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Diversity in Film and Television

[Mis-]Representation

Autor(en): Maria Cordes am Freitag, 3. August 2018
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Quelle: @ shutterstock

Representation of minorities in movies

The representation of minorities in the media is a topic that has been gaining more attention recently, but not nearly enough. A Look into the Lack of Diversity in U.S. Film and Television

 

Diversity is majorly lacking in the United States’ television and film industry, and in reality, many portrayals of minorities are often misrepresentative. This is a conversation that raises questions about why you should care, how this effects everyone globally, and how we change to progress as a society and become more accepting.

Statistics on Representation

To start with some statistics on the issue, a 2014 UCLA study found that just 12.9% of film leads were minorities, despite the fact that minorities make up 38% of the U.S. populace. Another 2014 USC study analyzed 30,000 film characters in the top grossing films over a 7-year period, and found that 73.1% of all characters were white. Among the rest, 12.5% identified as black, 5.3% Asian, 4.9% Hispanic, and 4.2% other. While lack of representation is certainly an issue, along with that you have misrepresentation and the portrayal of stereotypes when a minority is being represented.
A trending topic included in this discussion is the #OscarsSoWhite issue, and along with that, a realization that the Hollywood film industry has a major inclusion problem. This includes ethnic minorities, members of the LGBTQ community, and women. In fact, one study confirmed that in a study of 400 films, women were only given one-third of the speaking character roles. The study also included the following quote, “Overall, the study found half the films and TV shows they analyzed had no Asian speaking characters and more than one-fifth of them had no black characters with dialogue. Just 2% of speaking characters were identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual, and more than half the LGBT characters in all the films they examined came from two movies.

Stereotypes

As aforementioned, a majority of the times these characters are represented, they fall prey to stereotypes. For example, people of color are often portrayed as drug dealers, thugs, perpetual immigrants with thick accents, sexy “exotic” lovers, or just simply “the help” that work as landscapers, maids, or servers. Not only is this an inaccurate generalization of multiple cultures, but in my opinion, it is harmful because it spreads ignorance; and does not create an example that young children can see and aspire to become.

Societal Effects

To further reiterate, the media has a more substantial influence on society than some realize. Children are particularly impressionable, and it is important for them to see characters that they can relate to. The reason why representation is so important is because they need to know there are other people like them who can do great things, have big dreams, make people laugh, understand their feelings, and feel accepted, so they can do it too. It is also beneficial for kids to see diversity in media, because the world is diverse. For example, there is a new children’s show developing in the U.S. right now called Team Supreme, that depicts a group of superhero kids that have disabilities, and their superpowers are their disabilities. That is really awesome because not only can children with disabilities, embrace being different, but other curious children can learn about these differences and realize that they are normal kids too.
However, when there are not programs like these, and children either do not see themselves, or they see themselves in a negative light through stereotypes. So, when a child of color only sees shows with white doctors, white lawyers, white people being successful, while simultaneously seeing themselves as the “criminal” or someone lesser who can only mow the lawn, pick the tomatoes, or clean the houses… what are we teaching them?
Not only does this effect children, it effects society’s perceptions of these people. Again, if you are only seeing bad portrayals of a certain group of people, or reinforced stereotypes, that shapes how you see those people in real life. This is a problem because obviously not everyone fits those stereotypes, so people become ignorant and get the wrong ideas about others and make assumptions based upon what they see.

What Can We Do?

We as an audience are no longer accepting these traditional roles and stereotypes, so things are very slowly improving. When talking about television specifically, there has been a definite rise with women and minorities in front of and behind the cameras, but there is still a lot more work to be done. This rise is likely because there is so much original content being produced, so more people of color and minority groups are able to produce their own content now. Recently, shows that have a majority of people of color in their cast, such as “Empire”, “Jane the Virgin”, “Black-ish”, and “Fresh Off the Boat”, have more than doubled since the previous year. Things are also continuing to change because more characters of color are being portrayed as dimensional and dynamic characters that are relatable, and also it has been proven that minorities in lead roles can make money. Take “Black Panther” and “Coco” for examples of the successes of representation, as well as the importance and significance of each. We can continue to remain on this trend of more representation by investing in films where you feel represented, and to continue to write, create, and demand more.

Final Thoughts

I believe diversity in film and television is important because it should imitate real life, and the population should be adequately represented. People want to see themselves represented, and it is important to the acceptance of others when there are less barriers in between and more understanding and normalcy of different cultures and beliefs. Diversity and inclusion is vital to cooperation and acceptance; which is why we should all be advocates and hold media companies (as well as ourselves) accountable for making the necessary changes.

Platte des Monats

Auf den Ehrenplätzen der Rubrik „Wörter, die es nur im Deutschen gibt“ sitzt seit jeher die feucht-fröhliche „Schnapsidee“. Sie beschreibt treffend wie kein anderes Wort das, was entsteht, wenn drei befreundete Musiker*innen auf einer Geburtstagsparty einen über den Durst trinken und dann beschließen eine Band zu gründen. Aus einer solchen Schnapsidee wurde auch das Bandprojekt Phantastic Ferniture um Sängerin Julia Jacklin, das auf seinem gleichnamigen Debüt den Emotionsreichtum der Adoleszenz in leichtfüßig schwankender und wunderbar wärmender Gitarrenmusik feiert.

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