Something amazing is happening, and it only took until 2014! (Is the sarcasm on that last part translating here?) In November of this year, DreamWorks Animation Studios will release Home, the first 3D animated film with a black female heroine.
The only thing that makes this news even better? Pop star Rihanna is playing the heroine, Tip. She is also creating a concept album of original songs, which she will perform in the film.
The plot for Home, based on Adam Rex’s book, The True Meaning of Smekday, is described on BuzzFeed:
The intergalactic adventure revolves around an overly optimistic (yet inept) alien race called the Boov, who invade Earth in an attempt to escape their mortal enemy, hoping to make this hiding spot their new home. But one resourceful girl named Tip (Rihanna) escapes the Boov’s relocation efforts and teams up with a banished Boov named Oh (Jim Parsons) to save the race after he accidentally clues the bad guys into the Boov’s whereabouts.
Not one major Hollywood studio has released a 3D animated feature starring a black character, according to an article about the film in PolicyMic.
Disney’s The Princess and the Frog was a 2D film and, although I loved the movie, I always thought it was strange that the first black Disney princess spent the majority of her screen time in the body of a frog.
In 2013, a study about race and ethnicity in 500 top-grossing movies between 2007-2012 was released by the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. It was titled “Race/Ethnicity in 500 Popular Films: Is the Key to Diversifying Cinematic Content held in the Hand of the Black Director?”
The study related important findings about black representation, such as the information in the figure below:
According to the Los Angeles Times, USC’s researchers also found that when a black director directs a picture, 52.6% of speaking characters are black. Under a non-black director, 9.9% of speaking characters are black.
Representation is essential, in front of the camera and behind it. If you aren’t interested in watching an animated movie about aliens, consider buying a ticket anyway as a donation – to support films that prominently feature black protagonists (you can do this for other movies, too, and doing it on opening weekend is especially important).
Rihanna, take us Home.
Allie Semperger studied English at Kalamazoo College and screenwriting at UCLA. After studying abroad in London and traveling around Europe, she became a travel lover for life, and is always making plans for her next adventure. She recommends Marina and the Diamonds. She created the feminist Tumblr blog, Women’s Issues Are Society’s Issues, and aspires to make the world a better place for women and girls.