If Lionsgate wants to make more films, then they should look at women of color in young adult books.
By Latonya Pennington
Since the success of the Harry Potter film franchise, young adult books being adapted into films have become the norm. The film versions of Stephanie Myers’ Twilight Saga and Suzanne Collins’ trilogy The Hunger Games’ filled a need for teens movies with adventure, romance, and coming-of-age stories. Recently, Lionsgate announced that they want to adapt more films from the books The Hunger Games and Twilight, but they could do so much better.
Although there have been many YA films over the years, almost all of these films have been adapted from books written by white cis-het authors with white cis-het protagonists. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think only white people write and read young adult books. Contrary to what some may believe, young adult books & their audience are far more diverse than the film industry realizes.
As a genre, young adult is typically considered any book featuring high school age teens. Books like The Hunger Games trilogy and The Twilight Saga are a small percent of books in the genre. With some research, you’d see that there are many more books that could be adapted, especially books written by and featuring women of color.
One book that has already been made into a film is Nicola Yoon’s Everything Everything. The book’s teen romance could be compared to John Green’s book The Fault in Our Stars, which also had a film adaptation. However, Everything Everything is remarkable in that it was a financially successful film written, directed, and starred in by Black women.
Lionsgate and other film companies should use Everything Everything as a blueprint for future young adult films. Instead of yet another adaptation of a book about a white female protagonist, they should adapt more books that feature women of color protagonists and hire women of color to work behind the film.
One book that could thrill Harry Potter fans is Daniel José Older’s Shadowshaper, which features an Afro-Latina protagonist wielding artistic magic. Meanwhile, Nalo Hopkinson’s book The Chaos combines the dystopian and supernatural genres & gives us a Black female lead trying to save her brother.
By adapting books like these, Lionsgate could make the teen film genre more inclusive and fresh while still making a profit. Studies have proven that films with inclusive casts can make money, especially when they are also involved behind the scenes. In fact, it can even build anticipation for the film, as seen with Ava Du Vernay’s adaptation of A Wrinkle In Time and George Tillman Jr’s adaptation of The Hate U Give.
Not only have there been enough film adaptations of The Hunger Games & Twilight books, but there have also been enough young adult films with white female protagonists. If Lionsgate wants to make more films, then they should look at women of color in young adult books. It’s time for more teen films with women of color that save the world and fall in love because women of color need teen heroines too.