THE SMOKE SIGNAL

THE SMOKE SIGNAL

THE SMOKE SIGNAL

Tokenization of POC in movies

Over the years, there has been a noticeable shift in the movie industry as society evolves towards greater inclusivity. As a collective, we worked to promote inclusivity and diversity. This journey has been reflected in our movies. The importance of inclusivity is so profound because of its great influence on the identity of POC children and young adolescents. 

From the ’90s to 2000s the movie industry was less focused on diversity, a trend that is seen often when examining shows where characters are badly represented, characters such as Fez from “That 70’s Show”. Often ethnic characters are seen as supporting characters. Their primary means is to bolster their white character counterparts and make their narrative seem more interesting.

Reflecting on our society’s past, it’s apparent that we’ve grown—albeit accompanied by its frustrating challenges. Take Fez as an example, Fez’s character was constantly perpetuated by racist stereotypes—there were ongoing jokes in the show that defined him as unattractive, undesirable and overly obsessed with girls creepily. This stereotypical role is seen all over Hollywood. Raj from “The Big Bang Theory” can also be seen portraying this role. He was always referred to as a foreigner and while foreigner is not a hateful term, it is a very isolating term. It’s also kind of like they took him into the group and saved him. While most of the time with his friends he is not considered an outsider whenever they mention his heritage, it is often disregarded.

This pattern is also seen in shows such as, “Gilmore Girls”. Rory Gilmore is a beautiful and intelligent girl with a roller coaster life but you look over and standing next to her is Lane Kim, who solely exists to make Rory seem more interesting. Lane Kim’s relationship with her mother should’ve been delved into more deeply, but of course, she ended up with the shorter end of the stick. Her story was filled with adversity, romance and passion. Her story is a goldmine for a teen angst drama. Yet, we never seem to focus on these characters. 

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Lately, there have been real strides towards genuine diversity in storytelling. This is reflected in shows like, “Never Have I Ever”. This coming-of-age comedy-drama stars Maitreyi Ramakrishnan who plays Devi Vishwakumar. This show is an amazing representation of themes that deal with cultural identity, romance, family dynamics and adversity. The great thing about this show is that it does a great job at making it relatable to all cultures, people from any background can understand its struggle with grief and cultural expectations. Most importantly, it doesn’t reduce Devi’s character to mere tokenism, her heritage is integral to the story’s plot. 

Society has started to understand the importance of representation on screens. When you don’t  really look like any of the characters on the screen it can be disheartening to see. It feels as if your life cannot be as interesting as the white main character. The characters you do resemble are simply the subplots and you begin to envision a different reality for yourself. Proper storytelling of an individual’s role in society and their community can largely impact their perception of themselves. It’s important to recognize this marginalization of characters, as the wrong storytelling can reinforce stereotypes. By understanding this social issue, we can foster empowered individuals.

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About the Contributor
Michelle Lovera, Opinion Editor
Michelle Lovera is a junior at Hart High School. This is her first year in journalism and she is currently the Opinion Editor for the newspaper. She serves as the Vice President of the Hart English Honor Society. Outside of school she enjoys listening to music, hanging out with friends and baking. Michelle's favorite artist is Lana Del Rey.
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