Cultural Reflection: People of Color in the Media

I’m not going to lie. Since November 2016, I’ve been retreating from the world in the name of self-care and, since May 2017, mommyhood. (Sidenote: I can’t believe my daughter is 7 months old already! Stop growing up.)

I refuse to watch the news for nothing more than work purposes. I refuse to get sucked into conversations with Trump supporters via social media and in real life. And I refuse to let the craziness of this new administration stress me the f*@k out. I just refuse. Rather than spend unnecessary energy on getting angry at the reality, I’ve resorted to keeping my mind wandering with movies, television shows, and fantasy novels. It’s difficult, yes. And you’re probably with me or against me on this — but like Rhett Butler, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.” I’m still not over the 2016 elections.

The only problem with spending a lot of time immersed in pop culture AND being woke at the same time is I get frustrated regardless if I stay out of watching the news. Why? Because where are all the People of Color!?

Sure we have a handful of great shows like Black-ish, Jane the Virgin, Fresh off the Boat, Orange is the New Black, Empire, Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, and Grey’s Anatomy. But that’s just a drop in the bucket, man. In 2016, USC did a study on the diversity of the entertainment world. Despite the fact that demographically People of Color compose nearly 40% of the United States, only 28.3% of characters with dialogue were from non-white racial/ethnic groups. Breaking that down by film — the study also reported that 3.4% of film directors were female and only 7% of films had a balanced cast (aka reflective of our country’s diversity). With TV, only 17% of directors were female and 19% of programs were balanced.

What’s up with that!? Hollywood has no problem in exploiting People of Color — ripping off ideas, culture, and even full films (ahem, Magnificent Seven, 47 Ronin, and The Departed). Oh, and don’t forget all the whitewashing left and right — The Last Airbender, Aloha, Death Note, Doctor Strange, Cloud Atlas, etc. I still haven’t seen Ghost in a Shell, and I probably won’t. Ever.

Hollywood is fascinated by People of Color; continually captivated by our lifestyle, habits, values, customs, heritage, and traditions. But rather than acknowledging that it is our way of life, they capitalize and take advantage of it. They steal Tokyo city backdrops for futuristic storylines with no Asian in site. They retell the stories of great pharaohs and Egyptian mythology with blue-eyed men and women. They turn anime and manga series into live-action with no regard for the author’s character authenticity.

Growing up, I honestly thought I was ugly because I didn’t have blonde hair and blue eyes. The television and film industry told me so. No one looked like me, and that was a serious problem. Now, decades later, it’s more of the same. We’ve progressed very little. As a mother, I’m more mindful of all of this now. I simply want my daughter to know that she’s not an exception, an anomaly. She is the mold and Hollywood is the irregularity.  

Read more on the USC 2016 report here.

‘Til the next time. – Edil