Hey Hollywood:

Diversity doesn’t just apply to supporting characters

Emily Greenzang

It’s impossible to deny that minority representation in teen romance movies has improved but it’s still imperative to realize that progress must be made. While a few movies stand out in this category as positive examples of representation, others fall short.

Arguably the most popular teen romance within the past years is the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before franchise. The series features a Korean-American protagonist and in the sequel, a mixed race love interest. In the original books, the love interest was actually written as a white character. However, the decision was made to change this in the movie by casting Jordan Fisher, an actor of a mixed race.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before also stands out in this genre because the diversity in this movie is centered around the main character. But, many teen movies make unimportant side characters of other sexualities and races, rather than highlighting cultures through experiences of the main character; this is even true in movies with good diversity representation outside of race.

Love, Simon came out in 2018 and details the story of a closeted gay teen. While the movie was incredible in raising awareness of acceptance and inclusivity regarding homosexuality and made a lot of people feel represented it must be noted that the main character is white.

While there are other characters of different races, none rival the amount of screentime that Simon (Nick Robinson) receives. It may seem that the main character being white isn’t a huge deal because the movie still provides representation for a minority group. However, the problem lies in the fact that even in movies with accurate representation of one minority group, the protagonist is still white in nearly every teen romance that has come out in the past few years.

The 2019 release Five Feet Apart highlights a hospitalized couple living with cystic fibrosis and has been highly praised for its accurate depiction of the illness. Howerver, the only notable character of a different ethnicity and sexuality is a secondary character.

Because filmmakers aren’t willing to feature characters of other ethnicities as protagonists, many teen romances struggle with balancing diversity with quality. They focus on cramming in diversity to combat the fact that the main characters are white. The 2019 holiday film Let It Snow features a diverse cast and follows three separate romance stories that unite in the end. Each couple, two interacial, one gay and one straight and white, posess equal amounts of screen time, which is a step in the right direction. However, trying to fit in all three of these stories and provide commentary on the struggles of minorities was cumbersome. One in-depth story about a nonwhite couple would have sufficed.  Instead, the storyline felt muddled and incomplete as they seemed as if they were trying too hard.

Why wasn’t the movie about one couple enough? Perhaps a straight white couple would not have been featured, supporting the idea that the creators of teen romance movies are unwilling to feature nonwhite main characters exclusively.

Hollywood, it’s about time to address that you are unwilling to cast nonwhite main characters. And, more importantly, it’s time for this to change.