Why Representation Matters: A battle 70 Years in The Making & Still Going Strong

Diversity in media is important, really important. If you want proof as to how important it is: current representation standards have been found to decrease the self-esteem of white girls, and girls and boys of colour.

Unsurprisingly, it boosts the confidence of white boys who are so over-represented in children’s television you could throw a rock at your TV and probably hit one. While positive representation is good for under-represented people, it is also good for society as a whole.

TV does have an impact on our ideas and attitudes, and it can help or hinder our relationships. While there have been major leaps in the right direction, failures happen on the regular. Consider the #OscarsSoWhite controversy and the constant whitewashing of casting (The Last Airbender was a shitshow for soo many reason).

There are plenty of people campaigning for change. Boycotts of whitewashed or racially-insensitive movies are common these days. Many people want movies that reflect our diverse society, and many other people don’t give a shit either way.

But it seems that those in charge are out of touch. In this case, change will only take hold if it begins at the top. The casting of people of colour in movies and television isn’t enough, they need to be the ones making these decisions.

The cherished, white / male audience will adapt to greater representation. Especially if you start with children’s programming.

Diversity in our media is not only good for society,  it’s good entertainment value. We have had every iteration of the white male story told a billion times over in cinemas and on TV.

Media diversity and positive representation will breathe new life into our entertainment with new stories, that are rarely told.

I came across this interesting letter written by John Steinbeck to 20th Century Fox about the movie “Lifeboat” for which he wrote the screenplay and Alfred Hitchcock directed.

Lifeboat John Steinbeck Alfred Hitchcock

It’s important to note that Steinbeck wrote this letter in 1944! It seems insane that the arguments he raises in this letter must still be discussed of cinema and TV 70 years later.

Dear Sirs:

I have just seen the film Lifeboat, directed by Alfred Hitchcock and billed as written by me. While in many ways the film is excellent there are one or two complaints I would like to make. While it is certainly true that I wrote a script for Lifeboat, it is not true that in that script as in the film there were any slurs against organized labor nor was there a stock comedy Negro. On the contrary there was an intelligent and thoughtful seaman who knew realistically what he was about. And instead of the usual colored travesty of the half comic and half pathetic Negro there was a Negro of dignity, purpose and personality. Since this film occurs over my name, it is painful to me that these strange, sly obliquities should be ascribed to me.

John Steinbeck


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