Representation Forever

I’m going to talk to you all about representation in media. Yeah, I know. But Black Panther, Get Out, Moonlight, Bridesmaids, and a bunch of other movies exist, Jess. True, but it’s really only the start of representation in media. Let me show you what I mean:

I mean blackface was a whole thing that existed and if you want to see how I feel about that, Rap Critic and I did a crossover on The Jazz Singer under my previous show before I started only doing “Superhero Rundown.”

Not just blackface, as late  as today, there has been trans erasure (45 banning transgender people in the military), bi erasure (Hi, Bohemian Rhapsody), disabled erasure (to my knowledge Mr. Eddie Redmayne is not disabled like the late Mr. Stephen Hawking), and a variety of other negative portrayals. There’s Muslims as terrorists when not all Muslims are terrorists, just to name one.

Okay, so what about it? What’s so important about representation in media? Well, numbers don’t lie. Black Panther made a billion dollars in less than a month because black people were like “That’s me, that could be me!” One of the reasons representation is so important is because there are more than white dudes on the planet: there are black people, Asians, women, Muslims, Indians (from India), Native Americans, among other minority groups and it kind of sucks that they have not had the representation they deserve.

For fuck’s sake, Wonder Woman didn’t even get her own movie until 76 years AFTER her inception and we’ve seen Superman and Batman rebooted more times than a drunk girl giving out her phone number to frat boys at a party.

So, I’m going to pull the “What about the children?” card. If film roles continue to be whitewashed, children will keep developing unhealthy conceptions of racial equality. But if kids see more positive and empowering depictions of POC – especially in film and television – it will undoubtedly begin to have a powerful affect, as many celebrities have attested to. And that’s part of the problem. We don’t have good representations of anyone but white people. Women to a degree are infantile or given the damsel in distress role and most people of color unless a movie made with them at the fore is dedicated to killing those people of color or making them out to be less than human.

We are an ever-changing society; our entertainment industry should continue to represent that. There are children who watch these TV shows and movies and look for someone they can relate to. Think about it. Why do you enjoy the shows you watch? Compelling plot? Sure. How do you feel about the characters? I’m sure you probably enjoy them, but are there any you feel particularly drawn to? So, shouldn’t we make media to reflect our society?

What’s this got to do with Black PantherAnd then Black Panther—with its virtually all-black cast, fantastic representation of strong women, African setting, and nuanced characters and storylines—happened. For a brief two hours, our superhero is T’Challa, an African king hailing from a technologically advanced country who uses his superhuman strength to protect his people and their way of life. He’s surrounded by fierce women, including Shuri, his brilliant engineer/princess little sister; Okoye, the general who’s loyal to her country but is also someone’s beloved; and Nakia, the love of his life, a humanitarian, and a spy.

To go farther than that, there’s a different reason that representation matters. Audiences—especially those with little exposure to those outside of their community—typically equate these limited, and harsh, media representations with the real world. That, in turn, can lead to “less attention from doctors to harsher sentencing by judges, lower likelihood of being hired for a job or admitted to school, lower odds of getting loans, and a higher likelihood of being shot by police,” the authors write.

So, it’s not just about getting minorities into film and television. It’s about changing the perspective of the audience. Specifically, the white audience. Though to be fair, some of the films mentioned above were not made for white people by any stretch of the imagination.

And it doesn’t just hurt audiences. It hurts the actors: As a minority, breaking into an industry where white people star in almost three-quarters of the movies produced is an arduous endeavour. As experiences of other groups fall by the wayside in the face of white protagonists, Hollywood silences their important voices from being heard and their stories from being seen. As a result, movies exist in a skewed version of the world that fails to truly reflect its diversity. In addition, exposing audiences to different cultures and heritages makes P.O.C feel more accepted and strengthens their belonging in a community.

And a lot of the time, they played stereotypes. But despite the strides in this department, we aren’t exactly going fast enough. There are so many white people movies, it’s ridiculous. Slowly, the film industry has acknowledged its institutionalized sexism and is making strides to be more inclusive. The Marvel movie franchise included a powerful scene in 2019’s “Avengers: Endgame,” featuring all of the franchise’s women standing together, ready to save the world. And don’t even get me started as to why “all of the franchise’s women standing together” is fucking straight up wrong.

And so far, I’ve only been talking about in front of the screen. What about the writers? Directors? Best Boys? Film Criticism? Producers? Like why is only Ryan Coogler and Jordan Peele the only names that come to mind for directors respectively? I mean there are definitely other people of color that do these roles, but they aren’t as prevalent as white guys.

So, my fellow white guys do me a favor and read this quote over and over again until you get it in your brains: The beauty of television and movies is that there are so many to choose from. If you are an individual who gets “offended” by a race-bent character or a person of color lead, an LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) character or plot line, or even a show or movie with a dominant and strong female lead, change the channel or skip the movie. Bashing it online or complaining about it in public gets you nowhere. These characters are doing so much for individuals who identify with them. Recognize the privilege you were born with and understand some people aren’t lucky enough to always have representation in television or movies.

Okay, so what about queer people or disabled people? The same thing applies. If you aren’t disabled, cast a disabled actor. If you aren’t queer, don’t take a queer role. Why is this so difficult for people to grasp?

Anyway, in conclusion, do not get me started on whitewashing. I’m serious. Don’t fucking do it, Scarlett.

Posted on October 13, 2019, in Cultural Sustainability, Marvel Cinematic Universe. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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