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Reel Inequality: Hollywood Actors and Racism

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When the 2016 Oscar acting nominations all went to whites for the second consecutive year, #OscarsSoWhite became a trending topic. Yet these enduring racial biases afflict not only the Academy Awards, but also Hollywood as a whole. Why do actors of color, despite exhibiting talent and bankability, continue to lag behind white actors in presence and prominence?   Reel Inequa When the 2016 Oscar acting nominations all went to whites for the second consecutive year, #OscarsSoWhite became a trending topic. Yet these enduring racial biases afflict not only the Academy Awards, but also Hollywood as a whole. Why do actors of color, despite exhibiting talent and bankability, continue to lag behind white actors in presence and prominence?   Reel Inequality examines the structural barriers minority actors face in Hollywood, while shedding light on how they survive in a racist industry. The book charts how white male gatekeepers dominate Hollywood, breeding a culture of ethnocentric storytelling and casting. Nancy Wang Yuen interviewed nearly a hundred working actors and drew on published interviews with celebrities, such as Viola Davis, Chris Rock, Gina Rodriguez, Oscar Isaac, Lucy Liu, and Ken Jeong, to explore how racial stereotypes categorize and constrain actors. Their stories reveal the day-to-day racism actors of color experience in talent agents’ offices, at auditions, and on sets. Yuen also exposes sexist hiring and programming practices, highlighting the structural inequalities that actors of color, particularly women, continue to face in Hollywood.    This book not only conveys the harsh realities of racial inequality in Hollywood, but also provides vital insights from actors who have succeeded on their own terms, whether by sidestepping the system or subverting it from within. Considering how their struggles impact real-world attitudes about race and diversity, Reel Inequality follows actors of color as they suffer, strive, and thrive in Hollywood. 


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When the 2016 Oscar acting nominations all went to whites for the second consecutive year, #OscarsSoWhite became a trending topic. Yet these enduring racial biases afflict not only the Academy Awards, but also Hollywood as a whole. Why do actors of color, despite exhibiting talent and bankability, continue to lag behind white actors in presence and prominence?   Reel Inequa When the 2016 Oscar acting nominations all went to whites for the second consecutive year, #OscarsSoWhite became a trending topic. Yet these enduring racial biases afflict not only the Academy Awards, but also Hollywood as a whole. Why do actors of color, despite exhibiting talent and bankability, continue to lag behind white actors in presence and prominence?   Reel Inequality examines the structural barriers minority actors face in Hollywood, while shedding light on how they survive in a racist industry. The book charts how white male gatekeepers dominate Hollywood, breeding a culture of ethnocentric storytelling and casting. Nancy Wang Yuen interviewed nearly a hundred working actors and drew on published interviews with celebrities, such as Viola Davis, Chris Rock, Gina Rodriguez, Oscar Isaac, Lucy Liu, and Ken Jeong, to explore how racial stereotypes categorize and constrain actors. Their stories reveal the day-to-day racism actors of color experience in talent agents’ offices, at auditions, and on sets. Yuen also exposes sexist hiring and programming practices, highlighting the structural inequalities that actors of color, particularly women, continue to face in Hollywood.    This book not only conveys the harsh realities of racial inequality in Hollywood, but also provides vital insights from actors who have succeeded on their own terms, whether by sidestepping the system or subverting it from within. Considering how their struggles impact real-world attitudes about race and diversity, Reel Inequality follows actors of color as they suffer, strive, and thrive in Hollywood. 

30 review for Reel Inequality: Hollywood Actors and Racism

  1. 5 out of 5

    Alexis

    Reel Inequality looks at Hollywood racism and the treatment given to actors of colour. I always knew that Hollywood was discriminatory, but Nancy Wang Yuen is able to give stats and numbers to show just how racist and prejudiced Hollywood actually is. Did you know that you're more likely to see an alien than an Asian woman in a movie? Wang Yuen discusses the double bind that actors of colour face when they have to take on stereotypical roles because there are no other roles for them. She also ta Reel Inequality looks at Hollywood racism and the treatment given to actors of colour. I always knew that Hollywood was discriminatory, but Nancy Wang Yuen is able to give stats and numbers to show just how racist and prejudiced Hollywood actually is. Did you know that you're more likely to see an alien than an Asian woman in a movie? Wang Yuen discusses the double bind that actors of colour face when they have to take on stereotypical roles because there are no other roles for them. She also talks about how playing ethnic stereotypes can be traumatizing for actors of colour, and discusses how the gatekeepers and every aspect of the movie world perpetuate whiteness. This book is based on Wang Yuen's thesis, and contains a lot of research. She interviewed numerous actors of colour, and read a lot of publications. Since she's a sociology prof, this book is a bit academic, but part of my undergraduate degree was in sociology, so I didn't really mind.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    Like the red pill in The Matrix, Reel Inequality peels back Hollywood's curtain of fantasy to reveal a complex filtration system put in place to maintain the status quo. If you've ever wondered why the racial and cultural representation in modern day film and television fails to mirror the real world--and doubly so if you haven't--this book is a must-read! Compelling firsthand accounts from industry insiders (ranging from struggling working actors all the way to A-list celebrities) illuminate the Like the red pill in The Matrix, Reel Inequality peels back Hollywood's curtain of fantasy to reveal a complex filtration system put in place to maintain the status quo. If you've ever wondered why the racial and cultural representation in modern day film and television fails to mirror the real world--and doubly so if you haven't--this book is a must-read! Compelling firsthand accounts from industry insiders (ranging from struggling working actors all the way to A-list celebrities) illuminate the extra hurdles imposed on anyone who deviates from "the norm". Likewise, meticulously researched facts and figures point to the restrictive power of gatekeepers who guard each and every level of the Hollywood machine. But the best part of this book is its hopeful message: You can be the change. The reader is presented with simple ways to find and support diverse projects, recognize what to avoid, and use social media to make a difference. And you'll want to, because after reading Reel Inequality, you'll never see film and television the same way again.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Trevor

    This book is great. I've always watched movies and tv shows and made fun of the fact that there was no diversity whatsoever, or that white people get cast as other ethnicities, while other races are restricted to playing stereotypes and caricatures. And I've always wondered how come Latinos are like 20% of Americans, but virtually invisible in the media. The answer is rampant racism and white dominance in Hollywood, and this book lays out exactly how it works, from the racist white casting agents This book is great. I've always watched movies and tv shows and made fun of the fact that there was no diversity whatsoever, or that white people get cast as other ethnicities, while other races are restricted to playing stereotypes and caricatures. And I've always wondered how come Latinos are like 20% of Americans, but virtually invisible in the media. The answer is rampant racism and white dominance in Hollywood, and this book lays out exactly how it works, from the racist white casting agents to the racist white studio executives to the racist white writers, directors, and executive producers. Now the recent reaction from the writers on The Simpsons to the Problem With Apu controversy makes sense; they aren't stupid or delusional, they're literally a writing room jam packed with racist white men with virtually no Southeast Asian associates. Anyways this book is awesome, and I wish Matt Damon, after what he said about diversity in Hollywood, would be held at gunpoint and forced to read it.

  4. 4 out of 5

    David

    I devoured this book. Nancy Yuen manages to express so many of the frustrations I've felt over Hollywood and misrepresentation for years. But she does so eloquently and in a crystal clear way.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Hazel

    I had the pleasure of reading an early copy. Reel Inequality takes a popular topic, provides sociological analysis and makes it accessible to the average reader. I highly recommend it!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kandace

    An accessible text on the perils of a hollywood built on white supremacy. A must read for those engaging in media and race.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Casey

    Through research and original interviews, Nancy Wang Yuen covers a plurality of problems within Hollywood. Not only are diverse roles lacking within film and television, but agents can keep their clients away from roles, writers and directors can unveil their inherent prejudices, and stereotypical roles can reinforce negative perceptions of minorities. I appreciate that this book focuses on the actors who must navigate these barriers and the compromises they may or may not make in order to make Through research and original interviews, Nancy Wang Yuen covers a plurality of problems within Hollywood. Not only are diverse roles lacking within film and television, but agents can keep their clients away from roles, writers and directors can unveil their inherent prejudices, and stereotypical roles can reinforce negative perceptions of minorities. I appreciate that this book focuses on the actors who must navigate these barriers and the compromises they may or may not make in order to make a living in a field they love. However, this isn't a book to just point out the staggering flaws within the media. Yuen notes advances (or perceived advances, in some cases) within the industry and also presents actionable suggestions for industry folks and audiences to encourage diversity. Being informed is the first step, and I know I will be a more mindful viewer of diverse entertainment because of this book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Bina

    Very interesting. One thing- Gurinder Chadha directed Bend it Like Beckham, not Mira Nair.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Yuen

    As the first in my family to earn a doctorate and to write a book, I am indebted to the 100+ actors' voices who sustained me through sixteen years of research and writing. I hope these voices can inform the world about racism in Hollywood, and inspire us to work toward a just society. Peace, Nancy

  10. 4 out of 5

    Chris

  11. 5 out of 5

    JesseJedi

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jane

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kelsey

  14. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lsmedley

  16. 4 out of 5

    Karen Clyne

  17. 5 out of 5

    Carrie

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Campbell

  19. 4 out of 5

    AC

  20. 4 out of 5

    Abhishek Jprakash

  21. 5 out of 5

    Robert Lee

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kuljinder Singh

  23. 4 out of 5

    Angela Rodriguez

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jasmine

  25. 5 out of 5

    Gerard

  26. 5 out of 5

    tiff

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen Currie Smith

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jade

  29. 4 out of 5

    J

  30. 5 out of 5

    Evelien

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