Category Archives: movies

Cinema and diversity Episode 2: Gender

During the past decade, Hollywood has come a long way when it comes to gender diversity in their casts. However, why is it that male lead movies and tv shows “sell” more? Why is it that female lead movies are always corny romantic comedies and chick flicks? And why are women always portrayed as attractive but dim-witted people? In this article, we’ll see that when it comes to gender diversity, Hollywood still has a long way to go.

Let’s start off with tv shows. I think we can all agree that the most famous (and probably the only one) all-female cast is Orange Is The New Black, which follows the lives of a group of women in prison. This series addresses various serious social issues like the prison system  such as racism, corruption, rape (guards raping female prisoners), and transgender people not getting the treatment they need. It also talks about racism within the prisoners, mental health, and the list goes on. In addition, the show helped viewers realize not all incarcerated people are actually guilty, and if they are, they’re not “evil” or “bad” people, it humanizes the inmates.

Another show that promotes gender equality in Hollywood is Game of Thrones. This series is part of the few good ones who actually portray strong, intelligent, badass women such as Cersei, Daenerys, Arya and Sansa Stark. For once, women are portrayed as people of power who don’t need a man to help them get where they want to go.

However, there are not many tv shows that have that kind of strong female presence. For example, Marvel and DC comics series are very known and have a huge fan base. However, out of all of them, there are only two that have a female heroine: Jessica Jones and Supergirl, and they’re not the most popular ones. Granted, both shows have a lot of fans but they’re not as nearly as comparable to shows like Arrow, the Flash, Daredevil, Gotham, and other male superhero series.

When watching Breaking Bad, I was quite heartbroken. I had heard so many good things about that show and I was eager to see where the story went. However, two male leads, and no strong female presence? Disappointing. There is of course Skyler White, Walter White’s wife, who was very present throughout the show, and she did stand up to him a couple of times and showed intelligence, but the show just left us wanting more from her.

Another very famous tv show is Stranger Things who mainly follows the lives of four male characters. There is of course Eleven, who is a young girl and is also part of the group, and Max who joined the gang during the last season, but is that really enough? Two female characters against four?

We’ve come a long way in the last few years with shows like Scandal, How To Get Away With Murder, One Day At a Time, The Mindy Project, and other series who have a strong, smart female lead. However, these series represent a very small percentage of Hollywood.

All throughout movies history, men have gotten way more opportunities to lead all kinds of movies such as action, comedy, thriller, superhero, dramas and so on. Women definitely show up too but they always play love interests or secondary roles. Just imagine having a female play James Bond, wouldn’t it be so cool?

Researchers from Creative Artists Agency and Shift7 studied the 350 highest-grossing films from 2014 to 2017 (105 of them had female lead roles while the rest had male lead roles). The study found that movies with female lead roles outperformed the ones with male lead ones. The data also found that the films that passed the Bechdel test, meaning two female characters had a conversation about something other than a man, outperformed those that didn’t. “There is a perception in our industry that female-led films don’t make as much money and that’s partly why we don’t make as many of them, and we just wanted to know: Is that true? And we found, when comparing apples to apples in terms of budgets, the data do not support that assumption; in fact the female films slightly outperformed at every budget level.” says Christy Haubegger of the talent agency Creative Artists Agency.


Here is a list of the highest-grossing movies of 2018:

  1. Avengers: Infinity War  -> male dominated cast
  2. Black Panther -> male lead
  3. Jurassic World : Fallen Kingdom -> male lead
  4. Incredibles 2 -> main character dad
  5. Aquaman -> male lead
  6. Venom -> male lead
  7. Mission:  Impossible -> male lead
  8. Bohemian Rhapsody -> male cast
  9. Deadpool 2 -> male lead
  10. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald -> male dominated cast

According to the previous list, all of them have male dominated casts. Avengers being at the top of the list, in which a bunch of men are preparing to protect the world with the “help” of one or two women, and that is a perfect representation of gender inequality. In the same movie, those actresses are of course dressed in very tight suits that perfectly form to their curves. The same thing goes for basically all of the remaining movies on the list as for all other superhero movies. Generally, the gender roles are stereotypical: men fighting crimes and saving the world while having women at their sides helping them, probably acting as a love interest and praising them all along their missions. This is a huge misrepresentation of women in the world, especially in media, and only furthers the very common gender stereotypes. However, Hollywood is making a lot of improvement by introducing some female dominated casts in which women demonstrate courage and confidence, are not dependent on men, and can be the primary protagonists. A good example is the movie Oceans 8 that have an all badass female cast. According to a study made by “Box Office”, Oceans 8 all-female cast bests male-led trilogy with $41.5 million opening.

Now let’s come back to the Bechdel test. What is it? It’s a very simple test that can be applied to all movies. It has three very simple requirements:

  1. The movie has to have at least two women in it (both must have names),
  2. who talk to each other,
  3. about something besides a man

Pretty basic right? Well, you might be surprised about the percentage of movies who actually fail the test. According to a BBC research, only 49% of the Oscar best picture winners have past the test since 1929. Movies that win Oscars are supposed to be good, and well made. I find it just tragic that even among the supposedly best movies of Hollywood, more than half fail this simple test. You know what other very famous movies don’t pass it? The Avengers, Avatar, The ENTIRE Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II (the other Harry Potter movies barely pass), and the list goes on.

Granted, Hollywood has come a long way in the past decades, however, all of this shows that we still have a very long way to go. Next time you watch an episode or a movie, try and see whether it passes the bechdel test, or how many female characters it has and whether they’re actually smart and present. You’ll be surprised by your own observations.

Cinema and diversity Episode 1: race

Why is Hollywood “too white”? There’s been a huge progress by bringing in much more diverse casts and leads, going from the all-white cast of the very famous tv show “Friends” to  much more diverse ones such as “How To Get Away With Murder”, “Empire” or “Sense8”. Moreover, releasing films such as “Crazy Rich Asians”, “Black Panther” were a very big win for people of color. However, in this article we’ll see how when it comes to ethnic diversity and stereotypes, Hollywood still has a long way to go.

Even though there are more diverse actors being introduced in movies and tv shows nowadays, they are most of the time given roles that fall into those common clichés such as being black equals being a criminal, Arabs as villains, Latinos as drug dealers/addicts and Indians as either scientists or taxi drivers.

Based on the top 100 films of 2014, it appears that the US is much less racially diverse than it actually is. Caucasians make up to 62.6 percent of the total population in 2013 but they are much more represented in Hollywood as you can see in the pie chart above. While African Americans were slightly under-represented (12.5 instead of 13.2), it was the Hispanics and Latinos who were practically absent in the movies at just 4.9 percent of characters even though they represent 17.1 percent of the population at the time those films were made.

The saddest part of all of this, is that even if people of color might actually appear in a movie every once in a while, they rarely have a lead role. It seems like they’re just there to meet the racial quota. According to the UCLA diversity report, 86% of the lead roles in the top films of 2016 were played by caucasian whilst people of color, all combined, represented 14%.

Moreover, out of the top 100 films of 2014:

  • about 17 of them have no african american speaking characters.
  • more than 40 of them have no speaking asian characters.
  • just 17 of them featured a lead or co-lead from an ethnic minority group.

You might think that things would’ve gotten better by 2018 but these lists will surely open your eyes to the racism going on in Hollywood. Here are the top 10 highest-grossing movies of 2018:

  1. Avengers: Infinity War  -> mostly white men
  2. Black Panther -> finally a diverse movie
  3. Jurassic World : Fallen Kingdom -> white lead
  4. Incredibles 2 -> family of white people
  5. Aquaman -> white lead
  6. Venom -> white cast
  7. Mission:  Impossible –  Fallout -> white lead
  8. Bohemian Rhapsody -> white dominated cast
  9. Deadpool 2 -> white lead
  10. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald -> white dominated cast
Editorial: A Look Back At Friends 20 Years Later ...
– Friends cast

Some of the whitest tv shows:

  1. Friends
  2. Game of Thrones
  3. Gossip Girl
  4. Dexter
  5. Breaking Bad
  6. Pretty Little Liars
  7. Gilmore Girls
  8. Sex and the City
  9. Riverdale

According to Ralph J. Bunch Center for African-American Studies at UCLA, the number of television roles for actors of color dropped dramatically over the last 15 years. Black actors are often misrepresented if hired. Most directors will not hire black actors unless the role calls for it. It is believed that some of the reasons Hollywood casts black actors in supporting roles just because they feel obligated to show some racial diversity. Moreover, “Studio executives explain the lack of presence of the African Americans in supporting or starring roles by stating “only 4 out of 10 movies turn a profit, according to the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers. But because pictures with nearly all-black casts come along more infrequently, they tend to stand out more when they fail”.

Furthermore, many researchers argue that media portrayals of minorities tend to reflect caucasians’ attitudes toward minorities and, therefore, reveal more about caucasians themselves than about the varied and lived experiences of minorities.

However, there are black dominated casts being introduced in movies such as Black Panther, Nappily Ever After, The Hate U Give and Back on The Net, and in tv series such as Empire, How To Get Away With Murder and Scandal.

'Empire' Star Arrested for Domestic Violence | Morocco ...
– Empire cast

The study, which is called the Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity, found Latinos are among the least represented speaking roles in film and TV, even though they make up about 17.4 percent of the U.S. population. Out of more than 11,000 speaking characters surveyed in film and TV, only 5.8% were Hispanic or Latino. Felix Sánchez, co-founder of the National Hispanics Foundation for the Arts, said the report reiterates a pattern he has seen in Hollywood for 20 years. He said on-screen representation, and whether or not a character even gets named, starts in predominantly white writers’ rooms. “It all depends on who is in the writer’s room because they control the words and images the actors produce,” Sánchez told NBC Latino. “When you don’t have diverse writers, you won’t have three-dimensional minority characters.”

There is also a notable gender disparity when it comes to onscreen Latino-speaking characters. Fewer than 38 percent of the actresses are Latina, and according to the report, they are the most sexualized identifiable minority group. Usually, when Latinos are represented, they just play stereotypes like everyone else who is not white. While Latinas are being overly sexualized, Latinos are most of the time given macho roles, drug dealers, etc.

When it comes to Indians, they are also often forgotten when it comes to tv shows and movies, and even when they’re there, they’re either a doctor, scientist or cab driver, there is no other roles for them. The tv series Master of None shows really well the problems Indian actors face whilst trying to build their career. That show alongside the Mindy project are practically the only american tv shows where the main lead is Indian.

Since Arab and Middle Eastern people are constantly facing sweeping cultural and religious stereotypes, they are most of the time portrayed as villains. Not only that, Hollywood also portrays Arabs as Muslims, overlooking the significant number of Christian Arabs and other religions in the United States and the Middle East. Racial stereotyping of Middle Eastern people made by the media has produced unfortunate consequences, such as hate crimes, racism, discrimination, islamophobia and bullying. Arabs are often portrayed as terrorists, witches or oil sheiks. However, this is kind of changing as there are more Arabs being introduced in tv series and movies such as Sayid Jarrah in Lost and Sense 8, Raina and Nima Amin in Quantico, and the 2019 Oscar Winner for Best Actor Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody and Mr. Robot.

Now let’s talk about Netflix. At an accessible price, and with  services provided in 190 countries, Netflix is growing constantly and can be considered as one of the biggest pure media companies in the world.

It’s doing a pretty good job at creating movies and tv shows with diverse casts like Dear White People, Marvel’s Luke Cage, Sense8, Luther, Narcos and many more. However, most of Netflix’s tv shows and movies casts remain white dominant. Especially when it comes to the more successful and popular ones like Riverdale, Breaking Bad, 13 Reasons Why, Stranger Things, etc.

It begs the question, do people actually prefer white dominant shows and movies or is the marketing completely different when it comes to these shows? The number of times we’ve seen a Riverdale or a 13 Reasons Why ad is uncountable but I’ve never seen them promote as much for a more diverse cast.

Also, aren’t we just used to seeing white actors in movies and tv shows? Aren’t we programmed to believe that actors are supposed to be white? It is obvious that some people think that a show or movie that is predominantly caucasian is just “normal”, and they would never notice how the casts are overwhelmingly white until someone brings it up to them.