The issue of race within the world of film and television has been a much discussed topic over the last few years. With more and more calls to end the Hollywood trend of whitewashing, it can be hard to believe this is still an issue in 2017. But while we look to the news and see the rising tide of open racism on the streets of our cities, the idea that there are not enough casting opportunities for actors, becomes a microcosm of a larger problem. A problem that has been intrinsic within our society for maybe as long as there as been society.
So is the Hollywood system racist? Some would agree, some wouldn’t. The reasons to these issues have become so deeply routed within the way the industry works, people became blind to the problem. Within the last few years, the issue was more and more highlighted at the oscars, where there were little to no people of colour represented within the nominees at all.
Traditionally, there has always been whitewashing within the film industry. While it might be thought a creative industry would generate forward thinking and liberal minded people, which overall it does, there is also a conservative streak within the film and television industry.
This is brought on by the need for ratings and box office sales. In the past, when people openly accepted racism and segregation, seeing people considered “other”, on their screens would have been scandalous. As such, white actors would play the parts of minorities, which they’d often play as either stereotyped caricatures or out and out villains, further perpetuating the idea that a minority is different and very far from what the public would accept as a leading man. This has changed in part over the years, but the eﬀects still remain. We rarely see on western screens an asian man in a romantic leading role or a black woman playing a scientist. Stereotypes can run deep and maybe the cause of this modern skewing of representative reality is not the executives running the studios, but us, the public.
The film industry is a business like any other and like any other business they do not create their product in a void. The consumer decides what the final output is. We do this in ratings and ticket sales; we decide who the leading men and women are. The tide is slowly changing for the better, but we must consistently as the viewing public, support projects where people of colour are no longer the minority.
By doing this, the public consciousness, of which race can inhabit a particular role, will begin to change. We’ll begin to see a broader range of people represented within the mainstream of television and cinema. With more and more films being called out on their whitewashing tendencies, the industry is changing and previously unattainable roles are beginning to be filled by minorities. This can only mean good things for the future of the industry and long may it continue.