By Chinwe Onuoha
The lack of minorities in Hollywood is disgraceful and there needs to be a greater conversation about this issue so that all actors and actresses will gain the opportunity to pursue their dreams.
On Sunday, Mar. 2, 2014, there were a lot of celebrities walking up and down the red carpet, but there was something more enticing than the fashions, make up, and jewelry. Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong’o, and Barkhad Abdi were nominated for Oscars, but they were chosen based on their performances as black stereotypes.
The films that those actors and actresses performed in were obviously great, otherwise they would not have been nominated for such a prestigious award. However, the problem is that if black actors and actresses aren’t playing slaves, they are casted as mammies, thugs, ghetto, uneducated or some kind of hypersexual character most of the time.
Perhaps things could change if people in the media decide to step outside of the box by breaking away from Hollywood’s racist depictions of what they believe Black people act like. Several students at Rutgers University in Newark believe that Hollywood needs to change in this regard.
“I think if we want there to be less inequality in the world, then we have to start with Hollywood because the media is a representation of our society,” said 19-year-old History and Political Science major, Hajar Mahmoud.
“It’s stupid that there aren’t more positive representations of minorities in film. Hollywood should understand that the images that they are putting out can alter the way others view us,” said 21-year-old Criminal Justice major Antarvir Kaur.
“For example, they may promote certain stereotypes, that as minorities we are trying to fight in the real world,” said Kaur.
However, other Rutgers-Newark students such as Meaghan Pereiras feels more optimistic that Hollywood will change for the better.
“I believe that there are a lot of misrepresentations of minorities in media, but there have been a lot of improvements and the 2014 Academy Awards proved that,” said the 19-year-old Psychology major.
But, is that true?
Let’s break it down a bit. In “12 Years A Slave” Ejiofor and Nyong’o played slaves; Steve McQueen directed it and in the film “Captain Phillips” Abdi played a criminal. Besides this let’s think about what’s being shown on daytime television.
“Scandal,” “is the highest rated scripted drama among African-Americans, with 10.1 percent of black households, or an average of 1.8 million viewers, tuning in during the first half of the season,” according to “The New York Times.” But, let’s all keep in mind that Kerry Washington (who is Black, by the way) is the star of the show for being not only a talented actress, but more so for being a home wrecker.
What does this say about the media and the way actors and actresses, particularly those who are Black, are portrayed?
According to the “Huffington Post” there was a study done by the University of Southern California regarding the Academy Award’s Best Picture nominees from 1977-2010. They discovered that “a vast majority of actors and directors are white and male.”
The study also found that “less than one percent of all directors across the 180 films in the sample were African American and of over 1,400 speaking characters, only 11.6 percent were black, 1.9 percent were Hispanic and 7 percent were Asian.”
However, there are others who feel less optimistic about Hollywood’s unwillingness to be more diverse.
Phil Aiden Robinson, who is also an American film director, a screenwriter, and white, commented on a similar study that was published on the “Los Angeles Times” and said that “we absolutely recognize that we need to do a better job.”
“If the industry as a whole is not doing a great job in opening up its ranks, it’s very hard for us to diversify our membership,” Robinson added.
Besides the fact that Robinson spoke as if he was a representative of the entire film industry, what he said seemed to give the impression that there wasn’t much alleyway for change.
However, Oscar winner Nyong’o and McQueen have proved otherwise.