The Importance of Representation in the Media

According to dictionary.com, the definition of representation is the description or portrayal of someone or something in a particular way or as being of a certain nature. Representation is an important concept, especially for minority groups. 

In children’s TV shows, it’s crucial that minority children see people like them being represented in the media. When they aren’t, it can spin an unfair or negative narrative for people of color (POC) and their self-identity. The lack of true acknowledgment is like an erasure of POC and the history they carry. To not have representation for people of color is to act like they don’t exist.

Another huge issue with representation is correctly representing a group of people without using stereotypes or falsely portraying them with other races. This includes examples such as black face and yellow face. Both of those are when a person who isn’t that race portrays themselves as that race by making their skin darker or lighter. Hollywood has a huge issue of dressing white actors as caricatures and whitewashing or letting white actors play the role of POC characters dating back to the 1920s.  When they do that, they often mock minorities and their struggles, which essentially dehumanizes them and makes them seen as props and not real people with feelings, thoughts, and emotions. In addition, this practice also takes away the opportunity for POC to participate in Hollywood. An example of a yellow face pertains to Scarlett Johansson, a white woman, playing the role of an Asian android in the movie adaptation of the Ghost in a Shell series. There was a lot of backlash and controversy around her playing the role as it had not been her first time doing something like that. Another issue with representation is artists alienating and isolating POC in the media. Tim Burton and his movies are a great example of that. His 2016 film Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was the first time he had a minority in one of his movies and he’s been producing films for 30 years.  In an interview with Rachel Simon, an editor from The Washington Post, about his movies and the lack of representation in them, he said, “I remember back when I was a child watching “The Brady Bunch” and they started to get all politically correct, like, OK, let’s have an Asian child and a black — I used to get more offended by that than just — I grew up watching blaxploitation movies, right? And I said, that’s great. I didn’t go like, OK, there should be more white people in these movies.” Since when did fair representation in the media equate to political correctness? 

The inclusion of minorities isn’t political, it’s basic human morals. Burton’s explanation shows ignorance and a lack of perspective. I think equal representation is needed for people, especially minorities, to be and feel included in society. That’s also why if there’s going to be fair representation in a movie or TV show, it should be done well and authentically. There’s no point in representing a group if you’re going to make them look bad or misrepresent them.

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