Every Single Word Spoken by a Person of Colour: A Painful Truth

source: fusion.net edit: Yero Timi-Biu

source: fusion.net edit: Yero Timi-Biu

How long do you think your favourite film would be if all of the spoken words by white people were edited out and only the spoken words by people of colour were left in? Yero highlights the importance of Dylan Marron’s ‘Every Single Word’ project.

…people of colour speak for just 0.066% of the film.

One of my favourite childhood films, starring the late and great Robin Williams, ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ is 125 minutes long. Out of those 125 minutes, people of colour speak (well, laugh) for five seconds. To turn this into a statistic, people of colour speak for just 0.066% of the film. Now there’s something wrong with Hollywood. It really has a brown people problem, and it’s not just mainstream blockbusters; the British film industry doesn’t get a pass either. This isn’t news. I am aware the film industry is incredibly white, and I’m also aware that some people may’ve just noticed this, but when someone highlights it in this way, it’s sad.

Marron also highlights the lack of people of colour on the screen by giving the non-named actors mundane credits such as ‘van man’…

Every Single Word Spoken by a Person of Color’ is a project by Venezuelan-American performer and writer, Dylan Marron. He edits out all of the speaking parts by white people and only leaves in the dialogue of people of colour. The newly-edited film lasts anywhere from five seconds (the credit title) to two minutes. Although comical at times because of the abruptness of the edit, the results are upsetting. Marron also highlights the lack of people of colour on the screen by giving the non-named actors mundane credits such as ‘van man’ or other menial roles to show that they are people performing a function, rather than contributing to overarching plot of the film.

People of colour are often cast in roles where the storyline is about their ethnicity, otherness or to perpetuate a negative stereotype or trope. This is the norm. And whenever people talk about the lack of positive role models on screen, we’re thrown back one-offs like Aziz Ansari and Mindy Kaling. However, both have been praised and also criticised for not highlighting their race in TV shows or sketches. We need projects like ‘Every Single Spoken Word’. The project challenges casting decisions and calls the industry out on its behaviour, asking why actual real life human beings living on this planet aren’t getting their voices heard or even managing to book acting jobs to pay their rent. Unless they’re prepared to be Van Man.

‘JK Rowling doesn’t specify race for many of her main characters … so why was every main character, the ones with true character arcs, played by white actors?’ – Dylan Marron

As a new screenwriter who wants to share my own stories with flawed, fantastic and complex characters of all ethnicities, it scares me that the diverse world we live in does not transcend to the screen. I can count the people of colour that have appeared on all seasons of ‘Girls’ on one hand, despite the fact that it is filmed and set on location in the multi-cultural borough of Brooklyn, New York; famous for having many African and West Indian immigrants from generations ago.

I can count the people of colour that have appeared on all seasons of ‘Girls’ on one hand…

Dylan Marron will complete the ‘Every Single Word Spoken’ project when he reaches 100 videos. Then his work is done. He doesn’t want to continue focusing on the lack of representation of people of colour, but instead tackle it by creating and sharing his own stories. Realistically, he could go on for another few years, as I don’t predict imminent change in the writing and casting for roles, but starting the conversation and bringing this issue to light is a starting point.

Have you ever thought about representation when watching a film? Does it matter to you? Let us know — @rifemag

Related Links:

Check out Dylan’s other videos on his site, ‘Every Single Spoken Word by a Person of Color

Head to ‘Unity Youth Forum‘ – a place where young people from black and other minority ethnic backgrounds have their voices heard

Aged 16-19 and want to tell your own stories through film? Apply to BFI Film Academy