Black Americans in Hollywood are constantly sought out to play stereotypical roles in mainstream media, and this has been the case for decades. In the past, these roles have included characters such as ‘mammys,’ ‘sambos,’ ‘coons,’ ‘Uncle Tom’s’ etc. Recently these characters have transitioned into ‘black girlfriends,’ ‘the best friend,’ the funny friend,’ ‘the sassy friend,’ ‘hood rats,’ ‘the angry black women,’ and unfortunately this list continues on.
There is a dangerous cycle between the media and it’s representations of minority groups on screen, and the black community is notorious for being stereotyped. The media sets the tone for the images of our culture, and those who may have never encountered black people, will believe that the degrading stereotypes of blacks are based on reality, not fiction.
In an interview with the associated press, Zoe Kravitz acknowledges Hollywood’s strides towards developing more realistic characters within minority groups; however, based on her experiences, she is still constantly stereotyped during auditions.
“I would get auditions and it would be like ‘they want you to play the best friend.’ And it’s like ‘why can’t I audition for the lead?’ Then it’ll be like ‘ok now you’re the quirky black girl,’ or ‘now you’re a hippie. I can play all kinds of people. I don’t have to play myself.” – Zoe Kravitz
In efforts to eradicate this cycle, Kravitz has made it clear that she will refuse to accept any role offered that portrays a stereotypical image of a black women.
“It’s our responsibility to say ‘I’m not going to take the same role over and over again.’ We have the power to break the stereotypes by writing our own things and by saying no to the same thing over and over again.” – Zoe Kravitz
Kravitz has decided not only to be more conscious regarding the types of roles she chooses, but she is also planning to change the industry on her own terms. She has launched a creative collective with Hollywood filmmakers, actors, writers, and cinematographers and their goal is to meet each week to write a script that reflects the diverse world in which we live. Kravitz also understands the power of being able to have control over your own content, and she intends to write, produce, and direct her own projects.
Kravitz has starred in major motion picture films such as No Reservations, The Brave One, X-Men: First Class, Dope, and Yelling to the Sky. Last year, she starred in Mad Max: Fury Road, which was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, and can be seen on the big screen now, as she has returned to her role as Christina in The Divergent Series: Allegiant, the third movie in the franchise.
“I love the fact that there’s such an open dialogue right now about women in Hollywood and black women and black men in Hollywood and everything in between. Now it’s about us bringing the change. We started the dialogue but I don’t expect any man to write a script that speaks for me. I don’t expect any man to write a script for me. I think we need to do that. If we want to be represented properly in Hollywood, let’s represent ourselves properly in Hollywood.” – Zoe Kravitz