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Movie Couples: Where’s The Love For Interracial Love?

Juliette Lin |
October 7, 2014 | 2:41 p.m. PDT


There's a lot to be gained from depicting more interracial couples on screen (Matt Radick/Flickr Creative Commons)
There's a lot to be gained from depicting more interracial couples on screen (Matt Radick/Flickr Creative Commons)
Whenever I watch a trailer for a romance movie featuring a single-race couple, I can’t help but roll my eyes. 

Perhaps the theatrics are a little melodramatic, but they are definitely not unwarranted. As I glance over the slew of recent summer romances, I can’t help but notice that they are severely lacking in ethnic diversity. Movies like “The Fault In Our Stars,” and “Begin Again,” though heartwarming and adorable, are quintessential examples of the dominance of white on-screen couplings. 

On the opposite spectrum there are films that feature single-minority couples, like “About Last Night” and “Think Like A Man Too,” which both star black duos. While they have found moderate box office success, I find it troubling that these interracial films seem to be allocated solely to comedies, as though a legitimate love story could not unfold for minority characters in a romantic drama like they do for Hazel and Gus in "The Fault In Our Stars."

READ MORE: Film Review: 'About Last Night'

These movies inadvertently contribute to the perception that homogenous couples are most desirable. Very few romance movies this summer have presented the possibility of interracial love interests. In “The Hundred Foot Journey,” a budding romance develops between the Indian foreigner and the French chef, but unfortunately it is the Indian man who seeks the affection from the white female. 

As observed, people of color are not generally cast as the “ideal American love interest,” whether it’s an Indian man, black woman (especially dark-skinned black woman), Asian girl or Latino male. The celebrity heartthrobs that people flock to are almost exclusively white. All others are deemed ineligible suitors, unless they have cultivated the American way of life. 

While these issues have been brushed under the table, it was actually in the past that movies delved more deeply into the the complexities of interracial relationships. “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner,” brought the issue to the forefront when a white woman brought her African American fiance home to meet her family, exploring the awkwardness and culture shock that ensued. Movies like this and others like “West Side Story,” lend themselves to the idea that interracial couples are indeed possible, and that love can win over prejudice. But it should be noted that both of these movies feature only one non-white character paired up with a white character.

It is indeed a rare phenomenon to find a movie in which both the individuals are people of color. In “Our Family Wedding,” America Ferrrera and Lance Gross star as the bride and groom-to-be. This matrimony of an African American and a Mexican American is one that truly highlights a diverse coupling. In the end, one of the Mexican sisters even gets engaged to an Asian American man. 

What stumps me is why more romance films don’t experiment with mixed race. Before the release of Daniel Radcliffe’s new romance “What If?” Asian American YouTube star Anna Akanna filmed a video with him in which he gave her relationship advice. Their chemistry was clearly visible, which gave me hope about Asian Americans as love interests on screen — but I was disappointed to see that the movie actually starred another white person. 

READ MORE: U.S. Heads Towards Diversity

By focusing on all-white or half-white couples, movies today rienforce entrenced whiteness ever-present in our society. These depictions insinuate that people of other ethnic backgrounds are not romantically appealing and makes everyone want to date a white person. Mixed race couples express the discomfort of being in public because they are constantly stared at. To many, it seems unfathomable that these people would get together, because there is no representation of it on screen. The awkwardness these couples face only further deter the prospects of interracial relationships. 

One promising project is the adaptation of the book “Eleanor and Park,” which features a Korean boy as the primary love interest and is being optioned for a movie. Author Rainbow Rowell has her concerns about the movie, stating, “I’d love it if the book became a movie, but I’d HATE to see either of them played by some generically beautiful/handsome/skinny actor or actress. Looking different is part of their identity and their story.” More directly, she means to say that she hopes the adaptation stays true to her original characters and that Park isn’t changed into just another white guy. Perhaps this is the move we’ve all been waiting for.

Because what we don't need is a new movie that pokes fun at the hilarities that ensue in interracial romances. What we do need is the next “(500) Days of Summer” or "The Notebook" that tells a beautiful love story about two people who just happen to be of different ethnic backgrounds.

"On Reel Diversity" is a column exploring the dynamics of ethnicity in film and television. Reach columnist Juliette Lin here.



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