September 19, 2018 | ° F

How to exercise consumer power, get representation at box office


Our population is made up of many demographics, but our movies and television shows have long portrayed and favored the stories of white men. But, people of color, women and allies have much more influence in the film and television industry than one may think. This is because movies are made and distributed to appeal to what consumers want, and the makeup of consumers is diverse.

According to an interview with Variety, Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst for comScore, a media measurement and analytics company, said that consumers have the power to demand diversity in films.

“If you want to take the most absolute cynical view and say that everything in Hollywood is powered by the almighty dollar, then it still makes sense to have more diverse movies ... If you have groups of people who are really passionate about going to the movie theater, you don’t want to leave them out of the equation,” he said.

It really doesn’t make sense for films and television to be against diversity when audiences are not and when representation really does matter. With the series of hits released this past year, it's evident that audiences care about and will absolutely dish out the dollars on movies that represent women and people of color. In 2017, audiences experienced a surge in non-white and non-male stories previously untold on the glittery, big screen and enjoyed a bite back at Hollywood’s resistance to inclusion. It was proof that audiences care about diversity in the art they consume.

For example, Jordan Peele’s horror flick, "Get Out," was one of the hottest movies of 2017, a complete commercial hit. The movie stands out not only because it was directed by a Black man and features a primarily Black cast. It also tackled real issues that Black people encounter in a “polite” society, like the confines of everyday dehumanization and white supremacist ideologies. Combined with a plot with a horrific twist, people completely dug it. 

The empowering feminist hit, "Wonder Woman," was directed by a woman — Patty Jenkins. The superhero flick was made by women, for women and because of women. It debuted with an international total of $223 million, and it is the best reviewed DC Comics film since the highly rated "The Dark Knight."

Women and people of color got even more representation with the uber-successful "Girl's Trip." The movie made history —  the writers, producers, director and stars are all Black, and it raked in more than $100 million, making it the first film to achieve all of this. This film also performed well against a very similar "Rough Night," which featured a mostly-white cast and a comparable plot line.

The trick to wield consumer power in favor of women and people of color is simply showing up and making socially conscious spending choices. This is how the few examples from 2017 became so commercial. There is a wealth of movies, television shows and the like that have been made by women and people of color, that star women and people of color. In the name of stories that go beyond the white, heteronormative figure, people need to dig into a sea of underrepresented, everyday stories and use their consumer power to pay attention and patronize accordingly.

When consumers clearly display what they want through their entertainment choices, filmmakers and producers will have no choice but to respond accordingly. It’s all about using your influence.


Abigail Lyon

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