Representation and the Media

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Well, when I was nine years old, Star Trek came on, I looked at it and I went screaming through the house, ‘Come here, mom, everybody, come quick, come quick, there’s a black lady on television and she ain’t no maid!’ I knew right then and there I could be anything I wanted to be.

Whoopi Goldberg

One of the most important issues affecting feminism in developed worlds today is that men outnumber women in high-ranking positions in most fields of the workforce, especially where the diversity of opinions and perspectives is important. The media is such an industry. Julie Burton, president of the Women’s Media Center, said, “We’re still not seeing equal participation. That means we are only using half our talent and usually hearing half of the story.” Because the media is so relevant in people’s lives, it’s important that all views are represented, so all the angles are covered and all points-of-view considered equally significant.

There are worries that this trend of inequality will continue with the millennial generation as it grows older, so one of the ways to challenge and reduce that fear is to make sure millennials aren’t negatively influenced by pre-conceived gender roles and stereotypes, and that they grow up believing that men and women are equal and that when asked what a boss looks like, they won’t immediately think of a white male but rather picture a woman or a person of colour as equally likely to be a boss. The measures taken have to be conscious, efforts made to be more inclusive.

One way that representation is being delivered in through children’s media. The recent releases of Big Hero 6, Home, and The Book of Life have breathed new life into the lack of racial ethnicity in feature films. These three animated movies feature Asian-American, African-American and Latina/Latino heroes and have created new characters for children of colour to enjoy and empathise with. Live-action movie Annie features the talented Quvenzhané Wallis (who is the youngest ever nominee for an Academy Award) as the African-American Annie. Other media such as comics are now striving to do the same. Marvel released its new series Ms. Marvel (which features a Pakistani-American lead) last year and the comic so far has been hugely popular. DC Comics’s Gotham Academy is becoming more popular – it features multiple dark-skinned leads as well as Japanese-Americans. Television shows like Steven Universe and The Legend of Korra, which feature a wide variety of characters ethnically and physically, are positively affecting the audiences that consume them. These two shows also do their best to represent LGBT values.

The fact that so many creators of children’s media are doing their best to include diversity means that the younger generation may grow up knowing that no matter their skin colour or body shape or sexuality, they are just as important as the next person.

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