Why the lack of diversity in How To Be Single matters

by | February 15, 2016
filed under Pop Culture

howtobesingle

This Galentine’s Day, I went with one of my besties to see the new major motion picture How to Be Single, a romantic comedy about – you guessed it – being single. Set in New York City, and starring such lovely actresses as Rebel Wilson, Alison Brie, Leslie Mann and Dakota Johnson, the film was basically a charm offensive.

Overall, I found the movie quite delightful. It even has an empowering final message about the importance of knowing and caring for oneself. It is not at all condescending or pitying to unattached women. In a world where a romantic comedy is rarely complete if its heroine doesn’t walk down the aisle, it’s a relief to see a film that showcases other possibilities for happy endings.

How To be Single is also the only film starring Rebel Wilson I have ever seen where not a single fat joke is made about the hilarious actress. Yet, the movie has one glaring problem: all four single women whose stories it follows are white, straight, and cisgender.

Anyone who has ever been single in a diverse metropolis like New York knows the single scene is full of people of all backgrounds. Obviously, no film can showcase every possible ethnocultural background, gender identity and sexual orientation in the world, but when a film is already working with an ensemble cast of four leading ladies, would it really be that hard to make even one of them a person of colour? Would it really be a challenge to make one of our heroines gay or transgender?

It’s 2016. Ruby Rose is a genderqueer sex symbol and Laverne Cox is a household name. Hannah Montana grew up to self-identify as pansexual, and actresses like Ellen Page and Cara Delevigne are out and proud. I want to tell the producers of How to Be Single that in a world where even Rowan Blanchard, a 14 year-old Disney Channel star, publicly self-identifies as queer on social media, surely a raunchy comedy for adult women should be able to showcase a little more diversity!

In the end, I did find How To Be Single an empowering film-going experience. However, as a white, able-bodied straight woman I had the privilege of seeing my life and my experiences reflected in it. It was a pleasure to see images of my old single life reflected back to me on screen. During that hour and a half in the cinema, I had the thrill of not feeling invisible. More people deserve that life-affirming comfort of seeing people like themselves on a giant screen at their local Cineplexes. This is not a joy that should not be reserved exclusively for white women who date only men.

Hollywood, I’m demanding you do better because, in the end, I know you can do better. In an industry where movies that cost over $200,000,000 to make get greenlit all the time, I’m confident you can make an ensemble romantic comedy that includes a more diverse collection of experiences.


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