Representation isn’t reality

Hollywood struggles to carry narratives portraying minorities

Sarah Shelton, Staff Writer

If you had to choose between being successful or making a meaningful piece of art, which  would you choose? For individuals in the film industry, they ask themselves this question everyday, whether to feed into an arguably flawed system of fame or make a meaningful and diverse piece of art. 

Most recently, movie viewers and allies of the disabled community are signing a petition to rescind the Golden Globe nominations given to songwriter Sia’s new movie, “Music”.  The film has come under fire for its casting of a neurotypical actress in the role of an autistic individual. 

Many were also disturbed by the usage of dangerous methods to assuage members of the autistic community such as bodily restraint. The Change.org petition at 65,000 signatures calls the film “extremely offensive”. Despite the outcry for the cancellation of the movie, actors in “Music” still haven’t offered their defenses or reasoning to the public. 

“Our industry believes that if a writer or an actor without a disability does a lot of research, they will completely understand how to portray a character with a disability. This mentality is incredibly harmful to the audience’s perception of those with different abilities,” senior IB Film student Pranay Mathur said. 

The film industry is largely influenced by renown and having an audience recognize an actor’s name on a cast list. Many state this standard as a barrier for introducing more representation in Hollywood.

In IB Film, teacher Tom Knobaluch works to analyze this discrepancy by showing his students films from all over the world. He aims to have a conversation regarding perception and creative intent behind filmmaking. 

“In the industry, film is a way to express the world, and it makes sense to have everyone do that and be a part of the conversation,” Knoblauch said. 

This lack of representation dates back to Shakesperan times, where every actor was  male and the female characters were played by young boys. 

“If actors still don’t know what roles they shouldn’t be playing, then that is saddening,” Mathur said. 

Secondary films like shorts and such have a much easier time creating a more diverse film as smaller scale production generally doesn’t answer to a major studio producer. However, mainstream films motivated by profit find integrating representation to be more difficult.

“There was no diversity until about 30 years ago, and you lose out on a lot of style and choices [in film] without it,” Knoblauch  said. 

 Even looking to the media today, there is public outcry for equal representation and authenticity. “As an Indian American, I would have loved to see someone who looked like me on screen, but the ones who did were the common stereotype everyone would laugh at,” Mathur said. 

When teens spend over seven hours a day consuming media, students and faculty affirm that it’s important to constantly evaluate the identities and lack thereof being represented on our screens.