With the success of Marvel’s latest blockbuster Black Panther, people have been talking more and more about representation in media.
This has been a hot button issue for a long time, but with this movie many feel we are finally moving in the right direction when it comes to representation.
I fully agree. Not only was Black Panther an excellent movie – with its issues as every movie does – but it also had nearly the entire cast as minorities. If you haven’t seen the movie yet I highly recommend it.
Young boys and girls watching this movie are seeing themselves in these characters and is absolutely a great thing. They are watching this film as seeing someone who looks like them, finally.
Being a young Caucasian woman, most would say I see myself represented in almost every media form I consume. And on some level, you would be right. I never felt that way. I never looked looked at a Caucasian female on the screen as said “she’s like me.” But probably because of the over-saturated market.
While I agree having a diverse cast is extremely important, I think having character development is also important.
Sure there were, and are, plenty of white women in comics, cartoons, movies and on television, but growing up I never felt I could truly relate to a lot of these characters.
That is simply because of how they are characterized. It is a problem we have today. The way a character is portrayed is very important.
When it comes to women characters it always felt to me they landed in one of four character types: flighty and ditzy, super girly, hyper sexualized or disparaging on femininity.
I’m not sure how many women you know, but they hardly ever land in only one of these character types.
Growing up I had a hard time relating to these one dimensional characters. I could like or love the show, but I didn’t see myself in them no matter what colour skin they may have had.
The first characters I found myself relating to were cartoon characters. I’m sure this is very surprising.
Kim Possible, from the Disney show of the same name, and Penny Proud from Disney’s The Proud Family.
Sure Kim Possible was a white character, but that wasn’t what drew me in. Penny Proud was an African American character, but it was who she was that I could relate to.
Kim was kind and smart. She was a young woman who loved being female and balanced the girly aspects of her character while also being an awesome kick-butt spy who outpaced the boys.
Whereas Penny was quiet and determined, she was also incredibly smart. Penny was a regular girl who got along with just about everyone and saw the good in people, even a mean girl who was regularly a member of her friend group.
These were the first characters I related to. What I connected with most was who they were on the screen.
Sure they both got into unreal situations that would never happen in my day-to-day life, but how they handled these situations was what mattered to me.
They were cool and calm even when the world slipped from underneath them. But they were also vulnerable and sweet.
I loved seeing that a girl could be kind and sweet but also leave the boys in the dust. It was refreshing to see girls that weren’t being labelled.
Both of these girls also had issues they dealt with, such as being bullied and that extra bit of reality reflected my world.
Little 11 or 12-year-old me was bullied for being smart and reading a lot. But I saw these characters stand up for themselves and others. They were smart and read a lot just like me. Actually, with Kim Possible, while smart in school she felt like the dumb one in her family as they were all very accomplished doctors or scientists.
It was refreshing for me to see regular girls act normally. Even at a young age women in particular were portrayed in very specific ways. Writers often over compensated to try to stick their characters in a “new” category.
It was hard to relate to a lot of characters in media at the time.
To me, seeing myself in the characters on the screen is about how they are characterized and portrayed, no matter their skin colour.
I want to see women and girls who are more than one thing. This should be put into practise for all mediums no matter the race of the character.
Having a diverse cast is important as I said, but if those characters are one dimensional and fit into neatly into an archetype, are you really doing the character justice?
We are moving in the right direction with representation in media, but there is more to be done. A diverse cast means more than having multiple, or certain, races on the screen.