Diverse shows, films bring color to media

Daniela Botero, Co-Editor in Chief

Diversity is an important part of everyday life. Yet, various media sources do not demonstrate this within their shows or films, often having a primarily white cast or even white-washing characters. Luckily, change is coming as people of color shine in these phenomenal roles.

The movie “Soul,” which has recently won a Golden Globe award for Best Animated Feature Film and Best Original Score, has a Black main character. The hit movie “Soul” is about a Black jazz musician named Joe Gardner who teaches band at his local middle school. As soon as Joe gets his big break, he sadly passes away and is sent to the afterlife. In a rapid search to get his life back, he overcomes many obstacles to ensure he gets his big night. As beautiful as this story may seem, it is not just the plot nor the music that attracts audiences like moths to a lamp. Instead, it is the high level of diversity that is portrayed throughout the film. 

What is most touching to many viewers is the authenticity of Joe Gardner’s everyday experiences as a Black man throughout the film. For example, the co-director of the film heavily emphasized how important going to a barber before a big event is to the Black community. Pete Doctor spoke about how little things made the film feel “authentically Black” in the Disney+ original show Inside Pixar. The importance of this scene was also shown on Instagram, a shot of a poster used in the film is trending showing the different haircuts used inside of the barbershop: a common sight seen in real life. This minuscule detail seen in the background is what truly makes the movie feel real to its audience.

Not only that but the characters seen in the background and alongside the main character are animated to feel real enough to touch. Connie, a character from the movie, is a student in Mr. Gardner’s band class, an Asian-American teen who has a gift for playing the trumpet. This student is one of many teens in Joe’s diverse classroom seen inside “Soul,” which depicts a regular classroom found in many schools. While this once again might seem like a small detail, seeing such diversity within a commonplace is really exciting to audiences and children of all ages who are able to see themselves on the screen and relate more to the situation.

“It gives me hope seeing people on screen and on stage who look like me,” expressed senior and member of Central’s drama club Ronisha Reneus. “The saying ‘if you see them, you can be them’ has never been more relevant, seeing so many wonderful characters of color in my favorite works of art. It truly makes me feel like I have a shot of making it [as an actress].”

Similarly, another popular form of entertainment that has recently gained its first lead of color is the show “The Bachelor.” Matt James is 2021’s Bachelor for the show’s 25th season. While The Bachelor’s female spinoff, “The Bachelorette,” had their first African American star in their 21st season, “The Bachelor” has just recently cast Matt James as its male African American star. “The Bachelor” has been airing since 2002, and this year was the first time they cast a person of color as the star. The show has cast competitors of color to participate but never filling the role of the star with any race that is not white. While Matt James is the first Black Bachelor, fans watching hope the show continues under this example to include Asian, Middle Eastern, Mixed, or other ethnicities to be the new Bachelors or Bachelorettes in the coming seasons. 

“Black Panther” is yet another phenomenal way that media and Hollywood have increased their representation. This world-changing movie starring the late Chadwick Boseman has inspired many to work towards their superhero dreams. The Black Panther is the first Black Marvel hero with their own movie and starring role. While we have seen other Avengers of color like The Falcon, Nick Fury, and War Machine, we were yet to see one get their own movie and be the starring role that sets history in the Marvel universe.

Marvel continues to follow the example “Black Panther” set and has recently released the Disney+ exclusive “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” show with a Black main character, The Falcon. Played by Anthony Mackie, we were introduced to this character in the movie “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” as the new best friend of Captain America, Steve Rogers. Through his kindness, he is introduced into the Avengers crew and is seen as a side character in the next couple of films Marvel released. However, as of March 19, 2021, we see Sam “The Falcon” Wilson starring in this new show where we get a peek at what this character’s origins are, as well as what his future will be.

“In the past, it was always the conversation as Black fathers that we had with our kids about how to be safe when they left home, about how not to entice police officers, about how not to walk through certain neighborhoods,” revealed Anthony Mackie to SyFy’s Wire blog. “But now we can have the conversation with our sons about what it means for him to grow up and possibly be Captain America.”

In the show “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier,” we see Sam Wilson experience institutional racism when police approach him on the street after having a small argument with the show’s other star, Bucky Barnes, played by Sebastian Stan. Barnes, also known as the hero alias Winter Soldier, is quarreling with Wilson and as soon as the police stop by to see what is happening, they immediately ask him if Wilson is bothering him. After Barnes explains that nothing is wrong, the officers keep speaking to Barnes only instead of Wilson and only look at Wilson to ask for his ID. This is one of the first times we see a major show or film speak up about institutional racism, especially with people who are superheroes.

  While this may be a short and long-awaited step, it is important to show diversity in movies and other media forms to ensure that the people are able to see themselves on the silver screen. While this trivial detail may not seem important to some, for others, it is a life-changing experience that makes people feel like they belong.