2015, Star Wars: The Force Awakens hit theaters, awakening a fandom that had been asleep for nearly ten years, the fans slipping into the shadows waiting for a reason to emerge from the woodwork. The release of The Force Awakens introduced us to a variety of characters that even the oldest of fans fell in love with. Yet, a faint cloud of ambiguity surrounded these new characters, mainly due to the extreme air of diversity that was introduced that many were not used to seeing in the previous six films.
The Force Awakens introduces us first to the Latino rebel fighter pilot, Poe Dameron, whose quick thinking, and witty remarks can inspire even the youngest of Latino and Hispanic boys that even they can destroy the empire.
The series also introduces us to stormtrooper FN-2187, better known as Finn, after he meets Poe Dameron. Finn began as a stormtrooper who later abandoned his post and fled with Poe Dameron after he was kidnapped by the Empire. Finn is African and is a model of courage and strength to young African boys nationwide who laid eyes upon Finn on the big screen. An exciting moment for fathers bringing their sons who haven't seen a black man wield a lightsaber since Mace Windu who was played by Samuel L. Jackson.
Aside from introducing two, prominent characters, who are also people of color, the series also adds one of the strongest female leads since Leia Organa and Padme Amidala. Rey, possible Jedi, who was abandoned as a young girl on the planet of Jakku. She is thrown into the rebellion when Finn finds her thanks to her stumbling across Poe's droid BB-8 in the dry deserts of her planet. Throughout the movie, she is shown as extremely independent, and strong-willed as she fights against the Empire, even managing to keep out a powerful, yet wanna-be sith lord Kylo Ren out of her head.
Now, this is not strictly about diversity in the Star Wars franchise, yet, The Force Awakens certainly got the ball rolling. Movies with strong female leads and rolls that have been filled with people of color have revolutionized the film industry, the most recent would be the film, Black Panther.
Black Panther was released this year and began a social media storm among the black community, the hashtag #wakandaforever becoming extremely popular. When one goes through and explores the popular hashtag, they can witness an explosion of black pride and expression through hairstyles, makeup, and art.
Black Panther is one of the few movies that shows a prominent lead role that is played by a black actor/actress that had stepped away from the usual slave narrative found in many movies. Black Panther has a predominantly black cast and introduced the real-life struggles that the black community faces in modern day life. Black Panther left a very significant footprint, not only by having a predominantly black cast but also showing the strength and power of black women, opening the superhero market to young Black girls similar to how Wonder Woman opened the superhero to all young girls as well.
Many people may question, why is diversity in film important? Diversity in the film industry is highly important due to the positive impact that it has on the younger generations of minority children, as well as young girls who are told that they aren't good enough to fulfill their dreams. Diversity is also important because it can increase the confidence in even adults and the older generation who never had the true representation in the film industry that they deserved as children. Increasing the diversity in the film industry, by supplying more independent women, LGBT characters, people of color in primary roles along with the proper representation of mental illnesses in the film industry can help increase acceptance and reduce the stigma surrounding many tough topics.
There are plenty of films hitting the big screen that have powerful representation which aids in increasing the confidence among minority groups that deserve the representation that they have been seeking their whole lives.