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Opinion Diversity is not just about politics. It made 2015 a great year for film and TV.

Taraji P. Henson as Cookie Lyon in “Empire.” (Chuck Hodes/FOX)

When we talk about diversity in Hollywood, our conversations can turn theoretical. We hope that executives with new perspectives would greenlight projects that are very different from the ones we get now. We try to convince ourselves that if women and people of color got to direct big franchise pictures, they will change Marvel, DC or “Star Wars” more than the giant corporations that control those properties will change them. We look to web series like “Husbands” or “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” for the stories mainstream networks and studios don’t tell.

So one of the things that made 2015 so artistically exciting, along with a general boom in great movies, is that it gave us a peek into this alternate future. A slate of terrific films by black directors and invigorating shows from black creators provided powerful affirmation that a more diverse Hollywood would be a genuinely different and exciting one in ways that go beyond the politics of representation.

Ava DuVernay’s “Selma” may have been shut out of everything except Best Song at the Academy Awards in February. But however disappointing the film’s losses were, “Selma” was a powerful illustration of DuVernay’s skills as a historical storyteller — and as a director who knows how to make violence genuinely shocking. Her staging of the bombing of the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Ala., and the Bloody Sunday attacks on voting rights protesters crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge two years later created a visceral sense of continuity between the socially sanctioned violence against civil rights movement advocates and the police killings of black men and women that have occasioned so much protest in our own time. In DuVernay’s hands, the black liberation struggle is as much a horror movie as a triumphal story, a warning to anyone who thinks we’ve made a decisive break with our own bloody history.

Ryan Coogler, who in 2013 released “Fruitvale Station,” his outstanding movie about the last day in the life of Oscar Grant before Grant was shot to death by a transit police officer in the early hours of 2009, took a different approach to violence in “Creed,” his revitalization of the “Rocky” franchise starring “Fruitvale Station” lead Michael B. Jordan as talented boxer Adonis Johnson. In the beginning of “Creed,” Johnson’s propensity for fighting is an expression of childish rage, fear and pain; Johnson is the product of an affair legendary boxer Apollo Creed had with a woman not his wife. But as Johnson grows and begins training with Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), his capacity to withstand pain and keep standing becomes a sign of Johnson’s growing sense of self-worth and perseverance.

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While DuVernay and Coogler were introducing themselves to mass audiences on the big screen, Dee Rees took the small screen route with “Bessie,” a strong biopic of the singer Bessie Smith, starring Queen Latifah in a physically and emotionally revealing performance. Rees does a wonderful, deft job of sketching in the details of the theater booking business and the bigotries that undergirded early white affection for the blues. And Rees and Latifah work beautifully together to portray Smith’s sexuality, emotional volatility and tremendous magnetism with affection and honesty.

And as these newcomers declared themselves with bold, distinctive films, Spike Lee proved that he can still make provocative, beautiful movies with “Chi-Raq,” a remake of Aristophanes’s “Lysistrata” set on the South Side of Chicago that alternates between technicolor farce and agonized human drama. Lee gave Teyonah Parris, who stars as his Lysistrata, the breakout role she has long deserved, following her moral awakening after a neighborhood child is killed in a drive-by; chronicling her growth as a leader as she faces down both Chicago police officials and upper-middle-class black men determined to end the sex strike she has started; and finally, embracing her as a sexual being rather than a sexual object as the strike comes to an end. Lee’s wildness and complexity may be politically discomforting, but his perspective is an artistic blessing.

All these films made it an invigorating year at the movies, and this artistic revolution wasn’t confined to two-hour storytelling.

“Scandal,” Shonda Rhimes’s series about a black political operative, Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington), who is having an affair with the white president of the United States, Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn), has always been canny about using soap-opera storylines to tell truths about Washington that more tasteful shows try to avoid. And in 2015, “Scandal” became even more stark about the ways in which Olivia’s life of relative privilege have insulated her from the racial realities of power in America.

“Survivor’s Remorse,” a series co-created by LeBron James, his business manager and showrunner Mike O’Malley, who is white, returned for a stellar second season about basketball star Cam Calloway’s (Jessie Usher) transition into the upper echelons of American wealth, a journey that involved bourgeois Buckhead neighbors, drunken white fans and a family squabble gone viral on video. Over on NBC, Jerrod Carmichael’s “The Carmichael Show” brought a Norman Lear-like dedication to showing ordinary people talking about politics to subjects ranging from the Black Lives Matter movement to the popularity of kale. And “Empire,” a raucous drama about a family struggle for control of a music label from Lee Daniels (who is African American) and Danny Strong and Ilene Chaiken (who are white), was the breakout hit of the year, a sexy, funny, incredibly quotable soap opera studded with indelible characters, most notably Taraji P. Henson’s Cookie Lyon, an instant addition to pop culture’s Vamp Hall of Fame.

One of the delights of these movies and shows is their sheer variety, ranging as they do from the formal constraints of multi-camera comedy in “The Carmichael Show” to the utter rejection of restraint in “Chi-Raq,” and from the sobriety of “Selma” to the shamelessness of “Empire.”

But they’re united by a willingness to treat their characters as real, flawed and, most of all, vulnerable people: The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) struggles to stand up to FBI harassment in “Selma”; Adonis Johnson struggles with the fear that his birth was a mistake in “Creed”; Cookie Lyon falls for her scheming ex-husband, Lucious (Terrence Howard), despite her pride in her discernment in “Empire”; and Bessie Smith chases tempestuous relationships and falls down the neck of a bootleg liquor bottle. These projects permit their characters to be romantic and sexual without lapsing into stereotype. And collectively, they’re a sharp rebuke to anyone who doubts the depth and breadth of the talent pool of black actors of all skin tones, ages and body shapes working today — not to mention the range of black directors.

None of these success stories mean that Hollywood’s problems are over. Shonda Rhimes’s dominance of Thursday nights doesn’t mean that people of color aren’t dramatically underrepresented in writers’ rooms everywhere else, and I’m still waiting to see what movies Rees and DuVerrnay will tackle next. But if nothing else, 2015 should stand as a reminder that pop culture is a whole lot more fun when it tells a much wider range of stories.