Inclusive representation in Hollywood is vital

Viola Davis and Liam Neeson in the movie Widows
                  Photo credit: Google Images

The movie “Widows” was released to theaters on Nov. 16. The modern-day thriller, set against the backdrop of crime, passion and corruption, is stirring a lot of conversations about some of its content. Despite content that gives the film an “R” rating, it’s not the violence that everyone is talking about. It’s the romance.

Directed by Steve McQueen (“12 Years a Slave” and other films) “Widows” follows four women with nothing in common, except the debt left behind by their recently departed criminal spouses’ activities.

Oscar-winning actress Viola Davis plays the film’s lead role. It also stars popular actors like Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell, Michelle Rodriguez, Daniel Kaluuya, and Elizabeth Debicki.

The film opens with Davis and her love interest, Neeson, in bed where they share romantic sentiments and a kiss. According to, this opening scene hasn’t been done before in film. This is where the conversation begins.

During a BBC interview, Davis spoke about the “subtle” but “powerful” importance of their opening scene.

“…It’s a sexualized kiss. Here I am, I’m dark, I’m 53, I’m in my natural hair… and I’m with what America would consider to be a ‘hunk.’ He’s not my slave owner. I’m not a prostitute. It’s not trying to make any social or political statements. We’re simply a couple in love,” said Davis.

Davis’ comment sparked a conversation about an issue Hollywood has had when depicting romance. Time and again Hollywood has excluded dark-skinned black women from portraying their love in a healthy and progressive environment.

Quite often in film when there is an African American female romantic lead, there is always one of three catches in the situation. The female is either light-skinned or mixed race, or the female is loved “in spite of” her African features, or the female’s romance is not a romance at all, but a story about involving rape, pain and struggle.

This healthy depiction of love is rarely seen in Hollywood when involving a dark-skinned black woman, and even less when it is an interracial relationship.

Many women share Davis’ sentiments. Jessie Saylor, a sophomore elementary education major, believes our world needs more depictions like this.

“I like it. Their relationship, the fact that she’s dark-skinned and they’re interracial. Unfortunately, when you don’t see portrayals like this in the media, it has an effect on people. There are real-life relationships with dark-skinned women and white men. If the media never celebrates these people, it kind of sends a message that they either don’t exist or that their love isn’t as important,” said Saylor.

Davis went on to affirm that most critics wouldn’t even notice the significance of the on-screen relationship and that despite its importance, we probably won’t see anything like it next year or the year after that.

“Sometimes I feel like the biggest political statements are the simplest,” said Davis.

The film has received critical acclaim and has been hailed for “subverting and reinventing genre conventions.”

Inclusive representation in Hollywood is vital, not only for young dark-skinned black women but for the entire world. It the goal is to create art that reflects reality.