Recently Viola Davis was the first woman of color to win an Emmy for best actress in a drama. When she accepted her award, she gave an amazing acceptance speech that address the lack of roles for people of color.
Obviously having more roles for people of color is a huge issue in our media, and it’s something that needs to be addressed. Other actors of color have been speaking out just like Viola Davis did at the Emmys. Dylan Marron, whom you might know as the voice of perfect Carlos from Welcome to Night Vale, has created the YouTube series Every Single Word Spoken by a Person of Color, which reveals how few speaking roles people of color have in film.
Now, Marron is in no way claiming that there are no speaking roles for people of color. But, as Marron has shown by editing these movies by restricting them only to the parts where people of color are given speaking roles, racism plays a huge role in our media. And geek media is no exception. The entire Harry Potter series—that’s all eight movies—boils down to six minutes and eighteen seconds of people of color actually speaking in the movie.
The entire Lord of the Rings trilogy boils down to only forty seven seconds and all the speaking roles are entirely by Orcs, the villains in the series. They’re not even the main villains, who are all white, but rather the angry and violent minions.
Other movies simply break your heart by showing their movie title and then abruptly ending revealing that there are literally no people of color who are given speaking roles in the movie. Into the Woods is one such movie that simply shows the title before ending with no characters speaking.
Every Single Word Spoken by a Person of Color went viral and caused a stir within the Hollywood community. Marron was able to reveal what many people of color already know: that our media supports and endorses, even if unintentionally, racism and the erasure of people of color. Pulitzer Prize winning author Junot Diaz once said:
You know, vampires have no reflections in a mirror? There’s this idea that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. And what I’ve always thought isn’t that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. It’s that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves. And growing up, I felt like a monster in some ways. I didn’t see myself reflected at all. I was like, “Yo, is something wrong with me? That the whole society seems to think that people like me don’t exist? And part of what inspired me, was this deep desire that before I died, I would make a couple of mirrors. That I would make some mirrors so that kids like me might seem themselves reflected back and might not feel so monstrous for it.
Dylan Marron, in his videos, does not even critique how people of color are portrayed in the films—he simply reveals the lack of representation. The lack of a mirror for people of color to see themselves in these amazing movies. Marron also does not point out the issues of whitewashing characters of colors in the movies he edits, but once you realize what a huge issue this is you can’t help but critique the insidiousness of whitewashing. While it still is not ideal from a representation standpoint, imagine how much longer the Harry Potter movies would have been in this edit if Lavender Brown had not been whitewashed. Though her race was not clear in the books, Lavender’s role was originally given to Jennifer Smith, a Black actress, but was later replaced by white actress Jessie Cave for the Half Blood Prince movie when Lavender was given a larger role. Even if authors of these stories chose not to reflect the world more accurately, giving more leading roles to people of color would have resulted in more screentime for them.
Every Single Word Spoken by a Person of Color is revolutionary and has gotten a lot of people talking, but it won’t do any good if Hollywood doesn’t take this message to heart, and if we as viewers and consumers don’t show that we support films with more people of color. I already loved Dylan Marron for his performance of Carlos in Welcome to Night Vale, but I love him even more now for these amazing and important videos. Make sure to check out Every Single Word Spoken by a Person of Color on YouTube and on Tumblr.