Demanding Diversity in Media is Important (OPINION)

Last week, I went to see Gods of Egypt, a new action-adventure film about attractive white people thwarting the forces of evil. Wait, hold on. I meant to say, I went to see Gods of Egypt, another action-adventure film about attractive white people thwarting the forces of evil. It was a boring and largely forgettable piece of celluloid garbage; in fact, the only reason I haven’t completely scrubbed it from my memory is because of that aforementioned point about “attractive white people.” Why are the three leads in a film about the myths and legends of an ancient North African civilization all white?

courtesy: blogs.indiewire.com
courtesy: Blogs.indiewire.com
courtesy: CNN.com
courtesy: CNN.com

I know, I know, the “diversity in Hollywood” debate has been done to death. What can one privileged white boy possibly add to this conversation? Well, I’ve talked to a lot of my white friends and acquaintances about this issue, and while most of them acknowledge that Hollywood has a diversity problem, they will often follow up that acknowledgement by saying some variation of, “Yeah, but who cares? Aren’t there more important issues out there?” And you know what? That attitude makes me bristle with anger because these people take for granted what others would kill to have: preponderance in the media.

What do I mean by that? If you turn on a random television show right now, more likely than not, the face that appears on your screen will be white. I mean, with shows like Seinfeld, How I Met Your Mother and Friends, the familiar scenario of “eccentric gaggle of white people clowning around in New York City” is almost a genre unto itself.

FRIENDS -- Season 2 -- Pictured: (l-r) Matthew Perry as Chandler Bing, Jennifer Aniston as Rachel Green, David Schwimmer as Ross Geller, Courteney Cox as Monica Geller, Matt LeBlanc as Joey Tribbiani, Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe Buffay (Photo by NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Courtesy: Theodysseyonline.com

My point is, white people aren’t simply prevalent in media; they are dominant—so dominant that a film called Gods of Egypt can’t even deign to star actual Egyptians for fear of alienating a white audience.

I’ve never doubted my place or importance in society because pretty much every movie I’ve watched, book I’ve read and video game I have played has reinforced my centrality in this country. But don’t you see? It’s a lie! It has always been a lie, and a dangerous one at that. The media of any culture should strive to reflect that society’s demographic reality. American media instead, has opted to distort reality. 15 years from now, I don’t want my child going see the hot new movie, Gods of Sub-Saharan Africa, starring Christian Bale and Neil Patrick Harris.

And this isn’t me jumping on the political correctness band-wagon. I’m not advocating for some kind of affirmative action in Hollywood or television. No, I’m simply trying to impress on those dismissive of the diversity issue that it is not one we can ignore. The United States prides itself on being a “melting pot” of thousands of different races, cultures and ethnicities; if we want to stay true to that claim, we cannot continue to peddle this false reality. I thought we were proud of our diversity, not ashamed or apathetic.