I wrote this in 2014, long before this column existed, but never gave it to Joel because I thought that it could potentially lead to a weekly commitment that I was far too lazy to fulfill. Little did I know that Pat Toomey’s massage cats would seal my fate …
With the release of Marvel’s Doctor Strange imminent, and with it, renewed debates about diversity and “whitewashing” in Hollywood, I felt that it was timely. So I hauled it out of mothballs and updated it with some new info …
Two years ago, “Marvelous Da7e”, a columnist for movie spoiler/news site, lrmonline.com, asked:
“Marvel, now that you have a massive hit with the 10th movie in your inter-connected cinematic universe, and you of all people should know that ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ so where are my movies with female superheroes or minority leads?”
Grammatical butchery aside, he did make me to think about the issue, and ask this counter question: If it’s so easy to create a great comic book, television show or movie with a compelling story and deep, layered characters of any race, gender, religion or sexual identity that resonate with audiences, but no one is doing it for a specific self-identified demographic, why aren’t the people clamoring for these movies/comics/shows making them themselves?
Guess who created these iconic straight white male heroes: (SPOILER ALERT) straight white guys! So why, why, WHY do people who become successful by serving a MARKET/CULTURE WITH WHICH THEY IDENTIFY somehow OWE it to any other market/culture to service their needs, too? I mean, making the most possible money is always good sense when you run any business, but why do a businesses, or worse, artists, OWE anyone anything other than what they want to create?
Jason Bailey, a writer at Flavorwire was quoted in CNN.com saying:
“There’s plenty to say about these disparities, but they certainly don’t exist independently of each other; there are so few black speaking roles because there are so few black filmmakers, and ditto Hispanics, and Asians, and so on. There should be more of them – but that doesn’t let white filmmakers off the hook.”
Why? Do women, non-white men, or members of the LGBT communities really want a bunch of straight white dudes creating the public’s perception of what it means to be them? Or have “Female-ized Thor,” “Suddenly Hispanic Spiderman” or “Identifying as Transgendered female Wolverine” shoved down their throats in a half-hearted attempt to placate them without doing any heavy lifting? Isn’t that really just defeating the purpose of having a hero/protagonist with which a non-white-non-male-non-straight audience can identify?
I’m a straight white guy who writes and directs (sometimes funny) advertising short films for a living. My life experience is probably vastly different from that of a Jewish African American lesbian writer/director. Do I want to see/read/hear her story? Absolutely, 100 percent, yes!
Do I want to write/produce/direct it? Absolutely, 100 percent, no. There’s most likely no way that I could bring her story to life as authentically as she could because we probably haven’t been touched by the same inspirations. But my non-participation in the creation of her art is not a rejection of it, and it’s certainly not stopping her (or any straight white man that feels qualified) from creating it.
And if anything is preventing her film from getting made at the studio level, it’s probably the ticket-buying public. Studios make movies for PROFIT, period. Movie goers have spent over $9.9 billion to date to see the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, all of which feature straight white males as their lead characters. But it’s not just straight white guys buying tickets.
A study quoted in the same piece claims that the fastest growing demographic for theatrical ticket sales is Hispanic women over age 25. At $9.9 BILLION IN SALES ACROSS ALL KNOWN DEMOGRAPHICS, world-wide, there is no motivation for Marvel to alter their course and produce original, non-white, non-male, non-straight characters when the path of least resistance, their most firmly established properties with decades of story material to draw from, are making this kind of money.
But we can fix it … if we want to fix it.
Box office, VOD, Blu Ray, and Digital Downloads are referendums that we vote on with our dollars. If you want to make an impact on the Hollywood production slate, vote “no” by not going to the multiplex, downloading, renting or purchasing movies that “don’t speak to” or “represent” you. Justin Lin, one of the directors behind the billion dollar Fast and Furious franchise agrees.
And maybe, make your own.
We live in an incredible age in which almost the entire sum of human knowledge is a Google search away, in which one person self-published a story that impacted three entire industries (50 Shades of Grey), and in which a few committed people with a little money can make a high quality, feature-length film.
Go create some characters that resonate, write a compelling story for them, buy or rent a camera, shoot a movie and get a computer to edit and distribute it via the web to a market that you feel is not being served. If more people would go create new characters and stories that reflect their lives and interests without the establishment instead of whining about the lack of diversity in Hollywood, diversity will take care of itself.
(And please, don’t try to play the “all straight white male distribution channels” card, because my response will be the same: If you want it, CREATE IT. See also: OWN and El Rey.)
DIVERSITY STARTS WITH CREATORS CREATING THINGS THAT PEOPLE LIKE THEM WANT TO EXPERIENCE – SO EMBRACE CREATIONISM!!! I mean … you know what I mean.
Tony Marion is a writer and filmmaker who splits time between Lancaster, PA and Baltimore, MD. He lives for the work of Descendents (the band), Chuck Palahniuk and Rian Johnson. Check out the digital embodiment of procrastination he calls his website here.