I didn’t watch the Academy Awards, but I did google the video about representation.
If you didn’t see it, you can watch it here.
The messages are clear. So I’m going to highlight a few of the many great things that were said, and say a few words about them.
Voices being heard…
Mira Sorvino : “…everyone is getting a voice to express something that has been happening forever, not only in Hollywood, but in every walk of life.”
I would argue about the “everyone” but some voices are being heard, and there is definitely a movement afoot that I’m hopeful will continue to create and sustain some real change. And that space is made for the voices that are still missing.
Identifying with characters…
Kumail Nanjiani: “Most of the movies I have watched have been about straight white dudes, staring straight white dudes. Now straight white dudes can watch movies staring me!” Awesome. He then added that identifying with someone who is not like you isn’t hard, “I’ve been doing it my whole life!”
It’s a good point.
And, I beg to differ (slightly).
While it’s true that people of colour, and women, and all other marginalized groups have been watching people “not like us” on screen and elsewhere for decades (and imagining ourselves in those roles rather than seeing ourselves in those roles) I would argue that we have paid a price for that.
So I’m not sure I would say it isn’t hard. I would say it’s possible, but that there is a cost.
That cost doesn’t exist for dominant groups who see themselves reflected everywhere, all the time. But it’s real for marginalized communities because we are marginalized.
The cost comes in the form of how we shape our dreams and what we aspire to…and if we do.
Seeing people “like you” on the screen and in positions of power is important to imagine that you, too could be there one day. Consider what the Obamas did for Black kids all around the world, simply by being in the White House. Suddenly, it was possible to be the President. While its true that we can dream and aspire to things without role models, they make a real difference in the shape of those dreams and aspirations.
Of course, I understand what Kumail was trying to say: Get over it. We’ve been doing it for decades.
Salma Hayek said: “The industry has to become sincerely curious about the human essence that has become invisible behind stereotypes.”
Drop the mic.
That curiosity is important everywhere. It’s why I do the work I do.
A new era?
So I’m hoping that we are ushering in a new era – one where Wonder Woman and Black Panther movies are not anomalies, but standard. One where directors and producers and lead actors are not just white and male. An era where there is greater representation in schools – teachers and administration, in politics, in the C-suite and on Boards of Directors… because we not only understand the value of diversity and inclusion, but we’ve made the systems that currently exclude more equitable.
That’s my dream.