Representation in Hollywood is improving, but is still not ideal

Kyla Jones, Centerspread Editor

Diversity in Hollywood is, ever slowly, growing. With each new piece of media being made, representation grows. According to the USC Annenberg initiative, 34.3% of characters in 2019 were from underrepresented groups, an all-time high, and the amount of female characters has remained stable at 34%. There is still a long way to grow, but overall, things are improving. However, Hollywood has fallen into a troubling pattern: shoehorning representation.

Don’t get me wrong: any representation is a positive step toward inclusion (unless it encourages harmful stereotypes). I am not saying that shoehorning representation is inherently bad. In fact, it’s necessary considering the small numbers of representation currently in media. For example, even though I personally didn’t like Captain Marvel, it was still a step forward for women as a whole. We still need representation in these forms.

That being said, it should not be the end-all-be-all. Shoehorning representation into already-written stories and reboots is subpar. Sometimes, this shoehorning of representation can create mixed messages in terms of the original message of the content. For example, having Will Smith as the Genie in the Aladdin reboot creates an uncomfortable situation when you realize that the only black man in the movie is a genie—a slave. Obviously, it’s better than nothing, but it is less worthwhile than creating completely original content.

Hollywood should aspire to uplift creators who are people of color. Then, they can tell their own unique stories instead of retelling old ones. Raya and the Last Dragon is an excellent example of what Hollywood should aspire to. Not only is it an original story, but the people behind the camera were diverse. Though the movie hasn’t come out yet, it is already a massive step forward for representation of Southeastern Asian culture. Representation deserves its own pedestal and completely original stories.