I came up with what I thought was a clever idea the other day.
Since my husband and I are about to celebrate our wedding anniversary, I decided to write about some of my favorite romantic moments from movies. I began scribbling away, and within a few minutes I had a list of almost 20 scenes. Among them were Aidan Quinn watching Rosanna Arquette’s dopey magic act in Desperately Seeking Susan, Julian Sands striding towards Helena Bonham Carter across a field of barley in A Room with a View, and Rebecca Pidgeon and Jeremy Northam sparring their way through The Winslow Boy.I thought this list would make me happy, but as it grew, so did my unease. With just three exceptions, all of the films I thought of feature characters who are white and heterosexual, a fact that brought home to me the sad truth that huge numbers of people (whether that means you, your neighbor, your doctor, your co-worker or your partner) aren’t represented on our movie screens.
Which brings me to another question: Why is it that publishers of the printed word seem to have more faith in the idea that diversity can sell than the mainstream film industry does? The people who produce books understand that someone like me (white, female, married to a man) might pay money to read about the adventures of Armistead Maupin’s Michael Tolliver or the rise of Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court.
At a recent writing conference, my son, a filmmaker/film critic, was told that any script featuring gay characters would be “a hard sell.” Why is that? How do we know for sure when we’ve had such limited access to such films? Couldn’t mainstream movies bring a greater variety of characters to life and move us all in some way? Americans were enthralled by Chiwetel Ejiofar's performance in 12 Years a Slave but what about seeing more characters like Don Cheadle’s depiction of a dentist/dad in Reign Over Me?
What about the connection we naturally feel for our fellow human beings? Isn’t it possible that it could flourish in a darkened movie theater?