If you’re a fan of the popular podcast “Welcome To Night Vale,” you’ve met Carlos. Dylan Marron voices the character “Carlos”, a scientist who arrives in Night Vale to study the odd phenomena occurring in the town (the story is inspired by H.P. Lovecraft lore). Night Vale’s radio host, Cecil Palmer, is instantly smitten and the two eventually begin a relationship.
Where else would you get this kind of story? Not in Hollywood. The show is weird, wild, and wonderful, with plenty of room for people of all color, orientation and gender. It’s a breath of fresh air, a new world to explore where anything can happen, and it usually does.
This independent podcast has quickly become one of my favorite stories, and I was delighted to find that Dylan Marron is on YouTube as well. Not only does he do voicework, take part in theatrical productions (whether he’s writing or acting), and host his own YouTube channel, he has now begun a new project, Every Single Word (on Tumblr and YouTube) where he highlights the lack of people of color in major Hollywood films.
This artistic, peaceful way of pointing out racial issues in stories is, I believe, a great educational tool and a fantastic way to engage in the dialogue around how story is told and who gets to take part in the telling. It’s simple, honest, and there’s not really a way to argue with the facts after watching these clips, most of which are less than a minute long.
Films such as “500 Days of Summer”, “Moonrise Kingdom”, “Into the Woods”, “The Fault In Our Stars”, “Frances Ha”, and “Her” appear on Marron’s YouTube account, and while some might argue as to the validity of his choices (which would probably result in another discussion on the default setting for storytelling, which is to use white actors), it quickly becomes apparent that this systemic problem has not gone away, nor has it gotten much better.
Independent projects such as personal YouTube channels, podcasts, and webseries, and even theater, have tended to be more inclusive and open to telling stories not only about people of color but about people who are different in various ways from the mainstream picture we get on our screens. I think this is because people have grown tired of watching stories that don’t relate to them, and have begun to tell their own.
Where does this leave Hollywood, television, and mainstream media? Will they eventually see the error of their ways, or will they continue to market toward what they believe to be their most profitable audience? What can we do to show them that there are many of us who are different and want to see stories like ours told on screens across the country?
Profit is, of course, the biggest indicator of a trend that Hollywood will follow — that, or the lack thereof. What if we stopped seeing major pictures on opening weekend, choosing instead to Tweet or get on Tumblr and talk about the independent projects we’ve been watching or listening to, and how those are stories we resonate with more? What if, instead of purchasing the latest DVD or Blu-ray releases, we snapped pictures of the merchandise we bought to support podcasts like Welcome To Night Vale?
There are other ways to direct the conversation toward how to be more inclusive in storytelling. You may have to begin telling our own stories, whether you decide to tell them on a webseries, a podcast, a YouTube channel, or in a novel. Your stories are worth telling, and there are many people who need to see them.
What are some other suggestions for talking about, supporting, and creating stories by and for people of color? What stories have you found that have resonated with you?
If you’d like to see Dylan Marron’s Every Single Word project, visit his YouTube channel here.Image Credits: Dylan Marron