Could Movies Featuring the Lower Classes and People of Color be Commercially Successful as Long as They had Strong Stories and Compelling Characters?

Near the end of Thom Anderson’s Los Angeles Plays Itself, neglect of the lower classes and/or people of color in Hollywood movies struck and dismayed me. And I should specify the neglect involves stories and characters that fall outside existing stereotypes–for example, there are Hollywood films that feature the lower class criminals. I would also add that films with the type of characters exist, but my sense is that many are not mainstream movies. Why aren’t there more mainstream films with non-stereotypical minority characters outside of the middle and upper classes tend not to buy the explanation that the audience would be too small. Would it be too hard to create good stories with these type of characters? I find that hard to believe.

To test this, I looked at the AFI top 100 films of all time. Of this list, The Grapes of Wrath seems to be the best fit–although perhaps they can be seen as a more middle class family that is going through hard times. Raging Bull and Rocky may qualify as well. However, what stands out to me is that violence seems to be a critical component. That is, a mainstream film can feature lower class characters, but they and their stories must generally involve action and/or violence.

Midnight Cowboy is there, but I’d argue the lower class character (if he is a part of the lower class) falls within accepted stereotypes–i.e., the poor are criminals or social deviants.

Can anyone think of good mainstream films that featured non-stereotypical characters, non-white characters, primarily from the lower classes?

2 thoughts on “Could Movies Featuring the Lower Classes and People of Color be Commercially Successful as Long as They had Strong Stories and Compelling Characters?

    1. It’s funny that you mention that show, because I was just thinking about that, in answer to this question. I think it’s a great example of what I’m asking for. Are there mainstream movies with similar characters, black and non-black as well? Maybe Winter’s Bone is an example?

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