Inclusivity in films is something to embrace, not shy away from
This past week, I made the rare and coveted pilgrimage to leave campus and make a beeline for the closest movie theater to see “Beauty and the Beast” — one of the rare films that could capture my $12. The same idea must’ve been on a couple million other peoples’ minds as well, as the film is sitting comfortably as the highest grossing film of 2017 so far. And sitting right behind “Beauty and the Beast” at the box office? “Power Rangers.”
While both of these titles evoke nostalgia for the millennial generation thanks to their source material, it’s actually not their ode to the ‘90s that’s been making headlines. LeFou, right hand man to baddie Gaston in “Beauty and the Beast,” and Trini, the Yellow Ranger in “Power Rangers,” have both been labeled as gay by their respective filmmakers.
A drive-in theater in Alabama refused to show “Beauty and the Beast,” Malaysia and Russia’s film rating and censor boards toiled over either banning or editing “Power Rangers” and you know there’s probably some angry cisgender white man out there somewhere who still thinks “La La Land” actually won Best Picture over “Moonlight” and that it’s all just a huge conspiracy.
Fortunately, the haters can’t stop Hollywood from doing its thing and despite the ultra-conservative backlash, both titles currently out are enjoying a lot of critical and commercial success. Unlike “Moonlight,” whose theme was actually centered on the black and gay struggle, “Beauty and the Beast” and “Power Rangers” both simply incorporate gay characters into their stories. In addition, both films feature a racially diverse cast, and the same can’t be said for their source material.
However subtle or minor that inclusion may be, it’s the fact that they’re included at all that’s worth noting. A University of Southern California report found that of the top 100 films of 2015, 82 did not depict a single LGBTQ speaking or named character. That’s why even the subtle mentions are important victories for inclusion and diversity in the film world. If more popular films, such as the huge tentpole Disney releases and summer blockbusters, include LGBTQ characters, wider audiences will see these films and become accepting of the notion.
Major studios, which are always eager to please the masses for a dollar, have been cautious in the past to diversify for fear of not appealing to wide audiences. With “Moonlight” blazing a path for braver, more inclusive films to be released, and the commercial successes of “Beauty and the Beast” and “Power Rangers,” studios can now take that leap of faith confidently. Inclusivity appeals to the widest audience possible — those with both open minds and wallets — and the latter is something Hollywood can’t turn away from.
Lilly Stuecklen is a junior television, radio and film major. Her column appears weekly in Pulp. She can be reached on Twitter @Stuecks or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published on March 29, 2017 at 10:29 pm