Entertainment | February 4th, 2024

The Hollywood Doors, Will They Open?

By: Cordell Jones | Staff Writer
The Hollywood Doors, Will They Open?

Taraji P Henson is one of the prominent cast members of the musical “The Color Purple” Throughout the press tour, she consistently harps on the film’s production and how, as a tenured actress, she still has to advocate for things other actors have access to right from the beginning of production. Beyond the pay inequality, the standard being set is something Taraji and other actors and actresses like her have pushed hard to improve. “What am I doing if I can’t fight for them coming up behind me?” Taraji said in a SiriusXM interview with Gayle King

This issue is not only due to the different forces of systemic racial bias that exist within the film industry but also due to the underappreciation of Black performances in film. Films that get similar critical acclaim to their white counterparts rarely get the same award notoriety or even the same backing from studios big and small. Movies released in 2023, like Rye Lane, A Thousand and One, They Cloned Tyrone, and more, have received large fan and even higher critical reception. However, as the awards season is high gear, these films haven’t made a splash at more notable presentations. Teyana Taylor is racking up the most notoriety of these lesser-recognized releases for her work in A Thousand and One.

Even accomplishments within the larger box office rants get undermined by critique, those which are never seen for movies that have similar receptions. A prime example of this would be Nia DaCosta and her direction with “The Marvels.” Released in November 2023, Nia DaCosta became the first Black woman to direct a Marvel film. The film debuted with mixed reception and underperformed at the box office, only making $85 million back off a $300 million budget.

Others could blame the rollout, superhero movie fatigue, or other reception factors. The public (as well as Disney themselves) consistently threw Nia DaCosta in as a reason for the film’s demise. However, in other films in the past where the film would tank at the box office and critical reception, the film’s director wasn’t roped into the reasoning for its failure. 

With more time passing and more nominations coming out for films released in the past year, not only is the bias shown when it comes to acclaimed performances but also acclaimed films. Even with how far roles and positions within the industry have gone to be more inclusive and provide more moments for the community, they still aren’t being shown that same respect when it comes time to reward accomplishments. 

Another prime example is Quinta Brunson’s historic Emmy win at the 2024 Emmy Awards. Quinta Brunson won Best Actress in a Comedy at the awards show, marking the second win by a black woman in the category in over 40 years (the previous winner being Isabel Sanford in 1981 for her work on The Jeffersons as featured on the Television Academy website). While this is still a heroic feat, actresses like Issa Rae, Phylicia Rashard, Tracee Ellis Ross, and many more were nominated in the category for their work and still never got their rightful recognition or award from the Television Academy. 

Beyond award woes, commercial reception, and acclaim from prestigious academies, those newly entering and even looking for a place within these various industries just want to be shown that there is a place for them to exist and flourish in ways that those before them couldn’t. Working against an already jaded system, actors, filmmakers, and everyone who helps to make a production happen just wants to be able to be appreciated as well as rewarded in the same way their non-BIPOC counterparts are.

With the restructuring brought on by the SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes of the past year, there is still new ground to be broken in building this concept. Still, more needs to be done so that someone can open these doors further so people won’t have to break it down the same way those before did.