As some of you may have caught on last night’s Oscars, there was a montage tribute to cinematic heroes featured during the show. The amount of gender and racial diversity featured in the short two minute clip was significantly low, even without doing any counting or real math (my estimated numbers were 7 female heroes and 6 heroes who weren’t white among the 60 or so heroes featured). The audience was bombarded with images of superheroes and action figures, with a few additional clips of famous cinematic heroes like George Bailey from It’s a Wonderful Life and Rick from Casablanca thrown in (not that I’m bashing any of these men because hey, they’re fabulous too). Heroes and heroines like Katniss (The Hunger Games), Storm (X-Men), Django (Django Unchained), Black Widow (The Avengers), Jay (Men in Black), and Hushpuppy (Beasts of the Southern Wild) were the minority by a landslide.
Watching this two minute clip, I inwardly chuckled over the absence of Hermione Granger, whose friend Harry was in three different clips without a single shot of her. Without Hermione and her intelligence and talent, Harry wouldn’t have even made it past the Devil’s Snare from the first book and thus Voldemort would have gotten hold of the Sorcerer’s Stone, survived and killed all the good guys. And no more Harry Potter books 2 – 7. I also thought of Men in Black, because (spoiler alert!) without Laurel Weaver, both men (Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones) would have been killed by the evil alien if she hadn’t shot him down. Unfortunately, like Hermione, Laurel wasn’t featured either. As an avid Harry Potter fangeek and as someone who just watched Men in Black two nights ago, these were the two sidekick characters that resurfaced in my mind first. But I know there are thousands of other sidekicks who exist out there in the realm of media who go unnoticed or uncredited because of their gender or race, and who can’t become main characters because writers and producers and directors believe that only one type of hero exists.
If there was ever a visual reminder that characters need to be created and written about people other than white men, this hero montage is it. In a society where Academy Award winning actress’ need to address these inequalities in their speeches, as Cate Blanchett did Last night,
…and to the audiences who went to see it, and perhaps, to those of us in the industry who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films, with women at the center, are niche experiences. They are not. Audiences want to see them. And in fact they earn money. The world is round people.
and Lupita Nyong’o, although less directly (but very eloquently),
It doesn’t escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else’s, and so I want to salute the spirit of Patsy for her guidance, and for Solomon, thank you for telling her story and your own…When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you are from your dreams are valid.
it’s time that we really focus on getting these characters out there, both in film and on T.V. I wish that Kerry Washington’s character on Scandal didn’t have to be the exception to the rule. I wish there were more Buffys out there, and more Katniss’, and more characters like Hushpuppy.
To ALL MEN AND WOMEN: We NEED to start writing heroes who reflect people of all different backgrounds and sexes. We all have people in our lives who are heroes, and they can be men, they can be women, they can be black, they can be white, they can be Latina, so lets start realistically reflecting who heroes are and who they can be. There is no need to ever stop writing white male heroes, it’s just that they shouldn’t be the rule. They should be part of the diverse range of heroes that allow every little girl, every little boy, every teenager and every adult to look at that hero and feel empowered.
So writers, let’s get on this!!!