Hollywood's fascination with the struggle of the white man

Katerina Vasilaki comments on the industry's prediliction for a certain point of view.

Katerina Vasilaki
25th February 2020
Hollywood is an industry that unfortunately, until quite recently, lacked representation. Although in past years great efforts have been made to promote diversity, in some respects, no progress has been made.

This discrimination is particularly clear in the fascination Hollywood seems to have with the complicated male lead, who seems to be the preferred choice to comment on society’s cruelty. To illustrate my point, movies such as Joker (2019) are praised for their take on the ruthlessness of the modern world. By contrast the level of recognition for Us (2019) undeniably diminishes, despite being a production as interesting and allegorical as  Joker. The question therefore is: why doesn’t Hollywood accept commentary from different points of view?

Daniel Kaluuya in Jordan Peel's modern cult classic Get Out (2017). Image:IMDB

Get Out (2017) is a film that successfully tackled racism and other sensitive matters in quite the original way, and got recognized for it. Nevertheless, there are many counter-examples that do not mirror the same success despite being critically acclaimed (The Hate U Give), creating the sense that Get Out is the exception to an unwritten rule about who’s story are you allowed to voice. Additionally, a distorted vision of the world seems to be tolerated only on condition that the character is male, which in this day and age should be simply unacceptable. In Hereditary (2018), a horror film that should not be missed, Toni Collette (Knives Out, The Sixth Sense) gifted us with an extraordinary performance. However, it failed to reach the success of another horror hit often compared to, A Quiet Place (2018). That creates the question of whether that is because of the lack of the male figure or simply because the movie is quite perplexing on its own.

It has been often commented that the industry is predominantly ruled by men, which may have an effect on the stories that tend to get picked up or even those who get rewarded in the end. An interesting example of this is that even though Little Women (2019) was nominated for Best Picture, Greta Gerwig was not nominated for Best Director, when the inextricable link between the two categories has been made clear throughout the years. Another example of this is Lorene Scafaria’s case, a writer and director of Hustlers (2019), a critically acclaimed film that commented on society in an empowering way while being based on real events.

Lupita Nyong'o in the award winning Us. Image:IMDB

One could point to Parasite (2019) was winning a multitude of awards: however, for a film that has won almost in almost all the categories that were nominated in, only one actor was nominated. Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave, Black Panther) in Us was tasked to change her voice, switching between two extremes and nearly destroying her vocal cords in the process. Her performance was outstanding. Yet, she was not nominated for any awards, contradicting 2018’s win of Get Out. It seems strange that Joker is allowed to showcase raw violence and get rewarded for it, but other films that exhibit similar qualities get snubbed despite the praise they receive from critics.

My guess as to why Hollywood has such a fascination with the white complicated male character through which we see the world, could be partly because of fear. To further elaborate, changing the viewpoint from an angle of a more disadvantaged person may create a more pessimistic feeling than the people who hold the cards in the industry are ready to face. Taking a step to embrace those narratives is essential for understanding society in a nuanced way and not base our opinions solely on the point of view of the white male character.

Award shows should not need to be told to nominate a woman director or a black actor. We should not need a hashtag #OscarsSoWhite to recognize all the artists of color that want to tell their stories in the 21st century, nor should we need to rant about women being snubbed from certain categories.

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