Image @ Academy of Motion Pictures
Everyday. Multiples times a day. There is chatter on diversity. Gender equality. Racial equality. Age equality. Equality within sexuality. If you are looking for the biggest theme in culture today. Here.It.Is.
Let’s take the Academy of Motion Pictures. Facing possibly its largest backlash to date with some of Hollywood’s finest staging a boycott of the #oscarssowhite on Sunday 28th February due to its lack of recognition of actors from different cultures and races. Some would argue that the reason there are so few black and latino actors nominated is because there were far fewer playing buzz-worthy roles. And herein lies the problem.
The cultural tension exists in the film industry failing to supply the demand for equality in racial representation and the audience – society at large – collectively pushing back. See, we want images in culture to reflect how we see ourselves. In all our different shape, colour, and size glory. In order to fully relate to its story, we need film to better depict the world as we see it. Yet so much of Hollywood and beyond has concerned itself with portraying “normal” and “majority” as young, white, skinny and beautiful. If film is the modern day equivalent of storytelling around the campfire, and we don’t recognise ourselves, our friends and our communities, the stories ultimately lose their meaning. And their cultural relevance.
Diversity, as a concept in its own right, is still relatively new. That is, that it has only recently in the last year or two been consistently labelled as such. Due in part perhaps to the wider accepted belief that in some cases, and particularly racial diversity, we have taken backwards steps and that we need to, once again, make it a priority.
In response to the macro theme of Diversity we have seen a new trend gaining traction. And this trend is no longer just about acceptance or tolerance. At The Chatter we call this trend “Conscious” because it seeks to actively make fundamental changes to the community within which the conversation takes place. This narrative is a decisive step-change towards a new outcome where culture must reflect the value we have come to attribute to, in this case, diversity.
“Conscious” means the direction of cultural influence is changing.
Whilst traditionally cultural influence originated within the facilitators – studios, big corporations and brands – down to the audience, we are witnessing a reversal trend. Exhibited by the upward influential push from the audience themselves. This is thanks largely to our “social neighbourhood” where the majority of conversation takes place with the purpose of addressing the imbalance. For newer, more realistic representations of authentic diversity to reflect back at us from the big screen. From sharing of videos and ideas on social media, to new role models – think Amy Schumer, Laverne Cox and Lena Dunham – back to the Oscars boycott in mainstream media.
At what point diversity will have been believed to have been fully achieved is unclear. But ultimately the desire to pursue it will continue until real change comes about. When the idea of majority becomes something different altogether. When differences are perceived as positive or – even better – unnoticeable. Women playing traditionally male parts. Actors simply playing a “role”, not “Indian Taxi Driver”, or “Asian Restaurant Owner” or even “Black Best Friend”.
As the cultural tension of the diversity debate reaches its tipping point, the academy was quick to commit to taking steps to address the issues. It would seem that the trend may have the momentum to swing the balance in its favour.
What will be interesting to watch is to what extent the trend will influence real change in Hollywood. And, in response, to see what “diversity” looks like to one of the most influential purveyors of culture in the modern world.