Representation for diverse actors on-screen has been pretty dismal since the industry's inception, with some recent strides in the last few years. A group of young activists who call themselves Legally Black hope to change perceptions of diversity in entertainment by recreating posters of popular movie and television titles but swapping the characters out with black actors. The swapped posters are popping up on bus shelters all over South London, Mashable reports. It's not secret that most blockbuster films and hit television shows would fail your average Bechdel or DuVernay test, informal measurements of how often women or people of color speak and have fully developed characters that don't just act as sidekicks to white and male ones.
"If you're surprised," each poster reads, "that means you're not seeing enough black people in major roles." With the huge success of movies like Black Panther and even Girl's Trip last summer, Hollywood seems to be finally budging on the old assumption that actors of color are unable to bring in the big bucks, but the group feels like the British film and television industry is still a few steps behind of that already slow crawl. "At the moment I'm in love with Black Panther," said one of the group's members, Liv Francis-Cornibert, who met the other members Shiden Tekle, Bel Matos da Costa, and Kofi Asante in an activism training group called Advocacy Academy. "It's phenomenal, but I feel like a lot of the time when we say things like 'Oscars so white' it's focussed on America and American media."
Naturally, the posters got some pushback from those who missed its premise. "Someone said 'you should just go and make all of the actors in 12 Years a Slave white then.' That's what I don't want people to think the campaign's about," said Francis-Cornibert. "It's not like a pity thing." For her and the rest of the group, it's ultimately about seeing people of color in roles that fall outside the usual archetypes, and how that representation is, according to her, "subconsciously very important for your self-esteem and your sense of self-worth." The artwork flipped movies like Titanic and Bridget Jones' Diary and shows like Dr. Who on their head to send the message. The poster inspired by British show Skins might be the most striking of the bunch, employing a token white character to highlight just how normal most would view that image in reverse.
The posters were bold in their design, but getting them up around Brixton was actually not the group's doing, since a plan to get them onto city buses fell through. They were actually put up illegally by a largely anonymous organization called Special Patrol Group, who hack advertising space and replace it with art and took a liking to the posters. "This is easily the best thing that I think we've been involved in, in any way shape or form," one of the group's members told Mashable. It's likely the posters will come down eventually considering they were put up illicitly, but it's clear they made their intended impact.