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Representation matters

If the growing sense of political dissonance in the United States and the increasing intolerance of behavior historically swept under the rug are any indication of what is to come this year in film, 2018 will be characterized by the telling of stories largely untold on the big screen.

Many of this year’s most anticipated movies actually appeal to audiences often ignored by Hollywood. As people continue to speak out against injustice and inequality, the entertainment industry slowly but surely follows – music and television have led the way for the past few years, and it is about time movies uplift marginalized peoples.

The first step in producing progressive motion pictures is humanizing people of color through accurate depictions of universal stories. For example, Asian-Americans have historically been both underrepresented and misrepresented in film, their characters often played by white actors and portrayed as one-dimensional stereotypes.

Crazy Rich Asians (August 2018), starring Fresh Off the Boat’s Constance Wu, who was recently featured in Jay-Z’s “Family Feud” music video, promises to add depth to the Chinese-American experience specifically.

12 Years a Slave (2013) director Steve McQueen sets his star-studded film, Widows, in contemporary Chicago, a city often misrepresented. Slated to release on November 16, Viola Davis, Get Out’s Daniel Kaluuya, and Liam Neeson help bring this empowering movie to life.

Two other films this year will illuminate African-American history: If Beale Street Could Talk and Black Klansmen. The former is Barry Jenkins’ film adaptation of James Baldwin’s fifth novel, a 1970s Harlem love story. Famed director Spike Lee and Get Out producer Jordan Peele team up for the latter, a film based on Officer Ron Stallworth’s 2014 book of the same name in which Stallworth discusses his experience infiltrating the KKK and becoming the head of its local chapter. These four films alone peel back layers layers of life, history, and reality for often forgotten groups.

Many movies in 2018 seek to disturb the balance of power and challenge our very perception of authority. In the wake of the most memorable Golden Globes to date, women will appear in positions of power across the big screen. From Taraji P. Henson’s action packed Proud Mary to Gabrielle Union’s Breaking In, a depiction of determination, movies with female leads seek to shift the culture.

Sandra Bullock is set to star in a role-reversed Ocean’s Eleven reboot called Ocean’s 8, in which four women attempt to pull of the heist of the century. Another updated classic will release this March – Ava DuVernay directed Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time – featuring a diverse cast of women including Oprah, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. In 2018, women star in action movies and have power. Power, used properly, can create heroes, a term that will surely be redefined this year as well.

Lastly, this is the year of real heroes; individuals reflective of society will save the world. But first, new voices must be heard – including that of the outcast whose story is always told to him.

For the first time, a Marvel movie will follow the villain in Venom, which releases October 5 and whose plot is currently unknown. The long awaited Incredibles 2 will come out on June 15 and will feature Elastigirl saving the day while Bob Parr (Mr. Incredible) stays at home with the kids.

Both films point to progress being made in the movie-making industry, but perhaps the biggest film of the year is Marvel’s Black Panther. Set to release on February 16, presale tickets to the first movie centered around the first black superhero in mainstream American comic books sold out within minutes at some locations. This movie is more than an action movie or a superhero movie.

This generation has yet to see anything like this; many black children, parents, grandparents will watch this movie and feel for the first time that a film was made with them in mind. They will hear Kendrick Lamar rapping in the background as they look at the large white screen and see themselves – top-billed African and African-American actors and actresses saving the world.

In 2018, representation does not just matter, it exists.

About The MoCo Student

In 2012, Student Member of the Board of Education John Mannes created a countywide press network to help build a conduit to share fresh and relevant information written by youth to the wider Montgomery County student body.

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