Why actual representation in multimedia is important

Our multimedia is white-washed. It’s heteronormative and cisnormative. I don’t have to say much else about that. It is very evident when you look at the mainstream movies and T.V. shows that reach millions of people.

For decades our media has predominantly featured white actors and actresses, and was directed and produced by white people. I don’t think much has changed. I still feel like I’m searching for BIPOC  and LGBTQ+ people in the multimedia depicted with the emotional depth and character that white people are given. I want the same thought placed into these minority characters as their straight, white companions.

But instead I find characters that are falling flat, portrayed in ways that don’t feel like actual representation and more of a way to say that: “Hey, there is a person of a minority group in the background! We are representing everyone! Now watch these two straight white people fall in love and not actually see that person in any meaningful ways.”

These types of characters generally have no personality other than the race, sexuality, or gender identity that they are trying to portray. And the problem is that these stereotypes and the portrayal of these personalities are not staying in the films, or the T.V. shows, they are being carried out into daily life and are damaging minority communities and affecting implicit biases of everyone.

When your friend tells you about this Asian friend they just met and you imagine what their personality may be like, what do you instantly think about this person? Chances are you are going to automatically assume that they are intelligent and have aspirations to go into law or the medical field or have an accent or are “socially inept,” because that is what the media has told us ever since they started including Asian characters in media. I’m sure you can see why that is damaging.

You can do this exercise with many other different minority groups, a Black woman, a gay man, a Latinx person, and I think you can see how our implicit bias is affecting our instinctive thoughts about a person, based on a small part of their identity. And that bias and stereotyping is partly stemming from content that film and television has fed us for practically our whole lives.

I admit that there are movies and shows that are doing what I want all multimedia to do. There are forms of media that are showcasing minority groups in accurate, and unique ways. They are showing them with depth and real personalities. Things are getting better, but that doesn’t mean that things are great. We still need to work towards creating content that is representative of as many people as it possibly can be.

Film and television affects so many people every single day that it is crucial to create content that accurately represents everyone. We need to start to use the media to highlight and showcase the different people in our society in positive and accurate ways.

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