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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Utah chapter.

The comedian Wyatt Cenac once tweeted, “No disrespect to monsters, but it’s weird that there are more TV shows starring vampires than starring minorities.” If you snorted when you read this, you are aware there is a lack in quality and quantity of minorities in the media. If you aren’t aware, it’s time to examine the overwhelming evidence surrounding this topic. Alyssa Rosenberg of Think Progress wrote an article in 2013 depicting what the United States would look like if it reflected the casting of NBC, ABC, CBS, and Fox. She included any adults, leads, and gave the benefit of the doubt to any characters of color shown, even if they weren’t main characters. The results showed that half the population would be white men, 5% would be black men, and a mere 1.9% would be Asian or Latino men. Overall, this makes 57% of the population male. 34% would be white women, 3.8% would be black women, and 3.8 percent would be Asian or Latina women. Clearly, there is an issue in how television reflects its audiences.

Why are people so worked up about this? Many will argue that the character is not defined by their race, so issues in casting are irrelevant. While people aren’t defined by their race, there are adverse effects of misrepresentation. It fosters cultural ignorance. Yes, there are more East Asian countries than China, Japan, and Korea. It reinforces stereotypes. Allan Bérubé, a historian, analyzed the parody of black women’s speech, used to objectify their “sass” and anger for a white audience’s amusement. The few representations of black women have a loud and boisterous filter that perpetuates how people think of and act towards them, as though they’re different. This is also an example of the media creating a furthering gap between the notion of “us” and “them.” In his now-deleted video titled “Why diversity sucks,” Tyler Oakley talked about how bizarre it is that pictures of different races together exist, because “What is it? A NATO meeting? These people would never be seen together in real life,” insinuating that it’s impossible for people to hold relationships due to differences in skin color. However, Shonda Rhimes, a well-known writer and producer given the Diversity Award, shares different insight. “I really hate the word ‘diversity,’ it suggests something…other. As if it is something…special. Or rare. I have a different word: NORMALIZING. [Minorities] equal WAY more than 50% of the population. I am making the world of television look NORMAL.” In spirit of Rhimes’ words, we need to normalize television by broadcasting audiences realistically, so those of privilege stop acting upon the belief that there really is something different about minorities. Spoiler alert: there isn’t.


There are countless examples of people feeling moved upon seeing someone of their demographic depicted in a series. Whoopi Goldberg said, “Well, when I was nine years old, Star Trek came on, I looked at it, and I went screaming through the house, ‘Come here, mum, everybody, come quick! There’s a black lady on television, and she ain’t no maid!’ In that moment, I knew I could be anything I wanted” about Lieutenant Uhura, first portrayed by Nichelle Nichols. NASA later employed Nichols to promote black women and men alike to join NASA and further research. NASA Astronaut Group 8 yielded the first recruits of ethnic minorities, three of which were black men. Dr. Mae Jemison, the first black woman aboard the Space Shuttle, cited Star Trek as an inspiration for her to join NASA. A single woman of color allowed these famous figures, as well as others, to believe that their dreams do not have limits, as they have seen someone like them aboard the Enterprise reach beyond the stars.

Representation not only creates role models, but brings us closer to those around us and reminds us of who we are. When The Book of Life, a movie based off of El Día de los Muertos, came out, Hispanic and Latino viewers were thrilled. A Disney fan by the name of Eduardo blogged about it, explaining how his father never cared about animated films, until he took Eduardo’s little brother to go see The Book of Life. Surprisingly, he didn’t come back home complaining about how uncomfortable the movie seats were. Instead, the father came back home ecstatic about how great the film was because it included elements of his culture. He hadn’t seen anyone that reminded him of their friends or even his own family in an animated feature. When he did, it brought together the whole family in a way it hadn’t before.

Representation brings opportunity for minorities in the field of acting. No one could have said it better than the first black woman to win an Emmy for best actress in 2015 by the name of Viola Davis in her acceptance speech. She talked about the importance of creating characters for minorities, specifically women of color, so people can acquire the status of actor or actress, so people can earn an Emmy, but, most importantly, so people can achieve their dreams. Writers like Ben Sherwood, Paul Lee, Peter Nowalk, and Shonda Rhimes are crucial to our time, because they create the roles for minorities to fill the shoes of.

So, how do we solve for misrepresentation? The answer should be a resounding, “Cast minorities, cast minorities, cast minorities.”


Create TV shows and movies starring minorities. Thankfully, there are writers out there who agree with me. Glee is a comedy with people of all sorts of ethnic backgrounds, body types, and unconventional religions, sexualities, and genders. Sense8, a drama of the same sort, reaches beyond with having almost every lead role be queer and/or an ethnic minority in different parts of the world. Grey’s Anatomy and How to Get Away with Murder are also fantastic examples of shows with leads who are queer and people of color. Recently, Love Simon brought to life a romcom for the queer community. Black Panther gave young black children a visual of the superheroes they can be. To All the Boys I Loved Before stars a Vietnamese-American actress named Lana Condor as the protagonist and love interest, a role often not held by Asian actors and actresses. This content is a great start to more inclusive and proper representation. Let’s do even better by creating more!

As you can see, providing representation isn’t hard and reaps nothing but positive consequences. It’s important to keep up what we have only started. With representation, it seems to be a ‘Now you see it! Now you don’t!’ disappearing act, and we need to use movie magic to fix it.



Image credit: Prince making a “yikes” face, happy-crying ANTM model

Her Campus Utah Chapter Contributor