Representation in Media

Maya Colchamiro, Staff Writer

Fairly representing people of all races, religions, genders, and sexual orientations is a necessity. It is important for people of all cultures to find media with characters and actors who look and come from the same culture as them. This is especially important for children, as they are still learning about the world around them. Kevin Leo Yabut Nadal from  Psychology Today  explains, Because there were so few media images of people who looked like me, I distinctly remember the joy and validation that emerged when I did see those representations.” Representation can inspire and validate entire communities; however, this representation must be meaningful, and not forced to simply make a profit. Forced representation is directors intentionally adding people of color just to maintain viewership, and not truly caring about diversity. This generally increases the amount of stereotypes in a show, book, or movie.

Junior Kylah Rajan explains, “I definitely find representation in books, movies, TV, and other media to be very important. Positive representation can help people of other cultures 

become familiar with cultures like mine. That being said, stereotypical representation can negatively impact the public view of a specific culture.” Stereotypes can be extremely impactful, as they communicate an image of an individual as an image of an entire community. Even if the stereotypes are positive, like “Asians are good at math,” the stereotype still creates a false expectation for the entire community. Sophomore Maansi Bhargava explains “‘The Office’ and ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ are two of my favorite shows, but they are very different in the ways that they deal with representation. ‘The Office’ shows many stereotypes about women, people of color, and gay people. On the other hand, ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ portrays people of all races and sexual orientations, with multiple people of color as main characters, and a lesbian main character.” This demonstrates how the producers, writers, and time period in which a show was produced in can effect the level and quality of representation. Similarly, Rajan explains “The first run of ‘Gossip Girl’ is one of my favorite shows, but it does not have much representation at all, as the main characters are all extremely rich and white.” The progress in diversity between the first and re-run of “Gossip Girl” illustrates the progress that we as a society have made. The original “Gossip Girl” stars a predominantly white and straight cast, framing the Humphry family as poor (the only “poor” characters), when in reality it is estimated that they have an annual income of $2 to 4 million. The newer Gossip Girl shows the viewers people of all races, and more diversity within the sexual orientations of the characters. Finally, Senior Connor Russi explains “My favorite show is probably ‘Breaking Bad’. The main stereotypes are based on traditional gender roles. For example, it focuses on aspects of masculinity and a traditional family where the man is the provider/ must provide while the woman must take care of the children and stay home.” Stereotypes about gender roles can impact women’s rights in a multitude of ways, whether it be consciously or subconsciously. 

While stereotypes and representation in media can always grow and improve, society is beginning to improve and reach true diverse equality. Daily Campus states, “Looking at the statistical side of things can paint a better picture of the lack of representation for marginalized groups in the media. UCLA’s 2021 diversity report states that only in 2020 did people of color and women nearly reach proportionate representation among film leads when compared to their white male counterparts. “ Although this fact is sad and unfair, it does illustrates that society is striving towards equality. Freshmen Jeremy Lou states, “Mainstream media has portrayed more cultures/races recently, I believe this is linked to the increased numbers of racial/social equality protests.” Media continues to follow demands made by society, even within the realm of racial, social, and political equality. Representation in media can almost have a butterfly effect, impacting the toys and mascots brands put out.

In conclusion, representation in the media is crucial to ensuring social equality in the future. This can be achieved by hiring more writers, directors, and producers who are people of color, and/or who come from a range of cultures.  “Diversity may be a buzzword in Hollywood, but full participation by people of color continues to lag behind that of white males. Hollywood requires better strategies. Studios can work to diversify Hollywood’s employment and content by establishing responsibility structures, including specific committees, staff positions, and hiring plans dedicated to increasing representation of people of color.” Representation allows children to connect with their heritage, in addition to creating a favorable image of differing cultures in the minds of others. Ultimately, society has the potential to and ultimately will achieve diversity.