Remember when people got annoyed when they found out a black woman was cast as Ariel in The Little Mermaid? That reaction was so visceral. 

I hadn't seen anything like it since Will Young beat Gareth Gates to win Pop Idol in 2002. People were so angry that, not just a fictional character but a made-up half fish half human fantasy creature, was being represented by a person of colour. Extending the imagination to a mermaid is doable. Extending the imagination to a black mermaid? Absolutely not. TOO FAR. Meanwhile, a big chunk of the black community finally saw a glimpse of themselves on screen. Kids saw an iconic mainstream Disney character that looked like them, showing them that they are seen, and they do matter. Adults saw a character that looked like them that wasn't featured in a historical drama about slavery, or a token black character with no depth - E.g. headmaster/ doctor/ head of police, all roles that suggest gravitas but only in their titles rather than the character development.

But why were people so annoyed? Phrases like 'this is just going too far now' circulated online.

It’s one of the repercussions when Western society has grown up being fed narratives predominantly by one group of people. It's a group I fall into. The white, able-bodied, heteronormative group. These characters have been centre stage since the dawn of Hollywood because the people telling the stories are from that very same group. They're the ones who have had to face the fewest hurdles to get into positions of power that enable them to tell whatever stories they want and what better story to tell than our own? Why bother thinking about other people and their representation when it doesn't have anything to do with you? This is only just starting to change now that different groups of people are finally being given opportunities to tell their stories.

The media shines a light on tales they believe are worthy of the screen and for decades, the only ones deemed worthy have been those of white people, straight, able-bodied people. And, as we've seen, when essential change starts to happen, it freaks people out. Especially with well-known characters. People spiralled at Hermione being played by a black actor in the West End, so then having ANOTHER mainstream character (Ariel) played by a person of colour. Well, that's just too far. We've grown up believing the white story is the universal story and - unless you have friends or family that fall outside that 'mainstream group' - have been given no reason to question that. It's become the default to a point where the representation of different people in certain roles we're familiar with makes us angry. The change feels sudden and jarring. Even though we know people different to us exist, we're not used to seeing them and their stories being told above our own, especially not in iMAX 3D with surround sound. But why does it matter? Sticking to an actor's ethnicity, what difference to a fictional being does skin colour really make?

The depiction of people on screen has more of an impact on people's sense of worth than is potentially realised. If you spend most of your life seeing people who don’t look like you take centre stage, it can really solidify where you sit in the pecking order of society. If you’re not seeing yourself represented in a nuanced, quality way or at all, it sends a message that your story is not one the world cares about. On the flip side, if you're so used to seeing people who look like you that you become numb to it, it can be a jolt to see that change. Some exposure therapy is needed, as well as seeing more stories from and about people who fall outside of the 'so-called norm'. We need to put ourselves in the shoes of those who have predominantly walked in the shadows of Hollywood rather than on the red carpet. Only then will we be able to move away from reacting angrily to something that is for us so trivial but for the under-represented is so important. Maybe then we can lean into celebrating diversity on our screens to a point where we no longer even notice, all we see is a good story.

With that in mind, here are's top film picks by diverse filmmakers.

Get Out - Jordan Peele

A young African American man visits his white girlfriend's parents for the first time and things get weird. But not, 'ooh that's a little bit kooky' weird. 1940's racist Disney weird doused with hypnotism. It uses the notion of slavery and combines it with the fetishization of black people with one white person in the film saying the line 'black is in.' But that's just the tip of the creepy why-do-these-white-people-keep-staring-at-me-with-a-sinister-dead-eyed-smile iceberg. It's slick, original, and Peele throws in some humour to balance out the twisted darkness.

Next Goal Wins - Taika Waititi

A perfect feel-good film with a decent amount of laugh-out-loud moments. This one’s based on the true story of the American Samoa football team who were about as good at football as the iceberg spotter on the Titanic. They’re most known for their savage defeat in the 2002 FIFA World Cup where they lost to Australia 31-0. The film focusses on not just the salvation of the team but its new coach; a grieving alcoholic. It’s funny, uplifting, and at its heart holds a message of non-judgemental inclusivity with one member of the team becoming the first openly trans, non-binary woman to compete in a FIFA World Cup qualifier.

Sense8 - Lana and Lilly Wachowski

This one’s a series – I know I said this was a list of films, but I made the rules and damn it I will break when I want to and I DON’T WANT TO HEAR ANOTHER WORD ABOUT IT. Sense8 tells the story of eight strangers, each from a different culture and part of the world who find themselves mentally and emotionally connected. These 8 must find a way to survive after they start being hunted by those who see them as a threat to the world order. It’s created in-part by trans filmmakers and sisters Lana and Lilly Wachowski who were behind The Matrix franchise. So, drop a blue pill and get watching.

Queen & Slim - Lena Waithe

A film as heart breaking as it is powerful, beautifully shot and accompanied by a kickass soundtrack. It starts with our main characters, a young black couple, on a less-than-inspiring first date. During the drive home they get pulled over by a white police officer for some innocuous meaning. Things get out of hand; the policeman ends up getting out his gun and threatening them. As Slim tries to wrestle the gun off him, it goes off, accidentally killing the officer. Queen and Slim then embark on a Thelma and Louise-like journey, sparking a movement in black communities across the country. The film itself is fiction but the premise of the story about police brutality in America rings true in the lives of many African Americans.

Pans Labyrinth - Guillermo Del Toro

In essence, a dark, twisted Spanish version of Alice in Wonderland set during the Spanish Civil War. It's beautiful, magical, haunting, and tragic in equal measure. If you’re subtitle averse, give them a chance. After 5 minutes you’ll forget you’re even reading. Then you can feel smug and add a swagger to your walk because you’ve properly watched a foreign film, not the dubbed version. It’ll increase your cool factor by at least 24% but telling people will decrease your likeability factor by 56%. I can vouch that the film is worth it.