Diversity is coming to a theater near you

America’s TV and movies need to start representing more people of color, and they need to do it soon.

Martha Pietruszewski

I first discovered the television show “Jane The Virgin” last year. I was attempting to study for finals, but what I really learned was how progressive that show is. 
The main character Jane lives with her mom, grandma and son while she tries to go to school. The show is an adaptation of a Venezuelan telenovela, and many of the main characters are nonwhite.
Representation of different races like this matters on TV and in movies. Yet for some reason, in 2016, there just isn’t enough of it. 
Now, as a white female who grew up in the suburbs, I may not be the one most affected by the media’s lack of representation. However, every time I watch shows like “Scandal,” “How To Get Away With Murder” or “Jane the Virgin,” I’m impressed by the talents of the multicultural actors whom the media often ignores. 
Gina Rodriguez of “Jane the Virgin” won a Golden Globe for her contibutions to the screen. Viola Davis, a black woman, won an Emmy for her work on “How To Get Away With Murder.” These women (and their male coworkers, too) are obviously talented — so why don’t they get more roles?
It seems media executives believe black, Hispanic and Asian actors aren’t what America wants to see onscreen. Sadly, between 2007 and 2014 (excluding 2011), roughly 75 percent of more than 30,000 Hollywood characters were white. Going forward, Hollywood and leading television networks need to make room for racially diverse characters sooner rather than later.
Believe me, people will notice when you cast a white person as a nonwhite character. In 2015, for example, the movie “Aloha” opened to poor reviews and came under criticism because the main character, portrayed by Emma Stone, was supposed to be Asian-American. Emma Stone is probably about as white as I am. 
The director of “Aloha” missed an important chance to cast a talented Asian actress. This was a huge, foolish oversight. At the bare minimum, Hollywood needs to cast people of color in roles for people of color. 
Despite the severity of Hollywood’s diversity problem, though, there’s still some hope for change. I’d like to give credit to the people who are actually creating diverse movies and television. 
“Underground,” to cite one example, is a show about life as a slave in the antebellum South. A program like this represents a great opportunity for racially diverse actors to show off their skills and for viewers to learn some history.  The majority of the show’s cast is black, which is great to see. However, “Underground” is on WGN, a network almost nobody watches. 
We need to push diversity to the forefront of Hollywood’s mind and promote diverse TV shows on popular networks like ABC, CBS and Fox. When young children grow up watching TV and movies that have no characters who look like them, they might choose not to pursue acting because they don’t think there are any actors or actresses of color. 
Representation in film and TV matter, especially in a country as diverse as the United States. Forget #OscarsSoWhite — let’s say #HollywoodSoWhite.
Martha Pietruszewski welcomes comments at [email protected]