I will make this as short and sweet as I can. Which, of course, means it will be protracted and sour. Lookit, I’m already going on and it’s just the first paragraph. I’m a monster.
Moving on – my pledge. This is something I take very seriously, and hope that many of you will agree to join me:
In my next spec script, my lead female character will be a woman of color.
That’s it, black and white. Or, to be cute, not nearly that binary 😉
Why am I promising this, you ask? Well thanks for querying, because I was going to tell you anyway! The reasoning is at least sixfold, and probably more, but in the interest of previously alluded-to brevity:
1) Because most characters written for the screen can be played by anyone of any color, with some obvious exceptions. But unless I’m writing a biopic or a true event in which the ethnicity of the characters is paramount to the story, those exceptions vanish. And my next spec script will require no such specificity.
2) Because, the more I do this, the more actors of color will flood the forefront of the reader’s brain. One might ask, “Well, if the ethnicity of the character doesn’t matter, why can’t she be white?” She totally can. I’m making the conscious decision not to write her that way. Why? BECAUSE it doesn’t matter, and because white actors have the lion’s share of opportunities as it is. And even if the best actor for the job ends up being Caucasian, I will have made people think about a non-Caucasian actor for the part, and if enough people read scripts like mine because enough writers write them, we’ll start to change the way of thinking when it comes to casting and marketing on a cellular level. And eventually, if enough writers make this choice consciously, they will begin to make it SUBconsciously, and someday down the road talented actors won’t lose out on parts because of their inescapable heritage.
3) Because women of color, on a pound-for-pound talent level, have not even remotely ascended to their deserved proportions in the entertainment industry. And this is the only facet of said industry I currently have any direct control over. So I’m going to exercise it.
4) Because I relish the chance to be diplomatically combative when someone asks me, “Is there a reason this character is (nonwhite ethnicity here)?”
“Nope. Is there any good reason she can’t be?”
5) Because I should. Because it will help, even if infinitesimally and incrementally at first. Because, if not the “right” thing to do, it’s leaning in that direction.
6) Because I fucking can.
See? It really is simple. And if you’re a writer – pro or aspiring, it doesn’t matter – I ask that you take up this pledge with me, however symbolic it ends up being. It’s not a big ask. Shit, it’s not even an effort. It’s a choice. And it’s one we can all be making to get the boulder off of Sisyphus’s back and finally rolling downhill.
It’s not charity. It’s not pity. It’s the basic human act of holding the door open for someone who has their arms full.
Hold the door open.