When people talk about #OscarsSoWhite I feel like they are missing a vital point. We need more diverse staff at all levels of the industry i.e in directing, writing, producing and casting as well as acting because without it we miss out on a lot of talent which we the audience could benefit from, but this isn’t the only way we can try and get more diverse actors in the short term. A lot of main and secondary characters are ‘racially neutral’ i.e their race hasn’t been specified and yet for some reason unless we are specifically told otherwise we assume that all these characters are white.
I remember the recent uproar when the part of Hermione Granger in ‘The Cursed Child’ was given to a black woman and a bunch of people just couldn’t understand why this Hermione was black when the character was meant to be white. But was she meant to be white? Did J.K.Rowling specify her race? As far as I can recall from the books Hermione’s specific skin colour is not mentioned (although we know she has bushy hair) and so we didn’t actually know whether she was meant to be white or not. We just assumed.
The recent talk (however real it actually was) of having a black James Bond is another important point because there really isn’t any reason Bond couldn’t be black. The people who talk about the ‘historical accuracy’ of Bond’s race seem to forget that in the 1950s we didn’t have smart phones, lap tops or tablets. We didn’t have many of the fancy tech gadgets they use for the films now, hell we still haven’t invented some of the things they show in those films. So although it’s perfectly true that a historically accurate James Bond probably couldn’t be black, since when was historical accuracy an issue for the Bond series? James Bond is a timeless character who adapts to the time, fears and current threats the world has. He has no set time, and he needn’t have a set race either.
I believe that true equality in mainstream film won’t just come from hiring more diverse writers and hoping they write about more non-white characters (although that is a big part of it). Real equality can only come when we stop assuming everyone is white unless stated otherwise, when we stop limiting talented actors to specific roles. Real equality can only happen when we stop seeing people as representatives or spokes people for their race, gender, sexuality etc and start seeing them as individuals who can play individual parts. Only when we all have the freedom to play a superhero, a villain and a romantic lead without people focusing on “what our character says about our specific group and what kind of role model we are” will we have full equality.
To read my article on Diversity at the Oscars click here now.