Earlier this month, Vox published an article about how color film was created for white people and distorted darker skin.
Lorna Roth, a professor at Concordia University, researched the topic and concluded that older technology distorted the features of African-Americans. Some of these problems included the reproduction of facial images without details, lighting challenges and ashen-looking facial skin colors contrasted strikingly with the whites of eyes and teeth.
These issues weren’t limited to African-Americans, though. Latinos and multiracial people were susceptible to these results as well. But as time has passed and issues like this are recognized, the film and TV industry are taking steps to remedy this.
During the annual Emmy Awards show on Sunday, well-known African-American actress Viola Davis won an Emmy for her performance in How to Get Away with Murder. She is the first African-American woman to win an Emmy Award, and the accomplishment has taken social media by storm, adding to the stir of race-related conversation.
In her speech, Davis said, “The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity,” and toasted the writers and actors who are breaking down that door. We discussed this issue and decided we agree with Davis and that there should be more opportunities for non-white actors in the industry.
Yes, there are roles that only a certain race can be cast to play, but these types of movies tend to tell the story of something that has already happened, and this brings up the point of deciding what stories are worth being retold.
Look at movies like Straight Outta Compton. Someone decided that story was worth telling, and in doing so, created a number of roles for black men and women in the film industry. There’s no way you could cast that movie without black men and women without losing the iconic story.
The only problem we can see with this is that some shows and movies cater more to the stereotype of race rather than the message of promoting diversity. Shows such as Black-ish and Fresh Off the Boat, though they have provided roles for non-white actors, have helped fuel the stereotypes that African-Americans and Asians carry already.
The sitcoms take a comedic approach in trying to break those stereotypes, but it can sometimes be taken the wrong way. That being said, we wonder if creating such roles sometimes comes with a cost.
On the other end of the spectrum, though, there are shows that promote diversity and create more opportunities for actors of color. Shows such as New Girl, The Mindy Project and Community have taken a step in the right direction by telling audiences it’s possible for TV to feature an actor with darker skin in the same roles as their white counterparts.
We realize there’s a tricky balance when determining what kind of message or story a producer wants to get across or tell when forming a cast list, but we think race shouldn’t be as prominent a concern when creating shows and movies moving forward, and Davis is just one of many African-Americans who have broken through that barrier.
“So here’s to all the writers, the awesome people that are Ben Sherwood, Paul Lee, Peter Nowalk, Shonda Rhimes, people who have redefined what it means to be beautiful, to be sexy, to be a leading woman, to be black,” she said in her speech. “And to the Taraji P. Hensons, the Kerry Washingtons, the Halle Berrys, the Nicole Beharies, the Meagan Goods, to Gabrielle Union: Thank you for taking us over that line. Thank you to the Television Academy. Thank you.”