a women, but because she is an alien with super powers.

Americas history of racism and sexism is grotesque and extensive, and I don’t think we should ever try and pretend it never happened and that it doesn’t still affect society today. But if we can start to show inclusion in movies as normal, and not make a big deal about it, that is what it will become. I have a baby brother and watching him I can tell how everything  that he sees has a major effect on the way he thinks. So showing him heros like Miles Morales and Captain Marvel, with no fanfare and no fuss might just help change not only the future of the film industry but the world as well.

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Inclusion matters in Hollywood, as does the way that it’s done