What Does Authentic Representation Provide
Hopefully, this analysis gives you the comprehension to understand the ins and outs of representation. Configuring why it’s crucial to how we understand the world and each other. There will always be gaps in experiences that we may or may not encounter, which is why it’s necessary for us to learn these components. Even after learning these steps, you, as the audience, will consistently apply them when crafting, creating, and producing subjects about POC or people from different cultural backgrounds. By the end of this entry, you should be able to understand the cultural standing representation has, the empowerment it provides to disenfranchised groups, increase the written dialogue about POC, and find solutions for change and prosperity.
Where do we start? We could talk about the lack of depth communities of color had in film between 1888 and the 1960’s. The constant stereotyping up until the mid 2000’s, atrocious caricatures on major merchandise, creating token characters just to silence criticism about a show or movie, the constant double standards, sexism, and the understanding that the only way to garner empathy or sympathy from people if you were in the LGBTQ community was if your partner died, you died, or you killed yourself (the list goes on). Then the 2010’s happened, which pivoted a lot of representation for the better. Giving disenfranchised communities the ability to tell their own stories. The lack of complexity and character development regarding POC, LGBTQ characters, and people of different cultural backgrounds has always plagued the way people view them and, unfortunately, write them.
The Gods of Egypt is the first movie that comes to mind and how heavily criticized it was for not hiring more non-white actors and actresses. At some point in the film, you can even hear Nikolaj William (who played Jamie Lannister in Game of Thrones) speak with his Danish accent. The reactions to this and many other concerns about the movie imploded on social media. Sam (2016) “Our movies now typically feature a white cast, with the exception of a few minor roles played by people of color (POC). For the second year in a row, the Oscars failed to recognize the comparatively few roles played by minorities. By doing so, the institution feeds into an endless cycle [of white washing and erasure of minority groups].” On the same note, there has been a lot of buzz about non-white actors and actresses playing traditionally white roles in a movie, show, or comic book. Posing the question, “Why is it OK when nonwhite actors play original white roles but it’s not OK when white actors play nonwhite roles?”.
Most of the time, when nonwhite characters are created, their race, their culture, and their behavior (to some degree) are implemented. Regardless of reckless or ignorant ideas that surround the character before they debut. Characters such as Storm, Bishop, Static Shock, John Stewart, Spectrum, Night Crawler, Cyborg, Luke Cage, and Blade are all examples of heroes whose identity is directly linked to who they are as icons (Stan Lee and other creators made it abundantly clear of this fact). Now, does this make it OK for nonwhite actors and actresses to play traditionally white superheroes? Not exactly. Although anybody can play the Fantastic Four because it’s based more on an ideology rather than a single identity (let alone adversity). I’m a super big fan of superheroes, so taking it case by case is OK.
Sam (2016) “There is no representation. When people of color critique the lack of inclusivity, they’re given characters who are 1-dimensional caricatures of their culture in order to appease critics. This is why we see so much of the “ghetto” black women, “hard working Mexican immigrant,” “dragon lady” Asian women. But these characters don’t serve enough of a purpose and often end up being very, very small parts. When this is critiqued, we are given larger and often times more offensive roles like the
“Sexually submissive” Asian women, “thug” black men, “gangbanger” Hispanic men, etc. These images just normalize an image of POC that is entirely unwarranted”.
What Does Authentic Representation Provide
The answer lies in the script in which the audience will never see until its debut. Portteia (2020) “The impact a film holds on its viewers is determined by the script, and we need diverse writers who have unheard stories to aid in the film industry’s growth. Diversity is the solution”. People seem to think that movies like Indiana Jones or Mission Impossible are being sucked into a vacuum, never to be seen again, which isn’t true. Those movies that you like will still be there, but there will also be movies that include everyone. This also includes fantasy and other genres as well. Portteia (2020) “Film companies need to hire scriptwriters of diverse backgrounds. The lack of diversity can be a reason for the lack of new and inspiring stories. Without hiring these new diverse writers striving to test the boundaries and create change, we get stuck in a loop of poorly written movies that are merely a reflection of the exclusive film industry of the 1900s”. What is stopping you from engaging and learning about other people’s stories? Everyone has one.
Do I agree with everything in Porttiea’s article specifically, no. Although she did make a lot of points about perspective writing. Instead of using the word harmful, I would have said unrealistic and disingenuous when it came to representing different communities on screen with a lack thereof attitude. Meaning, if you’re going to write about a person, place or thing, you need to do the research to fully understand what you’re writing about.
Tracy, Sam. “White Washing.” Https://Digitalcommons.library.umaine.edu, University of Maine’s Student News Paper, 23 Nov. 2016, https://digitalcommons.library.umaine.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1186&context=racial_justice.
Davidson, Portteia, and Peggy Woods. “Best Text Collection – Umass.” Https://Scholarworks.umass.edu, University of Massachusetts Amherst, 13 Nov. 2020, https://scholarworks.umass.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1009&context=best_text.