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Hollywood is getting too much attention for mere seconds of 'diversity'

Sultana Qureshi
Sultana Qureshi

An eighteen-year-old currently in the middle of her gap year

Jakarta | Mon, April 3, 2017 | 01:55 pm
Hollywood is getting too much attention for mere seconds of 'diversity'

Hollywood sign. (Shutterstock/Sean Pavone)

When it was announced that Disney’s live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast was going to contain an “exclusively gay moment”, it was hard not to groan.

What would a “gay moment” entail? Knowing Disney, not much.

And it wasn’t. As author Glen Weldon put it, it was “exactly the kind of throwaway gay joke Hollywood’s always churned out, just without the gay panic.” 

Disney is no stranger to working up this kind of buzz at the expense of its LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, transgender and queer) fans. Last year’s Finding Dory was met with the same amount of hype/uproar when a “lesbian couple” was spotted in the trailer.

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When given a chance to confirm by USA Today, the film’s co-director Andrew Stanton said the pair “can be whatever you want them to be.” 

Sure, in the case of Finding Dory, the speculation came from the fans. But Disney rode the wave, and while the speculation could have given them a chance to work some representation into their films, they let the opportunity go.

As for Beauty and the Beast, the words “exclusively gay moment” came straight from director Bill Condon. To have someone promise what should have been actual representation, only to have it last a mere second, is unfair. 

This year’s Power Rangers received a similar amount of press regarding the fact that the film features both the first LGBTQ and autistic superhero in a blockbuster movie. Unlike Disney’s films, this attention was mostly warranted. The movie was not just fun, but also faithful to the multiculturalism of the original show. Four out of the five Rangers are people of color and the Blue Ranger, Billy, refers to himself as “on the spectrum”. 

But the moment that is supposed to prove that Trini, the Yellow Ranger, likes girls? Almost non-existent and never actually vocalized by Trini herself. 

Power Rangers director Dean Israelite does say that Trini “has a lot of questions about her identity”, which makes some sense, but the moment is still so slight that it’s hard to call it representation.

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These characters and scenes can be classified as “progress”, but without explicitly saying anything, these blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments can fly over the heads of audience members, even those who need it the most. 

It’s not only the silver screen that has been letting fans down. When the remake of the Archie comics Riverdale was announced, it was done in a flurry of promises of representation. The original casting call for the show specified that “a hearing-impaired actor is being sought to play Jughead as an ‘emo-heartthrob’” and fans were also hopeful that the show would stay true to the comics and keep Jughead canonically asexual. 

Neither of these things panned out. 

Now Riverdale is halfway through its first season and it does have a Latina Veronica Lodge and Josie and her Pussycats are Black, but along with Archie actor KJ Apa’s Samoan heritage, Jughead’s asexual identity has been erased. Riverdale had a chance to shine a light on a form of sexuality so rarely portrayed, and yet, they didn’t bother accepting this unique opportunity. 

Not all hope is lost, though. CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend actually breaks ground with every episode. While the title can be polarizing, don’t let it be. It’s about honest representations of difficult topics, like mental illness and coming out. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s cast includes Vincent Rodriguez III, one of TV’s first Asian romantic male leads -- the honor of first goes to John Cho in the sadly short-lived Selfie - as just one part of an actually diverse cast. It also features one of television’s only bisexual characters to ever actually call themselves “bisexual” and is someone who comes out without any shame of who they are.

Hollywood, proper representation has been done and it can keep being done. There’s just no need to make false promises to people who just want to see themselves on screen. (kes)

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