Recent, diverse moves shine on the silver screen

When senior and Vice-President of Sequoia’s Black Student Union Jada Herbert saw “Black Panther,” she saw herself on screen.
Following the success of “Wonder Woman” in 2017, representation of marginalized groups is continuing to surface in movies like “Black Panther” and “Love, Simon.”

“I liked how [in ‘Black Panther’] they were all dark skinned characters. It’s refreshing because when people cast black actors they usually go for more light skinned people like Zendaya, and it’s great that there are black people, but they’re not accounting for a large part of the black community,” Herbert said. “It’s just really nice to be able to see yourself up on the screen.”

“Black Panther,” the fictional story of high-tech African Nation, Wakanda, has been praised for its empowering portrayal of black people, particularly black women. It is now the highest-grossing superhero movie of all time, and has sparked a wave of black positivity, presenting a positive image for a group that often has minimal representation in mainstream media.

“In the weeks after ‘Black Panther’ came out, there was an obvious surge in the sense of community among black people, and you could see it on Instagram, on Twitter, on Facebook. People were really, really excited to see themselves in a movie,” senior and BSU President Morgan Taradash said. “We grew up seeing people who don’t look like us in movies. It’s really hard being a kid and growing up and thinking ‘Why aren’t there people who look like me on screen?’”

Many, including Taradash, enjoyed the diverse and powerful representation of women presented in the film.

“T’Challa’s sister is the head of technology in Wakanda, which was another thing that really inspirational: to see a woman in charge of technology, which is something that tends to be thought of more as a male career,” Taradash said.

Like “Black Panther”, the new movie, “Love, Simon,” which follows the life of a closeted gay teen navigating the coming out process during his high school years, has also been lauded for its representation of an underrepresented group. It grossed over $11 million in its opening weekend, and was labelled “tender, sweet, and affecting” by critics from Common Sense Media. As the first mainstream gay teen romance film, “Love Simon” depicts the LGBTQ+ community in a positive light in a movie that otherwise appears cliche.

“Seeing that ‘Love, Simon’ has a gay couple in it, that’s awesome to me because it’s showing that no, [it doesn’t] have to be some sort of alternative movie, some sort of sub-genre type thing, it’s just normal people and it’s a pretty cliche teen movie but it’s cute,” sophomore and GSA board member Amy Abad said. “It’s not something that is ‘taboo’ anymore, it’s something normal, and it should be something everyday.”

“Love, Simon” has also been praised for providing role models to LGBTQ+ teens dealing with the same struggles addressed in the movie.

“It shows that things can get better, and if [viewers] don’t have any positive role models, it gives them positive role models and people that they can look up to,” Abad said. “That’s important to anybody, just so that they can see that they can become something awesome.”

As well as presenting positive role models, these movies are helping normalize diversity in the media and diminish stereotypes about marginalized groups. With the financial success of diverse movies, many hope that it will open the door for more to come.

“The more diverse [a movie] is, the more relatable it is, and the more people will want to watch it,” Abad said. “You don’t have to resort back to white, straight, cis people. It will be successful anyway.”