Why Proper Representation is Important in Television

In the last twenty years or so, the entertainment industry has been making strides to become more diverse and inclusive in their casting choices. For example, Disney has made the choice to cast people from the cultures they are representing in movies such as Moana and Christopher Robin to name a few. Because of these trends, the viewer has come to expect an authentic cultural representation in the media they consume. With the aid of social media, the consumer has become increasingly powerful in indicating the type of content they want to see. These trends have caused many production companies in both television and movies to follow in the lead of Disney and to take a closer look at their casting choices and go the extra mile to ensure they are using real elements of the cultures they are portraying in their works. 

Often times, stereotypes are portrayed in media such as television, movies and even commercials. There are stereotypes associated with gender, ethnicity, race and even age. Some of the stereotypes we are familiar with seeing on our televisions are that Asians are bad drivers or that women are the only ones who have an active role in raising children or managing the household. Often times, black people are featured in television only in minor roles as the "token" black friend who offers comic relief. When they are featured as a main character, their storyline often times does not go beyond that of breaking free of poverty or slavery. In the new Charmed, the main character Macy is an Afro-Latinx who is a highly educated molecular biologist. It's refreshing for viewers to see such a boss woman on their television screen. 

When something is portrayed incorrectly or badly, the viewers can easily tell. These inconsistencies can manifest in a variety of ways, such as the omission of an important cultural tradition, bad accents when speaking another language or the misuse of an important cultural tradition. Now, because social media is so prevalent in our culture, people who actually are a part of those cultures have the opportunity to speak out and let others know the truth about their cultural traditions. When the truth inevitably comes out, people boycott these movies and make their unhappiness known. 

Including different types of people in media has the indirect effect of influencing young viewers who are watching and consuming the content. These young viewers have the opportunity to see people who are in similar situations or from similar cultural backgrounds and identify with their stories. When I was growing up, I was obsessed with Kim Possible. To me, she represented a boss woman who could do anything without letting any problem stop her. Because of the influence of the show, I thought that I too could do anything and conquer any problem. Featuring different types of people has the power to shape and mold young people into becoming better versions of themselves. 

It's important that we as viewers continue to demand proper representation in our media content. The movie industry has come a long way since the 90's, but they still have a long way to go in including more of different types of people.