USA TODAY reported on a video series that underscores the dearth of diversity in Hollywood by showing blockbuster movies edited to only feature the words spoken by people of color. For example, the video for “Into The Woods” is just eight seconds long. Imagine if someone did a similar series for Madison Avenue, editing only the words spoken by people of color in general market commercials—excluding celebrities, recording artists, sports figures and Annie the Chicken Queen. It would make Hollywood look downright progressive.
Video series highlights shocking lack of diversity in Hollywood movies
By Lindsay Deutsch, USA TODAY Network
Hollywood has a diversity problem. If you disagree, watch Into the Woods — all 8 seconds of it.
Dylan Marron, a 27-year-old actor in New York, asks movie lovers and budget-controlling film execs to take a hard look at white-washed blockbusters in a YouTube series called Every Single Word. The series dramatically cuts critically acclaimed films into seconds-long clips, only highlighting portions where a person of color is speaking.
Oscar winners American Hustle (the clip: 54 seconds long—total), Her (47 seconds) and Black Swan (27 seconds) are among the selected films. The cut-down version of Disney’s Into the Woods is the shortest, followed by Noah (11 seconds) and Moonrise Kingdom (11 seconds).
“It all started with Enough Said, and I had no idea it was going to take off in this way,” Marron, who identifies as biracial and was born in Venezuela, tells the USA TODAY Network. “I first saw it on a plane and was astounded how it got approved.”
The film, Marron explains, features one person of color — a Latina maid who “serves as the punchline.” “She’s just a bad maid who has nothing shown through her eyes. It’s something we’re going to look back on and say, ‘Wow, I can’t believe this was ever allowed.’”
USA TODAY’s Arienne Thompson breaks down Hollywood’s well-documented diversity issue in her January cover story, tied to Into the Woods’ release.
In it, she cites a study by the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism that found that of 100 highest-grossing films of 2013, only about 25% of speaking roles featured non-white actors.
Marron, who’s a film buff (and whose voice can be heard on the popular podcast Welcome to Night Vale), said he took the straightforward approach of cutting popular films because they speak for themselves.
“Laying out a pattern in front of people is so much more effective than posting an angry blog post or getting on my metaphorical or literal megaphone,” he explains. “The underlying theme of the variety of films I chose is that they are not about whiteness,” he says.
“Movies like Her are about love and relationship and courtship and what it means to fall in love with humans and reality in the future — I’ve said this many times but I love theses movies! But why must we see these universal themes from a white lens. When that keeps happening, you start to erase stories of people of color.”
Marron says he’s faced the entertainment industry’s unwillingness to cast diverse roles first-hand.
“I’ve been brown all my life and I worship movies. It’s the medium that I really identified with my whole life,” he says. “When you are a brown person or any other race that isn’t represented and you don’t see yourself, sometimes you feel theres something wrong with you or bad that you’re different. But as you become an adult, you start to question it.”
“I’ve been told openly, ‘I don’t know how much work there is for you, and you’re not going to play the romantic male lead,” he says.
As of Thursday, the 12 clips in the series have collectively garnered more than a million views on YouTube.
Marron says the best reaction is from people who say they didn’t notice the diversity issue in Hollywood.
“We sit in the movie theaters and are dazzled,” he says. “But when you’re dazzled by comedy or suspense, there are a lot of things you miss. It’s so insidious that we don’t even notice it. This is systemic racism, one that goes under the radar.”
Marron says he plans to continue his series.