This Is Why Representation Matters
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Politics and Activism

This Is Why Representation Matters

The media needs to embrace diversity in casting and story telling.

This Is Why Representation Matters

Most people have, by this point, heard of the musical" Hamilton." The Broadway hit not only brings to life the story of Alexander Hamilton, founding father and immigrant, but it also illustrates an important issue found in many books, movies, television shows, stage shows and other forms of media: that of representation. The cast was purposefully chosen to reflect America now, as creator Lin-Manuel Miranda has said - purposefully chosen to bring the story closer to audiences in a modern and more diverse world. The founding fathers are played by black and Hispanic actors, yet this choice does not feel forced or unrealistic, proving that not only are we ready for representation like this, we need it.

Another important example of representation is American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland. For most, if not all, of its existence, ballet was the realm of the white female dancer, and, post-Balanchine, it was the realm of the wisp-like white female dancer. There was no place for black dancers, or for dancers who were larger or curvier, regardless of their level of skill. The most they could hope for was a place in the corps de ballet, if they got extremely lucky. Misty’s success will hopefully open doors for a more diverse group of dancers, showing them that they can obtain their goals if they work for it. It will also hopefully show young black girls and their families that getting into ballet isn’t futile, that they can do anything they want to. By extension, this representation will show all girls that they don’t need to be perfectly petite in order to be a dancer. Once again, we are ready for and need this kind of diverse representation.

Dylan Marron, the actor who serves as the voice of Carlos in the popular podcast "Welcome to Night Vale," created a project called “Every Single Word,” which illustrates the huge gap in representation. "Every Single Word" takes mainstream films and boils them down to every single word spoken by a person of color within that film, according to their Tumblr page. Most films are reduced to only a small percentage of their running original time, illustrating starkly the color bias in media. It’s far past time to reduce this disparity, to bring up the issues of representation and fight for them.

Representation reaches beyond more than just that of skin color as well. LGBT+ characters in most mainstream media are either silenced, abused or turned into gimmicks. There are very few stories with LGBT+ protagonists in which their preference is not made the main quality of their character. Off the top of my head, I can think of only one example featuring explicitly queer protagonists without their preferences being the main point of their story - the popular podcast "Welcome to Night Vale."

The problem with representation reaches into all corners of the LGBT+ community. People who are transgender are turned into fetishes, as are lesbians. People who are asexual are told that they’re broken or sick. Any hint of a well-developed LGBT+ character has people up in arms, but that’s a large part of why we need them. Being gay or bisexual or transgender or any other part of the LGBT+ community isn’t necessarily something that develops in the teen years or in adulthood. Younger people struggle with this too, and they need to see people who feel like them in orientation and gender just as much as they need to see people who look like them in skin color and body size and shape.

Representation matters for people of all ages who are members of minorities erased in the media. Be it the elementary school student who is excited to see a character that looks like them, someone struggling with their sexuality or gender or anyone else, everyone deserves to see positively-represented characters in the media who also represent people in real life who struggle to find people like them. It's far past time for representation for everyone.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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