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People need to see diverse cinema

Audiences are the solution to increasing representation

Illustration: Madalyn Drewno · The Sentry

With Marvel’s Black Panther poised to become the third highest domestically grossing film of all time, it’s time to have a discussion about diversity in cinema.

Diversity is a two-way street. While audiences demand diversity, both in ethnicity of actors and in types of films, they must be the ones to spur that diversity within Hollywood.

To break down this issue, diversity within characters and actors needs to be established as a norm in the Hollywood system. As Black Panther seems destined to be the most popular movie of the year (keep in mind that it’s only April) this is a prime example of diversity within characters and actors. Almost every main actor in the film is a person of color, which is an achievement in and of itself, but it’s even more impressive when one considers that this is a mainstream, big-budget tentpole superhero film. As audience members have flocked to see this film, they are proving that this sort of diversity on screen is wanted in major media, and if it’s done well, it will continue to have success in the audience’s eyes and therefore the market they financially support by seeing the films.

However, seeing Black Panther isn’t enough. Audiences shouldn’t and cannot stop there. Noting that the film is a Marvel Studios production and considering everything that brand entails (it is the highest grossing film franchise ever), Black Panther was more or less guaranteed to make money. While it’s proof that this sort of representation is desired by audiences, it’s equally, if not more, important to see films besides tentpole blockbusters.

The recently released Love, Simon is a big deal because it is the first major studio motion picture to feature an LGBTQ+ main character. This is a prime example of a film that aims to fight the general discrimination in Hollywood. Love, Simon had a modest budget of $17 million, unlike Black Panther’s massive $200 million, but is having a hard time making a profit. Though this diversity and representation is very much needed in a 21st century America, it seems that audiences don’t understand that in order to continue having such films being made, those films must be seen, preferably in theaters.

Still, films like Black Panther and Love, Simon are not enough. As a general sentiment that has been expressed over the years by many audience members, Hollywood is out of ideas. As infuriatingly untrue as this idea is, it’s perpetuated by the consistent, heavy, and successful marketing of franchise films and remakes which continually become number one at the box office week after week. Hollywood is making plenty of original and quality films, but audiences still only turn out to see the latest Marvel flick. Being the solution to diversifying the actors, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and overall types of stories being told in Hollywood and at the local cineplex means seeing these films when they are released.

Hollywood is a business; it will go where the money is, so it’s the audience’s duty to take the money to original, diverse, and representative films.

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