DIVERSITY & HOLLYWOOD by Phumuzile Mabasha


For some months now I have been thinking about diversity and what exactly is it. What is diversity onscreen and in the images we see everyday. Diversity was something that was on my mind that I even had many conversations with my friends about it. Last week, I stumbled upon Yara Shahidi’s essay about acting and activism I-D Vice . Her description of diversity hit the nail on the head. Yara said that “When we talk about diversity on screen we're not just talking about colour; we're talking about gender identity, fluidity and sexual identity. We want to talk about identity in a deeply multifaceted way because our definition of diversity has, and must, continue to expand.”As Yara said diversity is more than having the token person of color in the film, campaign or series. Diversity is about telling everyone’s story. I want to see this and I think so do many others do. I want more stories about POC, LGBTQ, gender fluidity and real people.

Over the years, Hollywood has attempted to tell these stories. In some cases Hollywood is thriving because of this with the likes Atlanta, Insecure, Queen Sugar, Master of None, Black-ish , Jane the Virgin, Fresh of the Boat, Dear White People and Orange Is The New Black to name a few. Even new shows such as TNT’s Claws and Netflix’s Glow like Orange is the New Black have brought back back the diverse female ensemble cast. It is fabulous to see a diverse cast of strong women who are so flawed.

This Summer which was deemed as “The Summer of Doom” because of the many flops and unnecessary remakes. This Summer in my opinion was the death of the Traditional movie star. For decades the traditional movie star was a white male such as Tom Cruise or Johnny Depp. This year the unexpected happened because both Cruise and Depp’s film were panned by critics and flopped. The gems of the Summer were obviously Wonder Woman, Girl’s Trip, Baby Driver and Spiderman: Homecoming. These films were hitsbut refreshing for the first time because they were led by minorities such as women and Black women. Spiderman: Homecoming had a very diverse cast. In its core cast there was only white person who was Tom Holland as Spiderman. I read about how the producers went out of their way for a diverse cast but I was surprised that they followed through with this. As a Black woman I was excited to see  Laura Harrier and Zendaya Coleman were the love interests. It is so rare to see a white man better yet a superhero lust after a Black women in big Blockbuster film. It was just so fucking great. I appreciate Marvel’s attempts on diversity. I look forward to see Tessa Thompson in Thor:Ragnork later this year. Last year I cannot wait to see Black Panther. I am super excited about Black Panther because it is such a great story. I think it will an amazing experience for Black people and everyone else.  It is not a stereotypical or caricature plus it has an amazing group of actors in it. Black Panther is story about a man trying to figure himself and the new position he has in his life but is also a superhero. It is a story that shows being Black is not monolithic.

I cannot speak about diversity without mentioning Get Out, Hidden Figures and Moonlight.  I have grouped these three movies together since most of the cast is Black and the stories they were told were diverse to me. I have watched Get Out multiple times and I feel as I always find something new. What shocked me about Get Out is how clever it is and its refreshing take on race relations in American. Excuse my French but it was a real mind f*ck. Hidden Figures was approached in such an inspirational way and was a feel good film. It showed struggles these women faced but made a point to also illustrate how they overcame them. Additionally, it also stressed the fact that Black women are a part of American history. A history that most of us do not even know. Moonlight surprised me and is one of those films that has a special part in my heart. It is not a film I would watch again but it got me thinking. It had me thinking about love, loneliness, masculinity and society. It was such a pure movie that after I watched it I was in awe in its diversity not just in the fact that the cast was Black but in its storytelling. Moonlight flipped the stereotype of the thugs and gangsters with Maharshala Ali’s Juan. Even the approach to Chiron and his mother was interesting. People who are usually made villains in films were made complicated and human. Moonlight similar to Fences showed a different and nuanced side of masculinity, homosexuality and sexuality. It was great that it won an Oscar for Best Picture because Moonlight is the type of stories and films that should be told because it gives us a true depiction of our world and other people’s world.

With the release of the Forbes highest paid actors and actresses Hollywood has a long way to go with inclusion and creating roles for POC, LGBTQ and women. I hope the last couples of years can continue and we finally see the content that we deserve to watch. The commercial success of Get Out, Hidden Figures, Girls Trip, Atlanta, Insecure and so many more illustrates the need for diversity and more diverse stories.