Opinion

Representation in Media

BY CAMERON CAMMACK

Walking into a store, I see a tag that says “One Size Fits All”, I frown knowing what that phrase really represents. “One Size Fits All” actually means one size fits FEW. Things like this have the potential to damage people knowing that they may not be included in this group of “all” and that they may or may not meet this brand’s standard. Having representation in media is vital in making people feel like they belong, especially now, due to so many children having exposure to media and being so impressionable to what they intake. However, things don’t have to be this way; adjustments made to our indulgences in media would allow society’s citizens to feel more comfortable. 

Various minority groups have always been underrepresented in the media such as movies, tv shows, music, fashion,  or even people who gain popularity in society. To me, indulging in a form of media is more enjoyable when I can relate to someone or a situation a person may be involved in. It’s easier to connect with when someone looks like you or has something in common with you such as religion, race, sexuality, etc. Seeing people with traits outside of society’s norms in the media would get applause from various sources and audiences, which is why more companies/brands should make the effort to do so.

Tackling topics that are deemed important by society in various forms of media is essential to discuss so people can feel seen or supported. A few shows that stick out to me in regards to diversity or tackling important issues are “The Fosters” and “Euphoria.” In these shows, there are several topics that are addressed and shown pretty accurately. They don’t glamorize these issues.

 In “The Fosters”, topics such as the repugnant foster system, LGBTQ couples, police brutality, race, culture, etc. are addressed. The show examines the foster system and all of its flaws, and it presents a reality that some kids may face in the system (although a bit dramatized at times). In a beginning episode of “The Fosters”, Steph and Lena, the two moms of the adopted family, throw Mariana (a daughter of theirs) a quinceañera in order to preserve her Latina culture, even though she doesn’t have a latino adoptive family. Steph and Lena, although not Latina, understand how important it is for Mariana to remain connected to her culture, which is not typically as accessible for kids in foster care or who have been adopted. It’s common for foster children to lose sight of their culture due to being in a family of different culture, race, or religion. It’s admirable of the moms that they value the importance of Mariana’s step into womanhood as a Latina, and this is one of the many topics within the show that really hits home to show the importance of preserving culture, even within your foster home.

“Euphoria”, which is a forever favorite of mine, puts topics such as substance abuse, abusive relationships, mental illness, body image, and the difficulties of being a teenager in today’s society, at the forefront of all of the character’s storylines. In Rue’s episode (the main character), we really learn about Rue’s struggle with severe depression and anxiety, and how substance abuse has affected her life. In the episode, we see Rue deal with her depression by laying in bed all day watching “Love Island” and having no desire to move away from her comfort show, so much so that she ultimately faced a bladder problem because of refusing to use the restroom. Depression can ultimately give people an extreme lack of motivation and feelings of profound sadness, which we can see with Rue. We also see how she uses drugs to escape the pain she goes through with her mental illness issues, and it provides a window into the varying paths that can lead one down the dark path of substance abuse. HBO did an amazing job with realistically showcasing complications that teenagers may face throughout their years.

Now, more than ever, representation is important in the media due to so many young, impressionable kids having internet access. It’s easier now than ever to scroll through social media and get down on yourself because you don’t look like someone else. Kids and teens having a public figure or influencer they can look up to, that may be similar to them or that portray realistic beauty standards, is extremely important in making people comfortable in their own skin and feeling secure.

Someone who has really pushed the standard for beauty/makeup and undergarment products is Rihanna by making large shade ranges in foundation, etc. and a vast size range in undergarments. She also had diverse women in regard to body shape, race, hair type, etc. , model her SAVAGE brand for undergarments, which hopefully inspires other brands. Her push for inclusivity in her brands created a lot of uproar on Twitter praising her for the inclusivity within her brands.

My mind wanders with confusion when thinking why some creators tend to not be as diverse or include realistic issues in their projects as possible considering it benefits everyone involved. It may be challenging to find an incredible, diverse cast/team member, or come up with a way to go about difficult topics, but the payoff outweighs the journey of finding perfect matches.

Creating a space full of diversity allows for not only more perspectives on just about anything, but it also opens the world of possibilities by letting in more creativity and freedom of thought. If you think about it, getting ten people who have the same job, are the same race, age, gender, etc. you may find that a lot of their life experiences may be similar. Whereas if you get people of all different cultures, genders, sexualities, locations, occupations, etc. you will gain much more insight into how people think about certain things.

In my personal experience, I enjoy indulging in brands or media that offer inclusivity and  make everyone feel like they’re a part of something. I’d rather support someone that craves making their work as diverse and creative as they can while constantly striving towards inclusivity. As said before, I really admire Rihanna and her brand, and I believe every brand or creator should attempt to reach that same level, if not farther, of inclusivity. 

Overall, a push for heavier representation within the media or giving more diverse people platforms to speak freely would benefit everyone and would create a healthier environment for people in the art industries. This also would open up opportunities to educate and open people’s eyes to new ideas to different topics and allow people to gain new insight rather than being blinded by privilege or poor portrayals of societal issues. Wouldn’t you feel a little unwanted if you never saw someone that looked like you on TV?

Categories: Opinion

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