Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism. Become a Member »

Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism.

(screenshot via YouTube)

What happens if you edit a major feature film so it includes only dialogue by people of color? The result will likely be a clip lasting less than one minute, a new blog suggests. Every Single Word Spoken, created by Venezuelan-born performer Dylan Marron, currently features about a dozen videos of clips culled from blockbusters in which every non-white character in the movie speaks — and so far, they reveal that minorities barely have a voice at all on the silver screen.

Each clip begins and concludes like an actual movie, with an opening title scene and end credits that identify the actors. But the credits have been whittled down to only include people of color, which makes them too short to even roll. That brevity makes the message clearer, if not more painfully embarrassing. In 2013’s American Hustle, which garnered 10 Academy Award nominations and received three Golden Globe awards, the lines delivered by people of color amount to just 53 seconds of screen time. Reduced to 24 seconds, Black Swan — nominated for five Academy Awards — features only one person of color, Michelle Rodriguez Nouel, as a physical therapist. Moonrise Kingdom by Wes Anderson (who previously cast minorities as key figures in The Royal Tenenbaums) runs for just 10 seconds and also features just one person of color.

And then there’s Noah:

In an interview with Dazed about the project, Marron describes seeing “very few reflections” of himself on screen when he was a young, aspiring actor. He even recalls people in the film and television industries telling him he would “never play the romantic male lead.” As he notes, people of color are not just underrepresented in these narratives but when present, they often do not play significant characters or remain nameless. His videos on the site demonstrate this problem with the credits, which list the actors’ actual titles; viewing them one after another highlights the pattern of casting minorities in “peripheral roles,” as Marron puts it. The credits in Noah Baumbach’s quirky Frances Ha feature “Home Friend,” “Computer Guy,” “Security Guard,” and “Theater Manager” in Marron’s remix. Spike Jonze’s award-winning Her stars “Letter Writer #2,” “Pizza Vendor,” “Uncomfortable Waitress,” and just one name — “Tatiana.”

Marron told Dazed that in his experience, it appears that people of color are present in movies and shows only when race is central to their narratives. He cites the film adaptation of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars as a prime example: the producers chose to cast white actors as the protagonists even though Green never states the race of his characters. Marron’s own take on the movie lasts 41 seconds. He plans to keep making the videos “as long as this continues to be an issue.

“People of color live stories too,” he said. “It’s time we start telling them.”

The Latest

Opportunities in December 2021

From commissions to residencies and fellowships for artists, curators, and teachers, a list of opportunities that artists, writers, and art workers can apply for each month.

Claire Voon

Claire Voon is a former staff writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from Singapore, she grew up near Washington, D.C. and is now based in Chicago. Her work has also appeared in New York Magazine, VICE,...

2 replies on “What’s Left of Mainstream Movies If Only People of Color Speak”

Comments are closed.