Homogeneity of romantic comedies

| Staff Columnist
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I’m really excited about watching the upcoming movie “Valentine’s Day” over its namesake’s weekend. A few days ago I was going through the movie’s all-star cast list to see exactly who’s in the movie when it struck me how almost completely homogenous the cast is. Virtually all of the actors and actresses are white.

This ethnic composition of the movie in no way accurately reflects that of the nation at large, and I would like to repeat a complaint many have had when they express their incredulity at how exclusive the movie industry is. Movies like “He’s Just Not That Into You” highlight the racial disparity in Hollywood. These large and often star-studded casts tend to focus on a particular demographic: the white upper-middle class. The diversity of American society at large is often neglected by these romantic comedies.

Actors tend to serve as role models for children, whether we like it or not. The pervasiveness of film and media in our society makes famous celebrities incredibly influential in developing our identities as we grow up.

Growing up as an Indian in the U.S., the American movie and television industries have not provided me with role models that really address my cultural niche in society as well as those of many other minority groups. I feel that most people have identities that are more complex than just being someone of color or a member of a particular minority. We are all Americans and therefore we share a bond that ties us together regardless of our unique customs and cultures. The few minority roles in romantic comedies are generally stereotypical and identify the character almost solely by his or her minority status. It has long been time to move beyond classifying people in categories as metaphorically stark as black and white. Though there are still certain divisions among us, society at large is far more integrated today than it has ever been in the past, and the movie industry should embrace this change rather than hold fast to antiquated views of American culture.

There are issues beyond the color of one’s skin. The movie industry needs to focus on the matter of culture and how each ethnic group in the world has its own customs. It is frustrating that the film industry can make a movie marketed as an accurate representation of romance, yet exclude so many different manifestations of love. Love is not limited to young city-dwelling couples, many of whose relationships are depicted as sexual in nature.

For example, many Asiatic ethnic groups place more emphasis on the larger family unit as a whole and celebrate honor and respect in the place of romance. Many movies marginalize African-American or Hispanic traditions, and actors of these backgrounds are only placed in the context of traditionally Anglo-Saxon celebrations of romance. Let alone Native Americans, who are usually completely excluded from the movie industry. Furthermore, films in this genre tend to focus on heterosexual relationships, overlooking many gay and lesbian couples.

In Hollywood as a whole, minority characters seem to be relegated to roles that simply support the main group of homogenously Anglo-Saxon actors or provide comic relief. It’s time for the movie industry to step up and accurately reflect the multicultural aspects of society at large.

  • anonymous

    I think Sneha has every right to complain about the lack of diversity in romantic comedies. I’m not arguing that every movie has to include minorites in major roles or be realistic about everything but it is kinda ridiculous when the country is getting more and more diverse yet mainstream movies continue to mostly depict the same group of people.

  • Anonymous

    Who cares?! Just enjoy the movie and stop complaining about how it doesn’t satisfy your weak sensibilities. If you don’t like it, don’t watch it but we don’t need to hear you bitch and moan about it.

  • David M.

    It’s about time! Time to bring affirmative action to Hollywood. I am sickened by Hollywood’s over-reliance on white actors. This doesn’t reflect America!

    Furthermore, I am BOTHERED by the continual use of YOUNG actors and actresses in these romances. Maybe I sound like an old fusser, but these acting greenhorns don’t reflect the America I know either! People over 65 years old make up 12.5% of the U.S. population, but not 12.5% of the leads in romantic comedies. J’accuse!

    And what of the overreliance on ATTRACTIVE leads! If you went by Hollywood romances, you’d think that 90% of America was beautiful! Let’s represent the REAL America: one in which the majority of people are overweight. I’m worried that we are marginalizing a very large group.

    If there’s one thing I want from a romantic comedy, it’s a reminder of real life, right down to the exact demographic proportions. Romantic comedies featuring obese painkiller addicts: an idea whose time has come.