The Monopoly of the Majority

Staff Writer: Ian Clark

Representation is important. The portrayal of kids, teenagers, women and minorities has almost always been faulty. With kids being viewed as unintelligent and lacking experience, teens being viewed as ignorant and unnaturally angsty, women being portrayed as dependent and minorities often being presented as ignorant, the movie industry is due for a long-needed change.

In recent years, A24, a movie production company based in New York has been at the forefront of changing these misrepresentations. Since 2013, the entertainment company has been independently making movies and TV shows, but they didn’t have much widespread support until recently.

In 2016, A24 had its biggest year. It released Moonlight the title that may sound familiar to you through its six nominations at the Golden Globe Awards, winning the award for best motion picture in the drama category. The film follows the plot of an African-American male, Chiron, growing up in Liberty City, Miami, surrounded with the conventional idea of what a man should be and how they should behave as a child and into adulthood.

When confronted with the concept of homosexuality, Chiron is bewildered. This fascination and confusion follow him into his teenage years and eventually, adulthood. The movie had a standout quote, (which also happened to be the title of the play that the movie was based off) “Black boys look blue in the moonlight,” representing the emotional side of black men, despite never being addressed in mainstream media.

Moonlight

The Moonlight poster depicts the main character Chiron during 3 revolutionary stages of his life. Childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Photo courtesy of A24 Films.

As previously stated, this movie won A24 a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture in the Drama category. This achievement highlights the importance of representation, showing that people having something to relate to can make a world of difference, because regardless of opinion, these people exist in everyday life and have influence.

Another example of the company’s effort to evolve the cinema industry, involves their films such as Mid90s20th Century WomenThe Florida Project and Lady Bird. These titles all focus on the other side of teenage years, the side that mainstream media tends to look over, in a broadly atmospheric, thought provoking manner.

florida project

This Florida Project promo poster visualizes the freedom of childhood, while also documenting the overlooked independence that some children are coerced to live in from an early point in life. Photo courtesy of A24 Films.

 

When asked about inspiration for Mid90s, director Jonah Hill told The FADER “A lot of my life, I was younger around on older people trying to explain the taste of our generation…to older people who didn’t [want to] hear it.”

mid90s

The cast of Mid90s (Left to right: Olan Prenatt, Na-kel Smith, Sunny Suljic) with director Jonah Hill, is composed entirely of teenagers and young adults. By A24 casting actual youth, it preserves authenticity while still representing the underrepresented. Photo courtesy of Collider.

The lesser known gem of this group, 20th Century Women, does so in a way that sends someone to a time period where the ‘misunderstood teen’ archetype was born. Released in 2016, the film takes place in Southern California during the 70s: the age of punk (it’s non-coincidental that this is a reoccurring topic that many in today’s youth demographic have taken liking to and integrated into their culture).

This movie is a standout because the writers were able to highlight the struggles of not only being a teenager during this time period, but also being a single mother to one of those teenagers.

20th century women

A screencap of ‘20th Century Women’ shows the two main characters, Jamie and his mother Dorothea communicating, a situation rarely presented in coming of age movies. Photo courtesy of A24 Films.

Of course, it holds the typical coming of age movie qualities that people will always expect: conflict between mother and son, drug use, and angst; but what makes this movie so qualified as a representative movie, is its use of perspective. It utilizes multifaceted perspectives to its fullest potential, showcasing the way characters present themselves to the people they surround themselves with vs. the way they truly are and view themselves.

The lead character even speaks the words that some might say holds the importance of the film, “Age is a bourgeois construct.” Despite the semi-joking qualities of this statement, it contains a handful of truth as well: age being a determining quality for maturity or emotional attention is outdated and nonsensical.

Now, although these movies could easily be just a stacked list of dramatized reviews, it is so much more than that. Way too often, the media industry (regardless of whether it’s cinema, music, television, or otherwise) is underestimated in its influence. Having representative movies is essential because people adhere to stereotypes extremely diligently.

“For the underrepresented, seeing a character who looks like them can have a limiting effect if that character is restricted to behaving only in certain ways, which don’t reflect the breadth of their life’s experience. If you are a black, Asian or Latino person who sees an ‘inauthentic’ or ‘one-dimensional’ version of yourself, [Ana-Christina] Ramón explained, you ‘may wonder if that is all that is expected of you in society.’” (Huffington Post)

The movie industry has never learned to conquer representation. Even with movies like Moonlight and 20th Century Women slowly breaking down the barriers of toxic stereotypes that have plagued American cinema industry, realistically, it won’t change anything. Entertainment is only the gateway to gradually extinguish widespread prejudice.

Comments

  1. You are very right. Entertainment, movies etc really help bring out these things into light better than anything else! Wonderfully written!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: