Sunday, 16 February 2014

Hollywood Babble On & On #1121: Diversity & The Soft Bigotry Of Hollywood

Canadian actress Ellen Page has come out as gay.  It's a brave move, finally putting an end to speculation that's dogged her since her Hollywood career exploded with her Oscar nominated role in Juno, it gives hope to gay kids who feel like outcasts, and as we speak Hollywood is already working out how they're going to  pigeonhole her career into oblivion.

You see, Hollywood has a problem with diversity. They're the first to demand it from others, or use it as a cudgel to smack down people they don't like, but they are the last people to actually practise it in their own house.

Now it's not because Hollywood is a den of racism, sexism, and homophobia. Far from it, in fact, they'll be the first to tell you that they are the vanguard of openness and that it's the outside world that seething with hatred.

Hollywood believes that it must teach the world how to be as open-minded as they are.

And that's where the trouble begins.

You see, when you're a member of a "minority" in Hollywood's eyes you stop being just an actor, or even a human being, you become a REPRESENTATION.

When Hollywood brands you as a "Representation" it means that every role you play must represent the entirety of the minority/community/demographic you are deemed to represent. Also, the characters played by these representations cannot dare reflect negatively on any facet of the community the representation is supposed to represent.

This can become a death sentence to an actor's career, since the point of being an actor is playing a diversity of roles in a diversity of situations. This must include being allowed to play characters who may not be perfect role models or representations.

But show Hollywood a character that might be a great role, but has some negative trait they don't want branded onto an entire community, they just give the part to the straight white guy.  This is why all villains these days seem to be Russians played by British actors. There isn't a Russian activist group, and British actors like the easy work.

The craziest part is that Hollywood doesn't even know they're doing this. They honestly believe their own hype. If they say they're doing wonders for diversity, then they must actually be doing wonders for diversity, they put a black guy in a Robin Hood movie, that's gotta count for something.

It's delusional, but Hollywood is a realm of delusion.

But it's not all lost.

A form of organic diversity is arising in genre filmmaking, where actors of a variety of races, religions, and orientations can be characters that are seen as just characters instead of representations. Also some actors successfully fight Hollywood's subconscious pigeonholing and build careers based on their own talents.

I hope that's what happens to Ellen Page, she's a  very talented actress, with natural comedic skills, and deserves to be a real actress instead of a representation.


  1. This hit a real chord with me. In our house we complain it feels like casting has gotten worse, not better, in terms of diversity. That there used to more organic 'just a guy, just a girl' casting for background roles where they might simply seem/be diverse without it being a THING. Now it seems like if there is any diversity at all it needs to be a THING like it's IMPORTANT. You know what? In real life it's not a THING, it's just your friends. Some are straight, some are gay. They come in every color. And you know what? If that's NOT your every day experience then THAT is what Hollywood can show you. That some people live naturally diverse lives and it's no big deal.

    So yeah, I don't like the pigeonholing of actors as representations (good observation!) or acting like those representations are a big deal. So here's hoping that Ellen gets to do whatever the heck she wants to do in her roles. She's brilliant and should be allowed to share that in whatever way she wants to.

  2. The proof will be over the next few years, if Page continues to get cast in roles that any other young actress with her track record would be up for, or whether she turns into the dreaded "gay friend." I'm a glass half-empty kind of guy, so I'm sort of betting on the latter.