As we come to the end of 2021, it’s a great time to reflect on the year that was. It was a big year for progress, diversity and inclusion in the entertainment industry, and while there’s always more progress to be made and a long way to go before we reach anything close to equality, there were some good steps in the right direction this year. Here are six stories that highlight some of the progress Hollywood made this year.
Chloé Zhao Made History at the Oscars
Director Chloé Zhao made history this year as the first woman of colour to win Best Director at the Academy Awards. In fact, she’s the second woman, period, to win Best Director, following only Kathryn Bigelow, who won in 2010 for The Hurt Locker.
Following her Oscars win, Zhao went on to direct Marvel’s Eternals, which includes Marvel’s first openly gay main character to feature on the big screen.
Read more about her win here.
Loki, Superman and Robin Came Out As Bisexual
Long criticised for its lack of LGBTQIA+ representation, Marvel made great strides toward inclusion this year, confirming that Loki, the God of Mischief, is genderfluid and bisexual.
During the third episode of Loki, the trickster — played by Tom Hiddleston — confessed to Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) that he identifies as bi, thus becoming the first openly bisexual character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Not to be outdone by Marvel, DC Comics also took steps toward LGBTQIA+ representation, with the new Superman, Jon Kent, coming out as bisexual in the November 9th issue of Superman: Son of Kal-El (#5).
Additionally, in the comic book issue Batman: Urban Legends #6, Robin had a “lightbulb moment” in regards to his sexuality while fighting alongside his friend Bernard Dowd, culminating in the pair deciding to go out on a date.
The author of the issue, Meghan Fitzman, told Polygon that they were deliberately not putting a label on the character’s feelings just yet but, even so, the fans were thrilled that Robin was finally living his truth.
Marvel Featured Its First-Ever Deaf Superhero in Eternals
In a huge step forward for disability representation onscreen, Marvel’s Eternals features Marvel’s first deaf superhero — Makkari, played by Lauren Ridloff.
Makkari is shown using American Sign Language to communicate with the other Eternals, and since the film’s release, there’s been a 250% increase in searches for “learn sign language for beginners”.
But that’s not all, searches for Ridloff herself have seen a 550% increase since November 1, and the search query “first deaf superhero” has doubled since November last year.
Read more about it, here.
Pixar Searched for Its First Transgender Character
The news first came to light after a casting call went out looking for “a youth voice-over role for an upcoming animated project.”
Per the call out, “the character, Jess, is a 14-year-old transgender girl. She’s compassionate, funny, and always has your back. We’re looking for actresses 12 to 17 years old.”
The animation studio has yet to reveal what the project will be, but it is obviously wonderful to see massive production companies making a concerted effort to ensure that onscreen representation is reflective of the world today.
Read more about Pixar’s call out here.
We have confirmed this is legit, so share away! pic.twitter.com/oKLFzyjXIL
— Trans March (@transmarch) April 20, 2021
‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’ Smashed the Box Office
Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings wasn’t just the studio’s first superhero film to feature an Asian lead (Simu Liu), it also SMASHED the box office, bringing in over USD $90 million over the US’ Labor Day Weekend. It was the second-best opening weekend of the pandemic, second only to Black Widow.
This is especially remarkable, as Shang-Chi is a relative newcomer to the Marvel Cinematic Universe who didn’t have a built-in fanbase in the way Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow does.
In an interview with Variety, Liu spoke about the importance of this step forward.
“We’ve been celebrating a lot of firsts in our community — when Crazy Rich Asians came out three years ago, we celebrated that as the first studio movie with a predominantly Asian cast in almost 25 years,” the actor said.
“I’m looking forward to the moment where we no longer celebrate firsts. We’re celebrating seconds, and thirds, and fourths, and fifths. So I’ll take this moment for what it is. It is absolutely that watershed moment. But I hope that there are many more just like it afterwards.”
‘Squid Game’ Broke Netflix Records
Do you remember life before Squid Game? We don’t. It’s so rare that a show manages to capture the entire world’s attention the way Squid Game did, and the fact that it’s a South Korean language drama that utilises sub-titles makes its success even more remarkable.
Netflix reported a 2021 third-quarter boost of 4.38 million paid subscribers, way above the 3.5 million paid subscribers the streamer projected it would gain in the quarter, and the success of Squid Game is credited as one of the reasons for the slew of new subscribers.
Not only did Squid Game top the Netflix charts in 90 countries, it quickly became the platform’s biggest series launch to date.
Speaking on the incredible trajectory of the series, Netflix’s VP of Content for Asia, Minyoung Kim, told The Hollywood Reporter why she thought it had made such an impact.
“I think the essence of the show is its commentary on social injustice — class divisions and financial inequality, or even gender-related issues,” she said.
“These social injustice issues aren’t only Korean — the whole world is struggling with them. These elements made the show resonate strongly outside of Korea as well.”
Squid Game will return for a second season.
Read more about Squid Game‘s success here.