The Hollywood film industry has played a significant role in the mass dissemination of popular culture, raising concerns of racial and gender inequality in representation of Hollywood films. Several studies reveal Hollywood as predominantly White and male dominated, with women and racial minorities being highly underrepresented with proportions well below their share of the US population (Erigha 2015, p. 78). The Hollywood and television media industry needs to open their doors to embrace these minority groups. As a result, there will be a greater diversity of cultures onscreen and stereotypical roles will be diminished.
However, Hollywood is slow to adopt these changes as the domination of the popular culture continues to present complex issues. In acting for film and television, a Screen Actor’s Guild report showed that White actors dominated 75 percent of all roles, African Americans occupied 14 percent, Latinos 5 percent, and Asian Americans less than 3 percent of roles (Erigha 2015, p. 81). These results contradict the Screen Actor’s Guide and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists mission statement,
It is a core value of SAG-AFTRA that our strength is in our diversity. We are committed to the broadest employment and involvement of our members, regardless of race, national origin, ancestry, color, creed, religion, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, political affiliation, veteran status, gender identity or expression, age or disability. (SAG-AFTRA, 2015)
In the quest for these neglected minority groups to gain a platform and fair representation in popular culture, Walt Disney has taken on the role of the fairy godmother. Over the years, Walt Disney has transformed their iconic White Princess, sharing a powerful message that they are accepting of every race and ethnicity. In 1992, Princess Jasmine and Prince Aladdin were the first non-white royal couple, followed by the first Native American Princess in Pocahontas (1995), and first Asian princess in Mulan (1998).
In recent times, Princess Tiana from The Princess and the Frog (2009) was the first African-American princess to grace the big screen. “Through Tiana, Disney confirms that women can be strong in their own right and that princesses come in many colours: white, black or even green” (Hebert-Leiter 2014, p. 969). In 2016, Disney’s newest Latina princess, Elena of Avalor will make her debut on Disney Junior’s animated show “Sofia the First”. Every young girl can now identify themselves with a Princess without feeling marginalised.
In order to achieve transparency, the Hollywood movie industry needs to provide a fair representation of race and ethnicity in all of its movies. No matter what gender, age, colour, race and ethnicity you are we all deserve to be treated as equal.
Erigha, M 2015, ‘Race, Gender, Hollywood: Representation in Cultural Production and Digital Media’s Potential for Change,’ Sociology Compass, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 78-89. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/doi/10.1111/soc4.12237/abstract
Hebert-Leiter, M 2014, ‘Disney’s Cajun Firefly: Shedding Light on Disney and Americanization’, The Journal of Popular Culture, vol. 47, no. 5, pp. 968-977. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/doi/10.1111/jpcu.12182/full
SAG-AFTRA 2015, History, Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, viewed 13 May 2015, <http://www.sagaftra.org/history>