Last night I went down the rabbit hole that is Netflix and watched ‘recently added’ movie, The Big Short (2016). The film, best described as a tragicomedy, follows four denizens that predict the US credit and housing bubble collapse of 2005.
A ride from start to finish, the movie begins to challenge your idea of justice. On the one hand, you root for men of integrity to pocket the millions from a corrupt system. And on the other, you realise that this victory can only come at the public’s expense.
Now, you are probably wondering how on earth this movie could relate to Hollywood’s diversity issue? And the answer lies in a scene that focuses on a game of Jenga. Yep you heard that right, Jenga.
In the scene, Jared Vennet (Ryan Gosling) explains the economic disaster to a group of investors through a Jenga analogy. He continues to support his pitch and verify the maths through the help of his ‘quant’ (AKA worker Ted Jiang).
Watch the scene here.
“Actually my names Jiang and I do speak English, Jared likes to say I don’t because he thinks it makes me seem more authentic, and I got second in that national maths competition.”
Breaking the fourth wall was a common trope used in The Big Short, but when Jiang did it in this scene, it felt like more of a comment on the film industry than on the state of the American economy.
In many ways, Jared represents Hollywood- he reduces Jiang to an ‘Asian stereotype’ so he can appear more ‘authentic’ to the clients. And Jiang represents the actor- playing the role because his boss makes it his only ‘casting choice’.
It was such a simple (and subtle) scene, but it spoke a lot for the stereotypes people of colour often have to endure. When Jiang turned to the camera and talked directly to the audience, it became apparent that there was more to his character than his initial representation.
I commend the film’s producers and director for the scene because they have managed to expose film stereotypes for what they are (bullshit) and immediately tear these cliche roles to shreds.
I will leave you with the inspirational words of Big Short co-producer, Dede Gardner.
“Yes, we have a real problem. We do. We do. We have privilege in our hands. We are storytellers. We need to tell stories that reflect our world and our country and all streets and roads and corners.”
What are your thoughts on this scene? Leave a comment below or share this with your friends to have your say!