The Book of Life was a movie that came out last Halloween, directed by Jorge R. Gutierrez and produced by Guillermo del Toro. The Book of Life is an animated feature film about the journey of a young man named Manolo as he struggles with whether to follow the expectations of his family or follow his heart. The movie is a classic love/coming of age story, taking place during the Mexican holiday The Day of the Dead. The Book of Life encourages us to celebrate the past while looking forward to the future. The director, Jorge R. Gutierrez’s animations are intended to bring the Mexico he grew up with to the masses, and to get rid of harmful and inaccurate stereotypes. That being said, it took Gutierrez 14 years to get The Book of Life produced. Producers and studios had no interest in the film previously, and it was turned down everywhere it was proposed. The movie boasts a very diverse voice acting crew and most of the main cast is of Mexican or Latino descent. The movie is a refreshing change to how “white” the industry has always been. To Hollywood, having such a diverse cast, and a story about Mexican culture, sounded like financial suicide. It was far too big of a risk to make 14 years ago. So why does the movie work now, and how did the public react?
After the movie debuted, conversations about diversity exploded online. Linda Holmes said, “The utter lack of importance of the underlying subject, in fact, is exactly what tells you how close to the surface and at how high a temperature these conflicts are simmering.” Even something like a cartoon can make people talk about what they are thinking; diversity, and representation of other cultures, is important.
Recently, the internet has become a very powerful tool in bringing people and ideas together . The internet gives us a window into the world that we haven’t always had. People are coming into contact with cultures they never would have without the help of the internet and are different because of it. Diversity is becoming a must-have for movies today. Just look at the disaster that Exodus: Gods and Kings turned out to be. The movie was panned hard by Twitter followers, as well as the rest of social media, over it’s lack of diversity, and the “whitewashing” of the main cast. Hollywood is finding that it’s audience wants diversity, and proper representations of cultures and ethnicities, and they want it now.
In regards to The Book of Life, websites like Tumblr and Reddit brought up discussions about the “whitewashing” of stories and lack of diversity and representation of other cultures on tv and in movies, cartoon or otherwise. People spoke up about how they wanted to see more accurate portrayals of different nationalities, and to see more roles led by people of color. They talked about stereotypes and tropes that were offensive to the cultures being portrayed, and how we could change this in Hollywood. Above all else, they talked about how much they loved The Book of Life, and how they looked forward to seeing more like it.
Even though The Book of Life came out months ago, people on social media still use it as reference for what movies about other cultures should strive to be. The topic of diversity and representation will always be a major concern for a culture such as ours, and The Book of Life is a good show of things to come. As we become more in touch with the people around us, this topic won’t be going away anytime soon.