Pitch Perfect Isn’t So Perfect
By Celia Lemhouse
Cinema offers a unique opportunity. An opportunity to show a new or different perspective on an issue or everyday event. Take a day in the life of a college student. Depending on where that student lives and which college they attend, the setting will be different. Add to that their job (if they have one), their extra-curricular activities and clubs, and their hobbies and you have a story. Add in how their race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and economic standing affects their life and you have a unique perspective. Pitch Perfect (2012) does an excellent job of representing women in film but fails to offer a real diverse cast by focusing on white, heterosexual, female leads while relegating more diverse characters to minor supporting roles.
Pitch Perfect is about a young white heterosexual woman, Beca, who just started college at Barden University after much cajoling from her father. She made a deal with him that if after one year, she still wants to move to LA, her father will help her move. The catch is that she has to try at college and join a club. Enter the Barden Bellas acapella group and Aubrey’s motivation to make it back to nationals to win and Chloe’s desire to make friends and have fun. After an impromptu audition, Beca joins the Bellas along with nine other women, three of which are not white. Beca also works at the student radio station where she meets Jesse, her love interest.
Jesse happens to be a Barden Treblemaker. The Treblemakers are the male acapella counter group to the Bellas and are off-limits to the Bellas romantically due to the Treblemakers being the Bellas’ sworn enemy (Chang, Pleasing ‘Pitch’ a Humdinger). As the Bellas compete in challenges to reach Nationals, they sing the same song over and over nearly missing qualification to the semi-finals. After the Regionals (which qualifies groups to the semi-final), Beca and the Bellas are walking out when the Treblemakers and Tonehangers (college graduated group of acapella singers) get into a fight. Beca and Fat Amy fight over the Treblemaker’s trophy and it ends up breaking a window and Beca gets arrested. Jesse calls Beca’s dad to bail her out causing tension between Beca and Jesse as well as Becca and her father.
At the semi-finals, Beca, in an effort to spice up the song, sings a song that follows the same beat. This causes tension between her and Aubrey and ultimately leads Beca to walk away from the group after they do not make it to the finals. Later one of the groups who made it to Nationals gets disqualified and the Bellas are back in the running for the National title. At a Bella rehearsal, Aubrey and Chloe get into a large fight and Beca walks in, apologizes, and nearly gets kicked out of the group. Aubrey then puts Beca in charge of the group and Beca creates a song set for the Bellas to perform at Nationals. The Bellas stun the crowd and win the National title and Beca kisses Jesse signaling the completion of the movie.
While this movie seems very interesting in its plot, its cast of characters is seemingly lacking. Mainly its lack of diversity is the problem. Yes, this movie features a diverse background cast. By this many of the minor and filler characters represent a large ethnic and racial diversity, but the main characters of the movie are predominately white. There are only three Bellas that are not white, one of which was kicked out of the group before its first rehearsal. Of the remaining two non-white Bellas, one is African American and the other is Asian American. In 2012, only 15.1% of all lead characters in a movie were people of color (Hunt, Ramon, and Tran, 14). While that number has risen over the last few years, it is still significantly below the population ratio in the United States. Minorities are underrepresented in films. When they appear in films they usually are minor, supporting characters, or the comic relief.
In Pitch Perfect’s case, both of its non-white characters act as either comic relief or only there for diversity. Cynthia Rose, played by Ester Dean, was African American and also a lesbian. Her character, so to speak, killed two birds with one stone by giving both racial and sexual diversity to the movie. However, throughout the entire movie, there are hints to her sexuality and when she finally comes out to her fellow Bellas as homosexual, Fat Amy says “There it is.” It’s almost like the Bellas are shaming Cynthia for being a lesbian but they are doing it in such a subtle way it’s not really noticeable. The character Lily Onakuramara, played by Hana Mae Lee, is mainly there for comic relief. Lily is seen in the fight scene between Chloe and Aubrey making a snow angel in Aubrey’s vomit after being pushed into it on accident. Lily also doesn’t talk very loudly so she is often unheard or the camera does a close up on her face so the audience can hear her say things like “I ate my twin in the womb,” “I was born with gills of a fish,” or “I set fires to feel joy,” (Hana Mae Lee, Pitch Perfect 2012).
Although Pitch Perfect has a few characters that are openly not heterosexual, this movie fails to focus on characters that do not fit into a white patriarchal mold. Take for example main Bella characters: Beca, Chloe, and Fat Amy. All three of these characters are straight white women. Beca has a clear love interest in the movie while Chloe is shown actively making out with a guy in one of the scenes. Fat Amy makes several comments throughout the movie of “needing time away from her boyfriends,” (Rebel Wilson, Pitch Perfect 2012). There was very little sexual diversity.
Overall, Pitch Perfect was a crowd pleaser, scoring 83% on Rotten Tomatoes move review website. The movie focuses on women and representing difference among characters. However, the movie focused only white heterosexual women with very few non-white characters that were regulated to minor supporting roles. Pitch Perfect included homosexuality and briefly focused on it with one of its characters but left out other underrepresented sexualities. This movie did a great job at focusing on women but failed to include more racially diverse and sexually diverse characters.
Chang, Justin. “Pleasing ‘Pitch’ a humdinger.” Variety, vol. 428, no. 8, 1 Oct. 2012, p. 41+. Gale Academic OneFile, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A305837601/AONE?u=lbcc&sid=AONE&xid=d93d2130. Accessed 17 Nov. 2020.
Hunt, Darnell, Ramon, Ana-Christina, and Tran, Michael. “Hollywood Diversity Report 2019,” University of California Press, 2019. pdf.
Pitch Perfect. Directed by Jason Moore, performances by Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittney Snow, Ester Dean, and Hana Mae Lee.
“Pitch Perfect (2012).” Rotten Tomatoes, www.rottentomatoes.com/m/pitch_perfect
Schenfeld, Jillian. “Pitch Perfect Stars – How Their Lives Have Changed since the First Movie: Gallery.” Wonderwall.com, 26 Apr. 2020, www.wonderwall.com/entertainment/movies/pitch-perfect-cast-lives-changed-first-movie-where-are-now-3010079.gallery.