It’s no secret that Hollywood has a particular problem – a rather white problem, often reeking of testosterone and privilege. For proof, please refer to any television award show in the past decade, this Wikipedia list of highest paid actors in the industry, or well, the faces on any poster advertisement for a new movie, ever.
Teeming with misogyny, sexism, white male privilege, and a very Eurocentric perspective on the world, Hollywood seems to be constantly churning out the same storylines over and over again, recycling the same old faces in roles so similar we sometimes forget which movie we’re talking about.
But maybe it’s not fair to complain about films that aren’t interesting. Hollywood is an industry, which, like any other industry depends greatly on its generated revenue. If the film generates 500 million in the box office, who cares if a “small segment” of the audience wanted to see something different? We could understand, really, if films about women, people of colour, and storylines that escape the European/American mainstream did not generate a high revenue for Hollywood, leading to the decision to not create those films. We get business.
Except for the fact that it is decidedly not the case. A recent NYT article discusses the claims of studio executives that Rotten Tomatoes is affecting ticket sales to what –in their opinions- deserve to be box office hits. They’re not, though. It takes just a cursory glance down the Rotten Tomatoes “Top Box Office” page to understand what it is that people want to see. With Kumail Nanijiani’s “The Big Sick” ringing in a solid 98% on the Tomatometer, and “Wonder Woman”, the film that took the action world by storm, bringing in a 92%, whereas films like “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” scored disappointingly low at only 30%.
When I say we get business, I mean it. Buying the tickets doesn’t necessarily mean loving the film. Films like like newest installation of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise do well enough in the box office, grossing about 793 million, but fail to resonate or stand out to their viewers giving the film a disappointing 30% on Rotten Tomatoes.
So, really, are we wrong to say that we know what we want to see? We’re not wrong in saying that if Hollywood took a step back, got its head out of its ass, it would see what we’re all saying: make good movies, we’ll pay good money.
We’re not even saying all movies starring white men are bad! Spider-Man: Homecoming, featuring the ever-adorable Tom Holland and the kickass Zendaya Coleman did amazing, both in the box office and on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. Christopher Nolan took our breath away with Dunirk, (and I’m personally awarding him extra points for having Harry Styles in it. The world needs more Harry Styles.). The problem isn’t the casting of white actors, or films that feature white men. The problem is the stale bitter taste that most of those films leave in our mouths.
The problem, you see, is when film-makers, studio-producers and the like refuse to account for their changing audience. The problem lies in the fact that most Hollywood writing rooms don’t have enough women, queer writers, or people of colour to change the direction of the hetero-cis white male who runs the show. The problem lies in the fact that Hollywood can do better, and chooses not to. The problem is that Hollywood is running out of excuses, and it only takes a certain amount of pointed, chosen ignorance for it to dawn that bigotry is at the core of Hollywood’s nature.
The problem lies in the fact that until Hollywood acknowledge it has a problem, we won’t be able to successfully implement the solutions.
And the solutions are simple. Scout for talent that does not lie in the same recycled names of actors that bring in revenue. Hire new writers to work with the older, more experienced writers. Invest in the talents of the new, the excited, the young, the diverse. Learn to tell stories that are different from the stories we’ve been seeing for years. The art of storytelling through film and television is a long-standing one, one that can create a ripple effect of change. One good story encourages the writing and creation of many equally good stories. And we’re beginning to see the good stories.
So here’s a challenge, to Hollywood and to filmmakers, rethink what you’re trying to sell us. Listen to the people. Challenge yourselves to create things outside of the particular comfort zone that the industry has created, and watch. It’ll work.
Read Some Other ‘Between The Lines’ –