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You Should Care About Diversity in Film and Television

10/25/2015 06:02 EDT | Updated 10/25/2016 05:12 EDT
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Hollywood has a diversity problem, and it's nothing new. Anyone who is paying attention at all is aware that women and people of color are underrepresented and misrepresented. This is true in just about every area of film and television: In front of the camera, behind the camera and in the board room.

What the average film or tv viewer may not know, especially if they are white and male, is why they should care. When I read articles on the subject the comments section of the piece will usually contain two types of response. The first type is the typical, ugly trolling you would expect anywhere on the internet. The second type contains the equivalent of a semi-apologetic shrug.

The latter usually goes something like, "I just like what I like, I don't pay attention to who the writer or director is."

This is actually an understandable sentiment. In an ideal world people shouldn't have to think about such things. Entertainment should be an escape. The audience should be allowed to submerge themselves in a good story and not think about who is behind the camera, whether the characters are exploitative stereotypes or whether the women involved were paid as much as the men.

That is in an ideal world. In the world we live in, the audience should absolutely care because they are being short changed.

Imagine if your local sports team was only allowed to recruit players from the city where their stadium stands. Instead of the best players the world, you're getting the best players the city has to offer. The ticket prices are the same, but the team is drawing from a very limited talent pool. That is the problem with the lack of diversity in film and television.

We know that there is no real difference in talent between people of various races, genders and nationalities. The only difference is one group has opportunities that the other groups did not. So you are not getting the best talent in the world. You are getting the best talent among white people and primarily white males.

Not surprisingly, because of this lack of diversity, stories centre on white men. The stories are also, usually, written and directed by white men. Women, even white women, are usually there only as a love or sex interest.

It is frequently said that Hollywood is "out of new ideas" and the rash of sequels and reboots attest to this. The reality though is that a small subset of a small subset of the global population is running out of new ideas.

Leaving the industry in the hands of white males is as arbitrary as letting only people with brown hair or only people whose names end in the letter "Y" call the shots. So the ticket price is the same but you're not getting the best stories or the best talent in the world. There should be more film and television that you like and the television and film you like should be better. That, in addition to the obvious issues of fairness, is why you should care a great deal about diversity in Hollywood.

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