Hollywood movies come in all shape and sizes.
From historically inspired pieces to worldly action adventures to intergalactic epics. When it comes to big budget projects specifically, casting can make or break a movie. In an effort to safe-proof a $100M plus dollar movie, studios tend to cast proven box office names. That’s where studios tend to get in hot water. The Great Wall, a movie starring Matt Damon, is starting to feel the heat. Why? Thanks to a tweet by Taiwanese-American actress Constance Wu.
Can we all at least agree that hero-bias & “but it’s really hard to finance” are no longer excuses for racism? TRY pic.twitter.com/mvNet5PrtH
— Constance Wu (@ConstanceWu) July 29, 2016
To be fair, I am writing this article to provide my point of view on this situation. I didn’t even know about this movie prior to reading about this situation in a very good article written by Conner Schwerdtfeger over at Cinema Blend. To check it out, just click here.
First, I just want to say that I am a fan of Matt Damon and his work.
I believe he is an incredibly gifted actor, writer and producer. His talent and hard work have led to him being one of those box office names that Hollywood studios covet for their big budget films. That has also led to him acquiring something a lot of actors covet, and that is clout. The problem Constance Wu brought up is not Matt Damon’s fault nor does he have the power to fix it by himself, but he can become part of the solution.
The problem that we are talking about is that Hollywood seems to almost exclusively cast white men as heroes in big blockbuster movies. This is to such an extent that movies starring Will Smith can be seen more as the exception that prove the rule than proof of diversity. What can be appreciated in Constance Wu’s criticism of Hollywood is that she is not only calling attention to the lack of Asian leading men and women, but instead is talking about all people of color.
As a Latin American I can’t help but see what Constance talks about in movies.
To be honest, in movies even more so than TV. I can only speak as to my experience, although I feel other minorities might have similar feelings. Hollywood has shown what their bias is so far, as minorities are represented in movies more than ever before, just not in the best light. As Constance mentioned, the ones doing the “saving” tend to be white. Usually what they are saving someone or something from is some evil plan or situation.
Problems arise when the best roles for minorities are to be the bad guys in films. The protagonist needs to save a boy from a life of crime with a Dominican gang. Save the girl kidnapped from the Mexican cartel. Defend local businesses being harassed by Puerto Rican or Cuban thugs working on behalf of a criminal organization. To make matters worse, Latin Americans tend to be interchangeable in movies and the bigger the budget, the more interchangeable we become. While we share similarities, we are not the same. Peruvians are different than Colombians, Dominicans are different than Cubans and so on and so forth. Painting us all with the same brush is like saying that all Europeans are the same.
We see minorities get little character development.
Next time you go to the movies, see how far they go to differentiate someone from New York to someone from California, minorities deserve that level of care. To say that it is not possible or difficult to do no longer counts as a valid excuse. Considering the number of talented actors, like John Leguizamo, Gael Garcia Bernal, Andy Garcia, Gina Rodriguez, Dania Ramirez and Eva Longoria to name a few, you can’t say there is a lack of talent available. To say it is not financially viable to create movies where the leading man or woman is a minority would be to flat out lie. Don’t believe me, just look to your TV listings.
Shonda Rhimes has paved the way.
Shonda has managed to develop multiple properties where minorities are key players, without being stereotyped. The best part is how they represent these character in a more realistic light. The success or downfall of a character has more to do with their actions than with their ethnicity. Where a character was born doesn’t define who they are or what they do on her shows. More important by Hollywood standards, her shows are award winning and ratings successes. Why can’t this type of success transfer over to movies?
The truth is that it is time for a change.
Movies are supposed to expose their audiences to new worlds. But we keep getting the same world over and over. Despite the fact that the opportunity exists to create new types of heroes. Utilizing minorities in new ways will offer a chance to tell completely original stories. The word minority tends to get misused a lot of times when making decisions in movies. The truth is, movies are sold to a worldwide audience. While people of color might be considered minorities in the United States, in the world of entertainment that is simply not the case.
It’s time to change expectations. While it feels like this issue is starting to gain some traction thanks to people like Constance Wu and Eva Longoria publicly speaking about it, more can be done to speed up the process. For each article or blog post like this one that is created, the more validation the argument gets. Agree or disagree, this is an argument worth having.
Leave a comment saying how you feel. Not only that, write a post on your blog or on Facebook, tweet about it or reach out and have a conversation with someone about it. Because that’s what the next step needs to be, to get Hollywood decision makers like Matt Damon and his counterparts to understand that this is a conversation that should happen when making a movie.