Updated: Jun 18
Growing up as a Mexican girl to immigrant parents, I got to experience the beauty of Mexican culture, but I also was able to consume American media and culture. When I reached the age where I began to experience things that “teens will experience,” I turned to coming of age films for support. Coming of age films have been a support system for teens. They are the films that allow for everyone who are going through the same issues as the protagonists to not feel alone. Most coming of age films from our generation like Lady Bird (2017), Booksmart (2019) , and Boyhood (2014) perfectly executed at reaching a teen audience as a whole, but these films were only able to reach teens who are people of color on a surface level.
If only POC films were able to experience the praise that most coming of age films receive along with the same marketing and distribution strategy then maybe there could be a chance for success. There have been countless films in the last couple of years to have people of color as the protagonists in these films. Not too long ago, one film that focused on POC that came out in April is Fast Color (2018), directed by Julia Hart and stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Ruth, a young woman who goes on the run after her supernatural power are discovered. This forces her to repair the broken relationships she has with her mother and daughter. This film was praised by critics for the story and performances of Mbatha-Raw.
Due to lack of marketing and distribution, Fast Color only made $79,916 at the box office. Just last week, critics pointed out the lack of marketing Booksmart had, despite making 2.9 million on the first day. Since Booksmart is currently in its second week of being in theaters, it will continue to make more in the box office as critics continue to applaud this film. Many articles and posts were made about how badly this film did at the box office, but no outcry was made about another praised film, Fast Color. Another film that focused on women of color that made less than a million was Skate Kitchen (2018); this film focused on feminism and female friendship while also diving into skate culture in the city. Skate Kitchen, directed by Crystal Moselle, only made $268,021 at the box office. This film was also a limited release, which contributed to it not making much at the box office in comparison to many other coming of age films.
Another problem that was mentioned on social media is these current coming of age films being distributed everywhere can only be related on a surface level - this has to do with the mostly white casts that are in these films. As someone who is a person of color, I could relate to the relationship that Lady Bird had with her mother, but only to a certain extent. I have argued with my mom about financial aid for college and how I was going to pay for it, but Lady Bird was only the watered down version of what I went through at that time when I was in high school. People of color deal with so much more in their teen years, especially growing up in America because you have the pressures of having to be American and achieving success in a world where it takes more work to be recognized.
In political times like these, it’s important to recognize and treat people of color coming of age films the same as those films which deeply cater to white audiences. This means the same amount of marketing and distribution, so people of color are able to find these films and enjoy them as a form of relatability. People of color need that deep relatability to feel not only closer to their community, but themselves.