When you watch a TV show or movie the formula is always the same; attractive, white male, and stunningly beautiful white female. Growing up, all the shows and movies followed the same formula; the main cast were all extremely attractive white actors. There was no diversity, girls grew up with unrealistic body image goals. Never mind if you were any other ethnicity other than a Caucasian, straight person, because you would not be represented on the screen, or would have a minor role as the sidekick’s best friend.
However, in the ongoing and necessary conversation about diversity on television, Netflix is one network that is doing it right. Recently Netflix released a Netflix Original show called Special, in the promotional video it mentioned 5 reasons why you should watch the show. Number one reason was there were no white straight people cast.
Netflix differentiated itself from traditional studios when it started producing content. Its most-watched show, “Orange is the New Black,” features a diverse cast of different ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations and even a transsexual character played by a trans woman.
Earlier this year, Netflix launched a powerful campaign that celebrated the diversity of the network’s black creators. “A Great Day in Hollywood” featured Academy Award- winner Spike Lee and industry powerhouses and legends like Ava DuVernay, Alfred Woodard and Lena Waithe. In all, the 60-second ad features 47 black creators and actors who work on more than twenty Netflix productions.
In their recent campaign, Netflix invited ‘Orange is the New Black’ star Uzo Aduba to attract new and diverse creatives to the video streaming company, claiming it will “make room” for them and tell their stories.
Issuing its call to action for diverse actors, writers, directors, Abuda said, “Have you ever been in a room and haven’t seen anyone like you? Have you ever felt like you belong? But then been told subtly or not so subtly that you didn’t? The world is full of those rooms.”
In the spotlight, Netflix outlined its emphasis on how it is bringing new stories and storytellers into the mix, leaning in the female POC talent it has on board.
The streaming site has pledged that it will provide “More room. More stories. More voices,” in its programming in the year to come.
When you look at the list of original content produced by Netflix you see a myriad of shows featuring women; more notably, it offers shows featuring women of colour and women of all ages. Netflix has broadened its horizons to highlight characters who are more like their viewers, featuring a wider range of races, ages, and sexual orientations.
Netflix is the world’s largest streaming service. It is present in almost every market. On-demand streaming has not only changed how we consume video content but also what we watch and who we see on screen. Digital and TV series tend to be more balanced and feature more female characters than films.
Not only has the streaming platform helped create diversity within the industry it has also helped spread content produced for subcultures, like RuPaul’s “Drag Race” from the US to other markets. The reality show features nearly a dozen drag queens who compete to be the last woman standing. While such a show may have found small success years ago, it has been able to garner fans abroad because of platforms like Netflix.
All these changes to Hollywood could mean the turning of a chapter and saying goodbye to the ‘straight, white boys club’ that is currently Hollywood. Thanks to Netflix and Amazon Prime, video content production and streaming has exploded. Studios are working harder than ever to get and maintain the audience’s attention. Thanks to streaming services you are able to binge a complete season in a day compared to waiting for week-on-week new content to be released from networks. While all these changes have been a change for the better, a recent study from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative says; In more than 1,000 popular movies analysed, the top 100 US films between 2007 and 2017, women represented less than one in three speaking characters. And they even accounted for a smaller share of directors and writers of the major producer’s studios.
With the continual rise of streaming and content, along with Netflix’s pledge to include more diversity, we could be seeing a wider outreach of how the industry works.