A few months ago, I wrote about two concepts (the Bechdel Test and Every Single Word) that highlight the lack of diversity in US media and that lack of diversity is something to constantly keep in mind and critique. This issue continues to be incredibly important because media easily replicates the problematic nature of society (ie seeing white skin as normal or default, etc).
Take a look at two relatively popular US shows that were set in New York City – Friends (1994) and How I Met Your Mother (2005). Both center a friend group made up of exclusively white people and while there were a few exceptions in each show, most of the rest of the cast was also very white for a city that as of 2010 more than two thirds people of color. (The number of people of color in New York City has continued to grow since 1990 but even 25 years ago, people of color were numerically the majority.)
Now of course, those two shows are not the only ones at fault in the film industry and Hollywood. There are plenty of other popular shows that also need to shape up in this regard (Supernatural anyone?).
And there are more problems than just the actors in the productions because there’s also a lack of diversity in writers, directors, executives, and even in the groups behind several major award shows.
(Thank goodness for Twitter with #OscarsSoWhite this year.)
In the above video, Dylan Marron at one point mentions how we keep having this conversation about diversity and representation but it continues to be a problem. I mean, the recent film production of Into The Woods had not one single person of color actually talk in the entire movie and the latest Hollywood version of Stonewall erased so many of the queer and trans people of color that were not only present but extremely active in the 1969 riots. (The film instead centered a white cis gay man instead of the bi trans women of color that are often credited with being some of the first to throw things at the police.)
That just goes to show that it’s not just important to know that this is an issue but instead support in many ways the projects and creations that help add diversity into media and Hollywood. Shows like How To Get Away With Murder are not only refreshing because of their casting diversity (which honestly made the show feel more like actual life) but also because it created a space to elevate and center black actresses like Viola Davis.
It’s important to help open doors for the diverse creators that already exist because we’re out here. There’s already plenty of diversity within the creative community of the US but getting through those doors can be really difficult. (And if you complain about not being able to find diversity or whatever, just consider the fact that there are a million barriers and locked doors that are in the way for women, people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, people with disabilities, etc that the privileged few don’t experience.)
Stories and the ways we tell them are important not only because they can so easily be entertainment but a reminder that you are not alone. Consistently having television shows, movies, books about white people (usually but not always straight white cis men) is alienating because there are so many people that can’t relate to that lived experience. Being able to relate to the people in media is important because it reminds us that it’s okay to be our own selves and we aren’t alone.