Homogeneity of romantic comedies
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.