February 3, 2010

You May Say That I'm a Dreamer

But I'm not the only one.

So, here we have the cover of a new issue of Vanity Fair (and, just to cover my bases, the photo was snapped by Annie Leibovitz). 

A few of the girls I don't really know of, some of them I like a lot and some of them I don't mind. They're all decent in their own right (rite?). I just want to make it clear, before I get into the true topic of my post, that I don't have any strong dislike for any of the actress in that photo. I even enjoy Kristen Stewart (as long as it's not in Twilight). 

On with it then?

I'm sure if you look at the picture for a moment, you'll be able to guess what's on my mind. Here's a different shot:

Well, if you don't know what I'm thinking (well, that's good because I'd be jealous of your mind reading skills), I'll just tell you what my issue is with these photos:

There's absolutely no diversity.

Does that mean that the people of Vanity Fair are racists? No.
Does that mean there are no talented, young actresses of color? Absolutely not.

What it does mean, however, is that there aren't enough diverse roles being written to include women of color. But also, that when it comes to casting, people are still a bit closed-minded when it comes to what a Hollywood "Leading Lady" should look like.

There have been 8 Black women (1 winner - Halle Berry), 2 Hispanic women (o winners) and 1 Asian woman (0 winners), nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role for the Academy Awards. The only list less diverse than that is the list of Presidents of the U.S.; and as far as winning goes, they're pretty much the same. 

Keep in mind, I'm only talking about women of color in leading roles. There are a few more who have gotten supporting nominations, and quite a bit more on the men's side, but considerably less than White nominees and winners.

I think what bugs me the most about it is: Seeing the same type of women in leading roles discourages me.

I'm a pretty confident person. I know where my strengths lie. I also know that if I'm not particularly strong in some area, I can work hard at it to improve. However, I simply cannot do anything about the fact that I am a Black woman (not that I'd want to).

There were times when I had gone in for an audition and, more often than not, I had the thought, There's no part in this play for me. 

Talent-wise, when it came to certain roles, I thought I matched a lot of my fellow auditionees. But some of them just had the "look" I knew the director would be looking for. i.e. The long-haired, skinny, fair-skinned woman.

I don't mind being the sidekick (it's usually more fun), but there were times when I saw someone who was more fitting for a role in the talent department, but went overlooked because they didn't have the ideal look.

It's not the director's fault all the time. Sometimes it's the writer's fault. They describe their leading lady's looks in depth when they pen the script.

It's hard, once the image is there, to get it out of your head. I'm so use to seeing White women in leading roles that when I read a book or script and picture the character, I automatically assume she's White - unless it's otherwise written. Even when I write a script, I usually see White characters rather than someone of color. 

However, in my scripts or stories, I make a point not to describe the characters' features. One of my favorite things when reading is picturing the character myself, I don't want to take that away from anyone. I don't want to write a book that a little Black girl picks it up and sees herself in the character, then gets dismayed because I mention she has long blonde hair and pale skin. I'd much rather write something where any and every girl can be the lead. On the other hand, there are stories where description is necessary, of course.

And it goes every way, I don't want to describe a leading lady of any specific and have a White/Asian/Hispanic/Middle Eastern/Black girl feeling left out.

This was kind of a long, rambling post, but hopefully you all see my point. Mainly, it really just disappoints me to see how un-diverse films are, it always has. Like I said, all of those women are decent, it'd just be nice to see some color speckled in there.

I didn't mean for this post and this month to coincide, it just happened that way.

Happy Black History Month.

Title Song: 'Imagine' - John Lennon


Alessa said...

First off I want to say.... Imagine is my FAVORITE song of all time. True story. Well, you probably guessed that knowing how obsessed with The Beatles I am. And I think it's an extremely fitting title song for you post. Especially since the whole song is geared toward this peace and equality. (I did a whole anthology on peace and equality in high school. It had songs, pictures, stories, speeches, etc.)

Also, I agree with your post. I would love to see more diverse roles in the movies. And not just movies, in plays too. In fact I would just like to see more diversity. I sometimes wonder what we are teaching younger generations.

Anyway, even though I am not part of that diversity. I still would like to see a lot more of it. I, too, am tired of the typical leading lady. Because even as a pasty white kid... I don't fit that leading lady role either.

Well, here's thinking of you kid. Have a good week. I miss your blogs!

OH! Last thing. I was playing a game yesterday that claimed it was from "doodie.com" and I about peed my pants I was laughing so hard. Just thought I would share that with you :)

scribblesofdreams said...

Right off the back I knew what your post was gonna be about, just by looking at the picture. Be jealous of my superpowers. :)

The world, being a White/European-dominant place, is losing out on some great talent and ideas that come from people of color.

You're right, about how most people automatically think of someone white when they imagine a character they read or write about, and that's unfortunate. What has to be done is to get someone ethnic to write and direct, AND CAST. I'm so frickin tired of seeing a Korean woman cast as someone Chinese. There IS a difference, stupid Hollywood douche bags. Or having that Peruvian/Germany girl play Princess Ka`iulani...and she couldn't even pronounce the Hawaiian name!

See, this is why I plan on writing and directing a play/show/film based around a completely non-white cast of characters. Or at least where there are more than just the generic expected white leads.

We need to collaborate and fix this shit up.

Sidan Archion said...

I totally understand your argument. There is a similar issue in the gay community over representation in media, rarely do see a non-white gay man, even rarer do you see a non-white lesbian.

I don't the think however it is going to radically change anytime soon. This country is to fucked up to care about proper representation of minority groups. The only thing you could probably do as a screen writer is to create characters that neutral.

Anywho, when us whites become the minority in fifty years there will hopefully be some more leading ladies of color.

Don said...

Great post, and I love the John Lennon song mentioned.

On to the post, I agree with you concerning how there is little or no diversity being shown when it comes to leading roles for women of color, all color.

I believe, in part, it's due to the economical ramifications of such actions. From what I have learned, major motion pictures, which take millions of dollars to create, hardly ever do the kind of numbers I am certain these filmmakers seek. So, that has much to do with it.

Lastly, I am the same way when it comes to I'm so use to seeing White women in leading roles that when I read a book or script and picture the character, I automatically assume she's White - unless it's otherwise written