By Stephanie S.
Have you ever been watching a show or film and realized that everyone that was casted looks the exact same? Did you ever realize that maybe the media we intake may have an underlying agenda to push the same aesthetic onto the world or that even certain races or genders were being restricted? For decades, a lack of diversity has been instilled in the media and cemented to only a certain demographic of people. With all the prejudice that is happening in the world, now more than ever, it is imperative that the media is portraying distinction in people and breaking stereotypes. While it has been the norm for certain people of color, gender, or culture to have been a general selling point and the “standard” for the media to portray, many minorities are being left out. This prejudice needs to end, so stereotypes can be further eliminated. It is critical for future generations to be given the right to perceive others of all ethnicities and genders being represented so that equality can be ensured in the future. Throughout this essay, I will break down the history of lack of diversity that has been portrayed in the media over the years past, bring light to the positive changes that are slowly being incorporated, and acknowledge the benefits of displaying diversity in the media.
In order to influence social cohesion and innovation in the world, it is crucial we understand the lack of diversity that has persisted in the past and is still happening today. When minorities are not able to receive attention from the media, it makes them unable to delegate and empower their community or background. Mass media has fueled the gap that separates groups that already were distanced by discrimination and segregation. When media derived in the 1900’s, racism and sexism was already an inherent ideology in society, therefore overlapping in the media's portrayal of minorities. Some aspects or structural momentum of the way the media has portrayed the unprivileged has been determined through the interaction between privilege and race. This has always been a matter of social fairness and the stubbornness of the media not being more open to showcasing people of different ethnicities or genders. Over time, we have witnessed slow changes leading up to minute differences in the demographics used in the media. This can be attributed to Creeping Normality and a push to change the outdated and discriminatory ways.
When diversity is celebrated and welcomed, negative stereotypes, hurtful judgements, or biases surrounding certain groups are squashed. Honoring people from all walks of life in the media brings a positive standard by improving society’s overall course of thinking, advanced language skills, and even new experiences. By inviting new cultures and practices, we can further progress and evolve in society. The media is what people see as an example of how to act but it also creates an inherent lack of understanding for those that are not represented accurately or at all. Over time, the changes we’ve seen in the media have been minuscule and even then, the minorities can be represented in a stereotypical or one dimensional perspective. The 2019 Hollywood Diversity Report reveals that, “women made up 32.9%, and people of color made up 19.8% of lead film roles. Across the 100 top-grossing movies of 2018, the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative found that only 1.6% of characters were depicted with a disability, and only two portrayed a gay protagonist” (Anti-Defamation League 2020). These numbers are staggering proof that more representation is crucial! Journalism should be produced in an attempt to serve all audiences and not be biased to a certain skin color or gender.
If displaying diversity in the media was portrayed in a fair way, this would create an environment where every group is displayed, this is important in order to create a more peaceful society. The groups that are being discriminated against include race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation and other belittled communities. Although the progress in representation in the media is slow and steady, there is still a need for vast improvement. A few exclusive examples of how the media is heading in the right direction include the film Black Panther, made in 2018 by a black director with an almost all black cast. Or even a massive improvement in the representation of females in power in the comic book realm, with Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, Black Widow, and Harley Quinn all getting their own films in the last couple years. As far as the LGBTQ community, “Of the 110 films GLAAD counted from the major studios in 2018, 20 (18.2%) contained characters identified as LGBTQ. This is a significant increase of 5.4%, and up six films from the previous year” (GLAAD 2020). These steps in the right direction will make for a more understanding and open world. UCLA’s Hollywood diversity report recognized, “ The numbers of acting jobs for women and people of color are getting closer to being proportionate with the U.S. population overall” (Social Sciences 2020). Perhaps the media is on the right track after all!
In conclusion, the significance of accepting people from all walks of life is necessary in order to progress, as humanity will become more aware and perceptive. Although as a whole, the media has not made much fundamental structural change, we can look to the future with high hopes that these small changes are a foot in the right direction. By changing the way we implement distinction in the media, as a society we can grow and develop to break stereotypes and establish equal opportunity. Fair portrayal of diverse groups is essential in order to give underrepresented voices that are typically silenced, a chance for their voices to finally be heard and to successfully change societal norms.
“Diversity in Media and Why Visibility Matters.” Anti-Defamation League, 2020, www.adl.org/education/resources/tools-and-strategies/diversity-in-media-and-why-visibility-matters.
“Overview of Findings (2019).” GLAAD, 23 May 2020, www.glaad.org/sri/2019/overview.
“Hollywood Diversity Report 2020.” Social Sciences, 22 Oct. 2020, socialsciences.ucla.edu/hollywood-diversity-report-2020/.