Culture

Fighting racism in Hollywood

Story by Anna Johns, Reporter

Picture courtesy of Pexels.com

From the first jump, John Boyega’s experience working on Star Wars was anything but smooth. In 2015, after being cast as Finn in the sequel trilogy for Star Wars, the news of Boyega’s involvement in the franchise had fans flooding the actor’s social media pages with a sea of hateful, racist comments and even death threats. After leaving the film franchise this year Boyega stated that he didn’t want to play one role for too long and that he had much more to offer; however, others felt there was more to why he left. Recently, he has become vocal about his experience as a black actor working for Disney, claiming that the company pushed actors who were people of color aside in the production of Star Wars. In an interview with GQ, Boyega said that fellow non-white cast members, Naomi Ackie, Kelly Marie Tran, and Oscar Isaac had similar experiences with racism on set as well. 

Racism isn’t anything new for Hollywood. In old Hollywood, African-American actors were given stereotypical roles and many times their roles were even cut from the films. It wasn’t until recently that African-Americans have received better roles, but that still isn’t enough. Every few years a movie comes out showcasing Black actors, however, those are often overlooked. Researchers at The University of Southern California studied the top-grossing films from 2007 to 2014. In this research, they found that three-quarters of all characters were white. 

Along with Boyega, other black Hollywood stars have risen to support the Black Lives Matter movement and to expose racism in the entertainment industry. Recently, Riverdale actress Vanessa Morgan criticized the show’s depiction of black people. She became tired of how black characters in the show were “being used as sidekick non dimensional characters” to their white costars. Additionally, Parks and Recreation and Good Girls actress, Retta, has spoken out against typecasting in the entertainment industry, discussing the tiresome and loaded character type of playing the sassy black woman.

Hollywood still has a long way to go, but some streaming services are working to change these stereotypes. Recently, streaming platforms such as Netflix and Hulu have featured Black Lives Matter movie sections. These movies feature black actors and directors. 

While it is vastly important for Hollywood to continue to evolve, Boyega’s recent testimony shows that we still have a long way to go. When films are diverse, they are appealing to larger audiences and they teach the viewers about different cultures. All cultures should have a true representation of themselves in film. Hopefully with the rising attention on black experiences in the entertainment industry, Hollywood will work harder to make every film set a diverse and equal experience.

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