Representation Matters

I think it is about time we had a real talk about representation. I had a discussion recently with my wonderful boyfriend about representation. He is genuinely a sweet, kind, caring, wonderful human being and works hard at his job as an ICU nurse, but at the moment of our discussion, I could not even stand the sight of him.

He spoke some words to me that lit up a warning signal in my head. “I do not think representation actually matters that much. Why does it even bother you?”

I took a deep breath in and remembered that I love him before calmly informing him that I understand why he would say that. He is a straight, white, male after all. He has all of the representation that he could ever need. If he had been anyone else I would have exploded on him as soon as those words left his mouth, but I know him. I know he is not a malicious person who wants to keep representation only for himself and not share at all, he just genuinely did not understand. I had a wonderful opportunity presenting itself to me --a teaching moment.

I sat down with my boyfriend and pointed out to him Jewish roles that were not played by Jewish characters and that growing up as a little Jewish girl, how disappointing and disheartening it was. Take for example, Magneto. He survived the Holocaust and in the comics, he is proud of his Jewish past but in the movie representations of him, we have not had a Jewish person play him and we have not had a moment where he explicitly states that he is Jewish. Of course people, including my boyfriend, are quick to point out the small moments where Magneto shows he is Jewish (i.e. the moment in X-Men First Class where there is a flashback in which a younger Magneto is seen lighting a Menorah with his mother, a scene in the same film where he yells the worlds “Never Again”, the showcasing of his numbers in several of the X-Men movies).

But that is not enough for me.

I want to see proud Jewish characters who will tell people about the people they come from. I want to see Magneto lighting the menorah with Kitty Pryde aka Shadowcat and Ben Grimm aka The Thing. Show me Magneto beaming with pride as he watches any of his three children (who are technically not Jewish because their mother isn’t and Judaism is matrilineal) celebrate the Jewish holidays or convert if they wanted to or do their Bar/Bat Mitzvah. I want to watch a movie or a TV show and feel pride in my people as I see them loud and proud on the screen. I want to feel connected to a character through our similar backgrounds. I want my children to have a superhero that they can look up to that is Jewish just like them. It’s only fair, is it not?

In the end my boyfriend was quiet for a long while before he gave me a hug and told me that he understands now. He gets why representation is important and how it can impact the lives of those who do not have the proper representation. I almost always feel proud to be with my significant other, but in this moment my heart soared and I felt proud on a whole new level.

Representation matters. Give me my due share.