In the concisely titled study “The Role of Actors’ Race in White Audiences’ Selective Exposure to Movies,” Indiana University professor Andrew Weaver writes, “Movie producers are often reluctant to cast more than a few minority actors in otherwise race-neutral movies for fear that the white audience will largely avoid such films.” Weaver found that white audiences tended to be racially selective with regard to romantic movies, but not necessarily when it came to other genres. So, sorry, Hollywood. You can’t blame it on the ticket buyers. And as the bankability of comic book franchises begins to cool — did we really need four hero-in-tights movies this summer alone? — you have to wonder if studios will ever get hip to the possibilities of going after multi-cultural audiences.
I’d be extremely curious to see why racial preferences continue to exist in romantic stories. Is it that we’re still harboring anxieties about interracial relationships? That we think people of other races much have vastly different courting processes and preferences to our own such that we couldn’t possibly see ourselves in other people’s journeys towards happily ever after (the wild success of My Big Fat Greek Wedding would seem to give the lie to this, at least to a certain extent)? Whatever the reason, it’s fascinating that white audiences are entirely comfortable watching black and Latino people, say, use a lot of concentrated firepower to fight aliens, but draw the line at watching them date.