Posted by Simi Kaur
It came to my attention that after watching Black Panther and Infinity War, that representation was needed for us Indians. When will it be our turn? Representation is only the beginning of the issues that are reflected in wider society.
With women claiming more superhero roles, on the cusp of finally bagging the Captain Marvel movie, which is out next year, and Black Widow in the works, it dawned upon me that we are in desperate need of a female Indian superhero. As a British Indian myself, millions of the Indian diaspora – British Asians, Indian Americans, Indian Canadians and Indian Australians – have been waiting for this moment their entire lives.
Ever since I began having wild aspirations and adventures in my childhood back garden in England, I have dreamed of the day that I will finally look up to someone who is both Indian and a superhero. I think of all those ostracised kids that have been deprived of everything that the average white person has, just because of their ethnicity. This is old news. Albeit, representation for the Indian community is not. Tackling tokenism and ethnic representation for the Indian community is a concept that needs to be revised, because it appears as though we are being phased out.
I have dreamed of the day that I will finally look up to someone who is both Indian and a superhero.
We are not a stereotype. Even in the recent Deadpool 2, the only Indian character in the film, Dopinder, lives up to a stereotype. He sports a typical thick Indian accent, is the cliche taxi driver, has no abilities and appears weak. Though this is a satire, the point is proven. How are we still miles away from an Indian superhero movie happening?
When we look at the breakthrough of such successful diverse films like Black Panther, it brings about issues we should be discussing, such as intersectionality. When we look at the statistics of female-led movies, having a minority ethnic lead is very rare. The statistics are low even when taking into account minority ethnic actors in any role. The Guardian issued an article which highlighted the exclusion of LGBT, ethnic minorities and women.
“Analysing the top 100 movies of 2016, the report found that only 31.4% of speaking characters were women, while non-white groups accounted for 29.1%. Of these, 13.6% were black and 5.7% were Asian. Hispanic people (3.1%) were particularly underrepresented with more than half of the 2016 films studied featuring no speaking characters who were Hispanic.” Even with recent progression, there is not enough inclusion.
Diversity in films shouldn’t just be people of colour taking on roles written with white characters in mind.
This exclusion of minorities starts right from school education. Intercultural and multicultural education is something everyone should be aware of. Growing up in Britain, I was only taught about Christianity and White British history, as opposed to other students in Europe who would learn about India’s partition or China’s history. I am calling for all schools to include diverse histories in their curriculum. It is vital to display the stories of Indians in our textbooks, our histories and our heritage. However, the entertainment industry too has the large responsibility of educating their audience, most of whom are children or teenagers, who need to be introduced, or at least accustomed to equality and diversity.
With the recent breakthrough of Indian actors from Bollywood being acclaimed and praised in Hollywood, such as Priyanka Chopra and Deepika Padukone, I call for an empowering Indian female-led superhero film. The only way we will overcome this ethnic gap, is if we include more racial diversity.
After looking into the data of Black Panther, which was one of the most successful grossing films of all time, directors and producers at Marvel ought to be encouraged to produce more diverse films. Its success proves that superhero films with racially diverse leads work. Higher ratings and higher grossing films of diverse films is due to the diversity of audiences – there are many like me who make up that audience. Unfortunately, it seems as though there are still people who do not want or encourage BAME movies, due to racism and xenophobia.
Diversity in films shouldn’t be tokenistic. They shouldn’t just be people of colour taking on roles written with white characters in mind. We need roles written specifically for ethnic minorities. Kristen J. Warner calls this ‘plastic representation‘. “It is an important reminder that colourblind casting (the practice of writing characters without including race in the description), while certainly beneficial to people of colour in terms of gaining employment, ultimately produces normatively white characters who happen to be of colour. Again, there is a danger of valuing quantity more than dimension, a dynamic that epitomizes the artificiality of plastic representation,” she writes. This is what Jay Z explores in his Moonlight video, with the Friends pastiche.
I would like to finish with the idea that somewhere out there, we would be putting a smile on millions of children’s faces, globally, if this Indian superhero movie was made. Representation can make the difference between a good and bad day for a child, and for us adults as well. Imagine sitting in front of the cinema screen, watching a movie for the first time ever, when someone like us is on screen, a lead, a woman, and kicking-ass.
Featured Image Source: Medium