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The Legacy
Dierdre Examines Lack of Diversity in Hollywood for May 1st

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With the awards season coming up, Hollywood comes under the microscope more than ever. Whether it’s the quality of films or the performances by the professionals acting in them, movies are scrutinized by critics and the public alike. An issue that is constantly brought up around the awards season is the lack of diversity present in the film industry.

According to a survey by the LA Times, an overwhelmingly 94% of the Academy’s members are Caucasian. The 2013 list of nominees reflects this bias, as many of the movies up for awards feature Caucasian leads. With the exception of movies like "Django Unchained" and "Beasts of the Southern Wild," two movies that are both up for Best Picture, the majority of nominees have white-dominated casts. A study by Sociological Images shows that 81.9% of lead roles go to Caucasians. This explains why it’s especially notable when people of color win awards because they rarely are cast as lead roles.

Perhaps the reason the number of actors who aren’t white is so little compared to those who are is because they don’t get a chance to compete with them. The same study by Sociological Images claims that nearly 70% of casting directors show preference for white actors.

The Hunger Games is one example that caused a lot of controversy about race from both sides. Many had praised Suzanne Collins for her ambiguity with her lead character, Katniss Everdeen. Described as having "dark hair" and "olive skin," Katniss had the opportunity to be from any race. However, the casting call required that actresses trying out for the role be Caucasian.

On the flip side, the actors in The Hunger Games that weren’t specified as white were also criticized. There was a storm of angry tweets from some rather racist fans as they complained about the performance of African American actors Lenny Kravitz and Amandla Stenberg. They were particularly offensive, as one fan lamented she "didn’t get as sad about Rue’s death because she was black and not the sweet innocent little blonde girl like I imagined."

At a time when the demographics of America are changing more than ever, it is crucial that we represent all of them. Films and television has always been a snapshot into the culture of every era, and it’s time we start to accurately reflect that, instead of perpetuating the idea that America is still a "white" society.

The diversity in the film industry, or lack thereof, proves the idea that America is still struggling with the concept of equality, even in the 21st century. No matter how emotionally nuanced it is, it should always continue to be an object of discussion until we see evidence that there is in fact diversity in Hollywood. Until then, it’s an issue that should continue to be discussed and more importantly, challenged.