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Representation: Advertising vs Films

Representation in the media has become an incredibly important issue in the last 5 years and certain companies are taking it pretty seriously while others… well aren’t. One thing that I have noticed recently is that the one place on television that representation has really been thriving is commercial advertising. While this is obviously not the only form of media that is taking this issue seriously, once you notice the prevalence of positive representation in commercials, it’s hard to ignore.

One company’s commercials that come to mind are actually H&R Block. In January of last year they made “Lisa” (Tessa Hersh) the new spokeswoman for their commercials and she is the first woman to have the job. Lisa is a woman of color sporting a natural hair style which, from what I understand as a white person, is a pretty big deal. Having a black woman representing a large tax company might seem like a small example of representation, but every little bit counts when trying to effect change in the media. 

Another wonderful example is the brand new ad that Starbucks UK came out with featuring a transgender man being called by his preferred name after being called the wrong name the entire commercial. While some are calling the ad cheesy, I think that it is incredibly impactful. Not only does it impact the trans community by representing them, but it also allows for an opportunity for families to open conversations with their kids as well as an opportunity to normalize transgender people. 

Hunter Honeg / Spoon

Farmers Insurance has also been doing an excellent job of making their commercials representative. Many of the insurance agents are represented by people of color and the same goes for a bunch of the customers. Once again, it is a little thing but I believe that it suggests that greater change is coming.

I do have to take a moment to give some props to films of the last few years. While the vast majority of them have been very white-male oriented, some excellent movies have come out recently. Wonder Woman premiered and so did Little Women, both of which did very well at the box office. Jordan Peele’s films have majorly taken off and Black Panther is still one of the most discussed Marvel films to date. There are also some promising films coming out. Love Birds is a romantic comedy starring a mixed couple, neither of whom are white, and looks hilarious. HBO’s Euphoria also features some excellent representation, featuring Zendaya as a lesbian and Hunter Schafer as her trans love interest. 

I really do think that media representation is moving in the right direction. Speaking as a lover of beautiful stories I know how important it is to connect with characters in media and relate to them. That can be difficult to do when those characters are constantly different from yourself, so I am glad to see that media is moving in the right direction.  


Sophomore double majoring in English and Psychology at the University of Utah.
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