From Invisible to Invincible - the Need for Diversity in Fantasy Films

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''I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids - and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible; understand, simply because people refuse to see me." “The Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison,

A fantasy film without diversity is like a portrait with only one color. Every year in America, numerous fantasy films are released with casts that exclude people of color. This is a tragedy because cinema and television are major influencers on society. What we see and hear in mass media plays a role in shaping our identity and self-perspective. Unfortunately, representation of African Americans and other minorities in lead roles like hero/heroine or prince/princess in fantasy feature films is few. People of color are more often than not, invisible to producers and viewers of fantasy films in our nation. I will not address the reasons for this disparity because frankly it does not matter. What does matter is that this type of omission implies a preference. Its implication is clear to all who are exposed to it; whether they look like us or not. This disparity will only change when people of color cease buying tickets to fantasy movies that do not include diversity, gain creative as well as productive control and support productions that include and are produced by people of color.

S. A. Jones

Gloucester County Branch #2345

2

From the time that I was a very young child, reading has been a joy for me. I have been exposed to literature in great quantity and variety. The stories I enjoy most are tales of fantasy that involve magic, beautiful landscapes, fair maidens and of course, heroes. When I read stories as a young child, I liked to imagine myself interacting with the characters in the story. I also enjoy watching stories unfold in movies. It is not surprising that my taste in movies is very similar to that which I enjoy in literature. At elementary school age, I would imagine myself as a character within the movie just as I did with literature. I was always the fair maiden, and my daddy was the hero. As I matured my understanding of the differences between myself and the characters depicted in stories became noticeable. Once the difference in race became apparent, I found it difficult to envision myself a part of the stories. It was easier to pretend when I did not realize how different I looked. My eyes are now open to the disparity in cast diversity in movies that could be classified as fantasy. In the era of movies such as “The Wizard of Oz”, “Snow White” and “Mary Poppins”, I realize that minorities were less

S. A. Jones

Gloucester County Branch #2345

3

than fairly treated. So the absence of diversity in movies from that era might be understandable, although never excusable. As for modern fantasy movies, I cannot help but feel the cold pang of exclusion. There is certainly room for improvement in diversity in the film industry as a whole, especially in the genre of fantasy movies. Let me clarify what I mean by “fantasy” movies. I am referring to films that are based in fictional or futuristic settings, involve some superhero type and/or have mystical or magical elements. I would like to explain how I came to feel so keenly the absence of diversity in fantasy movies. My awakening came as a result of doing the things I enjoy, reading stories and watching movies. I am a huge fan of the series “Twilight”, written by Stephenie Meyer. Several of my friends are fans as well. My friend Christian asked me a thought provoking question about the book. What my Caucasian friend asked me was this: “What would happen if someone your skin color were bitten by vampire as some of the characters in Twilight were?” That was not a question I had yet considered. I thought for a moment, and I replied to Christian what I thought might happen; “People with my skin tone...
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