Hollywood’s Obsession with “Diversity” Isn’t Going Quite The Way We Hoped
Okay, I will not downplay the relevancy of seeing films like Black Panther, A Wrinkle In Time and TV shows like Queen Sugar, Insecure and so many others — dominate a landscape that for as long as I can remember — remained solely committed to the brainchild of White writers, showrunners, producers, and grossly over-paid executives.
When I travel back in time (the nineties), I’m forced to admit that most of what I devoured didn’t include most parts of myself. I was an American — raised in Nigeria — who had the good fortune of being exposed to a variety of influences — that intersected to breed a multifaceted woman.
What TV network in 1995 — would have had the balls to air a show centered on a lead — resembling my resume?
Not too long ago, it wasn’t encouraged to boldly and publicly embrace your ethnic roots. In fact my mother would visit me, armed with native wear that she had carefully plotted with her longtime tailor. Whenever she would present them to me — I thanked her with guarded enthusiasm — because I knew very well — that none of the outfits would see the light of day.
She eventually caught on and stopped. But, even as I write this — I feel utterly ashamed at the notion that I was too embarrassed to be seen in the hues and architecture of a complexly vibrant culture that chose me as a representative.
But it all goes back to the inherent need that mercilessly punishes us — longer than we deserve. You don’t want to stand out in a way that warrants a Q&A session. You want to blend in at the expense of rejecting your own identity, and even though I never backed down when I was in the hot seat — I can’t refute the truth.
If I had the stash of gems that my mother presented to me almost a decade ago — I would absolutely flaunt those suckers — in full view — all day every day.
This change in direction has a lot to do with my maturity — and of course the present climate — that is efficiently indulging in the realm of anything that recalls the trendiness of the Diaspora.
You know things have really progressed to a higher altitude when institutions like Vogue — and others like it — literally can’t get enough of anything that is dipped in the bucket of potent ethnicity— raging in places that were once deemed — forbidden.
Suddenly, my hometown Lagos, Nigeria, is the hub of artistic sway, and the vignettes are pretty — with the pulsating tendencies that will almost surely guarantee impressive views with the endorsement of being “inclusive” — at a time when such a thing is finally mandated.
All this to get to the crux of my beef with this temperature of awareness — that is doing a lot of good, but also enhancing piles of shit — that we didn’t anticipate.
Greed and exploitation are hurried bedfellows — in an industry that prides itself as being innovative — when that couldn’t be further from the truth.
When I say “industry” — I mean the mothership.
When I was an impressionable young girl — partaking in all the stages within my grasp — Supermodels had to be these amazon-like creatures, with the palest skin — no ass, no breasts, and hips that could rival a teenage boy. Anyone in fashion — who had the reputation to make demands — certainly didn’t tolerate non-Whites — unless they had hints of being somewhat White — with very few exceptions.
This extended into the world of film and television. The popular shows like Friends, which centered around a small group of White people, living in New York City — was special in its delivery — particularly because of how seamlessly the characters evaded contact with non-Whites, which is very hard to do when you live in a city that is known for it’s diversity.
Movies, depicting people of color weren’t all the rage. The Black actresses that were given the chance to shine, had to look more White than Black — in order to appease the general population. And the Black actors were mostly paired with actresses that were visibly lighter than they were — with the grade of hair to boost.
So, yeah, I did feel somewhat invisible and woefully underrepresented, but here we are — years later — trying to convince ourselves that diversity should be a required instinct.
Think pieces about the trials and tribulations of being a person of color filters through unexpected places. Everyone wants to benefit from this trend in the worst way. White creatives observe from afar and then wait for the right moment to strike. They offer opportunities to collaborate in a way that gives you the right to be heard — while feeding their need to fulfill the requirement of alignment.
Gold-minted producers are also on the hunt. The epidemic they ran away from and kept under control — turned out to be the antidote of the times.
Television is faring way better than the big screen. The slew of offerings that have recently hit our flat screens— really encourage the joy and validity that was missing not so long ago.
Of course this experimental phase will be tested — when the producers of HBO’s magnificent conception — David Benioff and D.B. Weiss — unleash their nightmarish epic — Confederate — that will tug at the nostalgic strings of racist America — as they are given permission to enjoy an alternate world — where slavery is still a thriving currency.
There is no doubt that Benioff and Weiss — were stirred by the ugliness of the race wars that has gotten bloodier since White supremacy gave us Donald Trump. The need to capitalize on the grim reality that we taking hundreds of steps backwards with each passing day — is what Hollywood deems as necessary — to heighten the motto — of diversity.
Detroit — is a new film by the always stoic Kathryn Bigelow. Bigelow, known for masters like The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty — has never shied away from the task of tackling controversial topics that force us to ponder what the hell we are thinking as humans in an imperfect world.
My favorite film of all time in the nineties was Strange Days. Bigelow presents a futuristic view of how fucked up it’s all going to be — when we overtake ourselves. I also liked it because Angela Basset was in it — and she wasn’t just a passenger — she was the driver.
Bigelow has earned the power and privilege to do whatever she wants in the manner that pleases her. I can’t imagine that Detroit is a bad movie, in fact I can prematurely give it five stars without a shudder of doubt.
What bothers me, is the current adherence by flighty studio executives — who lounge on their yachts, conceiving films like the upcoming Proud Mary — as the surefire way to seemingly profit from the idea of giving Black people what they want — until it’s no longer trendy to do so.
The notion of being inclusive isn’t about reviving the nostalgia of slavery or creating a Google doc of potential titles that are “black” enough to fill in the seats of major theaters across the country. It’s also not the treatment of “us” as if being who we are is subject to evaluation — when the progressive graph illustrates a sudden dip in interest.
Even worse — is how White Hollywood is making serious bank off of the anointment of Black Hollywood. Yes, things are changing in a way that arms Black talent with the power to enhance our narrative — but when you have other increments of influence being allotted to non-Black folks — that are taking advantage in ways that will potentially overwhelm and dishearten — that’s a signal that we’ve been played.
Hollywood never cared about our representation or even dared to share a story about the Detroit riots or the possibility of a neverending slave trade — until diversity became a word that The Academy had to highlight and activate with a quickness.
We need to reclaim what’s ours. But how?