Hollywood and Racial Pigeonholing

Daniel Kaluuya is said to be “tired of being asked about race”, and that he never asked for his status as a successful black actor to define him. Within the film industry there is a vast underrepresentation of the community, not to mention the striking inequality. Likewise, I find it peculiar that while some actors are defined by their race, others are not, take Kevin Hart for example.

I do believe that to an extent, the media has a problem with its racial pigeonholing of Hollywood actors. This is due to the fact that there is a particular representation of black actors in the industry. Kaluuya, rose to fame with films such as ‘Get Out’, ‘Black Panther’ and ‘Queen & Slim’, where race and representation are some of the central topics.

‘Get Out’ is a mystery/thriller which follows the character Chris Washington, a young African American man, who uncovers a disturbing secret when he meets the family of his white girlfriend, Rose Armitage. It can be argued that the movie uses typical horror conventions to reveal the truth about how pernicious racism is in the world. It doesn’t walk back any of its condemnations by inserting a “white savior” or making overtures to pacifism and tolerance. No: in this film, white society is a conscious purveyor of evil, and Chris must remain alert to its benevolent racism. He has to in order to survive.

This year’s Oscars and BAFTAs shortlisting did receive some criticism for the lack of diversity, but Kaluuya said, as quoted by the Guardian, that he did not want to be pushed into becoming a spokesperson for black actors. “The Fades ain’t about race, Psychoville ain’t about race. But that almost gets erased. There’s a narrative that is pushed,” he added.

However, his ‘Black Panther’ co-star Michael B Jordan has introduced an “inclusion rider” to his production company to ensure a more diverse cast and crew. It is a clause that an actor can insist be inserted in their contract which stipulates that cast and crew on a film to meet a certain level of diversity. Jordan’s film, ‘Just Mercy’, is an example of the rider being put in place, but it has just missed out on an Oscar nomination.

Ultimately, the topic remains difficult to discuss as long as there is a problem with how the media treats Hollywood stars for their race. So therefore, while Hollywood stars will always be pigeonholed, I feel that as we move forward that this can, and should eventually come to an end.

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Caitlin Telford