2015 has been an incredible year for multicultural entertainment. From large commercial success of ethnic stories, to minorities lead actors in major blockbusters, it seems that Hollywood and mainstream networks have finally woken up to realize the reality of demographics in America, and its potential on a financial standpoint. One of the best representation of this reality happened at the last Golden Globes awards. Latinos artists not only garnered significant wins but also took the opportunity to speak up about diversity issues, and it was delightful 🙌.
THE ABC NETWORK MADE HISTORY BY RELEASING TWO ASIAN-CENTRIC SITCOMS IN THE SAME CALENDAR YEAR
In terms of diversity, the ABC network has long been a pioneer. It was already them that introduced Sofia Vergara to mainstream America with award-winning show Modern Family, with the success that we know today. After the debut of Blackish in the last quarter of 2014, the network pursued its diversity efforts by tackling on the Asian market. The TV giant made history by releasing two Asian-centric sitcoms in the same calendar year:
- “Fresh off the Boat”, based on chef Eddie Huang’s best-selling memoir of the same name, takes a humorous look at the lives of immigrants in America.
- “Dr. Ken” written, and co-executive produced by its lead actor, Ken Jeong, who based the concept on his experience as a doctor prior to becoming a stand-up comedian.
Fresh off the Boat was the first network primetime show to feature an Asian-American family in 20 years. “Today, We’ve arrived,”said chef Eddie Huang just minutes before the premiere of the show. And the show is resonating well. Not only with the Asian community but also with America overall. In an interview for a Nielsen report focused on the Asian American market Melvin Mar, executive producer of Fresh off the Boat said: “[our goal] was not to make a show just for asian-american audiences. you have to make a show that everyone – all ethnicities – all cultures would want to watch.”
This success demonstrates that people want new stories. Stories that acknowledge communities: when watching television, they no longer want to see themselves as individuals but themselves as a society. They want stories that are reflective of the world they live in today.“The audience has also changed in 20 years and people want what they see on the screen to reflect the diversity of the world around them,” says Margareth Cho while comparing today’s context regarding diversity with when she was starring in “All American Girl.”
Ethnic shows are not only appealing to the cultures that are portrayed. Haven’t you heard? Multicultural is the New Black in entertainment, and it’s here to stay. Why? Because diversity is not only an ethical must: it also sells extremely well.
THE EMPIRE “TAKEOVER”
Let’s take a moment to acknowledge the amazing success of “Empire”. Who would have thought just five years ago that a show taking place in the Hip Hop world would see light on prime-time television? Not on cable, on regular TV and on Fox out of all networks? Aside from the existence of the show, let’s just to put into context how successful Empire is. Consider the price of advertising during Empire: a 30-second ad placement for Empire goes for $750,000 a pop. The first season finale averaged 23.1 million total viewers and an astounding 9.3 rating among adults ages 18 to 49, making it the highest-rated freshman finale since Grey’s Anatomy in 2005 according to Adweek. Also according to Media Life Magazine, Fox’s “Empire” is the most-DVRed show on broadcast at midseason (through Dec. 27) among viewers 18-49. To make the success of the show full circle Taraji P. Henson just accepted the award for Best Actress in a TV Series, Drama at the 73rd Annual Golden Globe Awards for her already iconic interpretation of Cookie Lyon.
After being considered a marginalized art form, rap music has really become mainstream and has extended to the masses. And what better way to illustrate this shift than the “Straight Outta Compton” sensation. The movie based on the story of iconic yet controversial rap group N.W.A shows how not ready mainstream America was to “welcome” a bravado fueled black youth singing “Fuck The Police.” “Our Art is a reflection of our reality,” says Ice Cube in the movie in response of critics accusing the group of glorifying the Thug Life. 20 something years later, after being threatened by the FBI and being considered as a public enemy by the US government now, N.W.A’s resurrection through “Straight Outta Compton” is a mainstream success that has totaled a gross revenue of over $200 million with an initial production budget of $38 million. Breathtaking.
‘CREED’ THE VICTORY OF THE UNDERDOG
Diversity within itself is attractive as it mirrors the reality of the US demographic. One of the best examples of the power of diversity in entertainment is the success of “Creed,” the latest sequel of Rocky. “Creed” stars Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Creed, the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed and features an aging, and lonely Rocky Balboa in a supporting role. Film director Ryan Coogler successfully managed to fuse both actors’ – 2 generations apart – talent and power to revive a legendary franchise that was presumably over. The New York Times penned “Michael B. Jordan Gives Millennials Their ‘Rocky’ With ‘Creed’” and this sums it up perfectly. “Creed” reaches a younger, more diverse audience and allows Rocky Balboa’s legacy to carry on. To date, the movie has totalized over $105 million in revenue with a production budget of $35 million. Sylvester Stallone has also collected the fruit of the genius of Ryan Coogler by winning a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture and a standing ovation.
From all the success this was probably the most unexpected and maybe the most powerful. It shows that a mix of generations and a mix of ethnicities can really take a legendary story to another level.