Film Industry Needs More Diversity, Inclusion


Although the 2020 Oscars has marked significant advances in cast diversity, more representation of minorities is needed both on and off camera. Photo courtesy of Adriana Briscoe.

To be honest, I’m not the crying type. Whether I’m saying goodbye to friends at a bittersweet high school graduation, or watching an emotionally-moving speech, I’d be the last person you’d find shedding a tear, and I rarely cry during movies either.


Yet, when I saw the final scene from The Hate U Give, I found myself in tears. The Hate U Give is a movie starring Amandla Stenberg that follows the life of 16-year-old Starr Carter and her family as she witnesses the murder of her friend, Khalil, and fights back against police brutality.


I was inspired by Starr’s unwavering courage in the midst of danger and unquestionable confidence in her words and actions, and that led me to wonder — why haven’t I seen such a uniquely empowering movie like this one before? Why haven’t I been able to get a glimpse of life from a Black person’s perspective until now?


The answer to those questions is the lack of diverse representation in the film industry. 


This is an issue because it is not only unfair to POC, but it also reflects the underrepresentation of minorities in real life. 


It’s important to not only hire diverse actors, but also hire directors and producers who come from a variety of backgrounds because the people behind the scenes control what goes on air. 


Stenberg has witnessed this lack of diversity in the entertainment industry herself. 


In a Teen Vogue interview with Janelle Monae, she noted that when she was considering a role in Everything, Everything, she initially thought that she was “receiving a script for a YA romance project that was intended for a white actress” because she had experiences like that in the past. Stenberg suspected that the casting directors were toying around with the idea of including diverse characters, but they wouldn’t follow through with it.


However, after learning that the movie was based on a Black woman’s novel and that the characters were supposed to be diverse, she was all for it.


“I’d never seen a story like this made for an interracial couple,” Stenberg said in the interview.  “I’m not someone who generally has a pop or mainstream sensibility, but I see the incredible power of infiltrating these larger movies that show a lot of people who we are and how diverse and beautiful our community is.”


I agree with Stenberg — if more films centered around characters from minority backgrounds, people would get a better understanding of their rich culture, which in turn would lead to more acceptance and appreciation for others’ differences. 


This is especially important because some people don’t live in very diverse environments, which often leads to ignorance and misunderstanding of people who are different from them. 


Seeing diverse characters in movies and TV shows can help people who live in largely white neighborhoods at least get a sense of how diverse the world is. 


I cannot and will never be able to speak to a POC’s perspective because I am white, but I can speak to the difference that a diverse cast in a movie can make in expanding one’s view of the world, as I live in a suburb that is 75.64% white — that isn’t exactly a diverse environment. 


Because of this, watching movies and documentaries that emphasize the inclusion of racial minorities helps me broaden my perspective.


While it’s important to make sure there are plenty of diverse characters on the screen, we can’t forget about what goes on off-camera. 


According to an article from Deadline summarizing the 2020 UCLA Hollywood Diversity Report, while Hollywood has made notable progress in proportionate representation of people of color in regards to casting, women make up only 32% of studio chairs and CEO positions, and POC make up just 8% of them. White people have 92% of these executive positions, while men make up 68% of those positions. 


These statistics are deeply concerning — if white men make up the majority of the force behind the scenes of many films, how can they accurately portray the perspectives of multiple backgrounds on camera? 


The study also showed that while Black actors have hit proportional representation on screen in recent years, many minority groups remain largely underrepresented; those of Latinx, Asian American, Middle Eastern, North African and Native American descent are among those groups. 


So, although we have seen significant improvements in fairly representing Black people, we still have a long way to go in terms of fairly representing a wide range of backgrounds and hiring more women and POC for top studio positions. 


To combat this underrepresentation, we must work to amplify diverse voices in both the media and real life. We must demand change and speak up against inequality.


In the meantime, Stenberg says she will be working to make her way in this world through the chaos and injustice.


“I feel like now is the time to stand tall and feel 100 percent comfortable in my skin even though I’m occupying a space that I know historically wasn’t built for me,” Stehlberg said.