Why Diverse Representation in Media Matters
By Arlenea Halyda, Content Writer Intern at Project Child Indonesia
Living in a modern world of globalization and digitalization, we’re constantly exposed to various media such as movies, TV shows, and books, from all parts of the world. It’s becoming a part of society; a daily conversation with our friends, and even a haven for people who’d like to escape from reality for a while.
But in all the media you’ve consumed, how often do you see an accurate depiction of yourself? How often can you pick out a character from a cast and be able to relate to their identity or cultural background? Are those questions even relevant enough to ask?
The short answer: yes. The long answer: also yes, and it has everything to do with this fantastic notion called ‘diverse representation’. Before talking about why diverse representation matters in the media, let’s take a quick look at what diversity and representation are.
Diversity is the array of differences in human beings. It includes, but is not limited to ethnicity, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, social class, and physical abilities, among many others. These categories may intersect, and in some cases, it may be fluid, but one thing is certain: we all stand equal—no group is innately superior or inferior to others. Meanwhile, representation is how a media exhibit these diversities and fits them into a narrative presented to the audience.
Together, diversity and representation births inclusion, the involvement of diversity where everyone is acknowledged, empowered, and celebrated. Inclusion understands that everyone, no matter their identity, is worthy of being seen. Instead of merely tolerating our differences, we need to embrace the vast diversity within each individual.
Now, back to our initial question: why does diverse representation matter in the media?
Since media is effective and powerful in influencing the audiences’ minds and ideas, diverse representation would broaden the audiences’ viewpoints. Like learning history: you can’t look at one source only because there’s always another perspective waiting to be unravelled on the other side.
This is why direct representation—directly involving someone from the said diverse group instead of blindly thrusting a diverse character into a media only for the sake of diversity—matters. Certain things can only be told from the point of view of the person who’s lived through the experiences themselves. Otherwise, the true meaning and nuances behind the events or culture are prone to be lost, whether in translation or ignorance.
In addition to that, visibility in media can affect the way people see themselves and their culture, which is particularly important for media with lots of younger audiences. It tells them that people like you and I exist, and this is how the world perceives us. Having said that, it’s worthy to note that representation cannot be done carelessly. Thorough research is vital because how a group of people is portrayed is so closely tied to a sense of self and pride. Surely, no one would want to have themselves be seen in a bad light, especially when those ‘bad lights’ are a perpetuation of harmful stereotypes and stigmas.
So, how can we promote diverse representation?
If You’re a Creator
If you’re an author, director, scriptwriter, or aspiring to be one, you have an essential part and a responsibility to create more diverse media for the future!
Casting people from numerous groups who embrace a variety of identities is always a good idea. It may depend on the media context you’re creating, but I encourage you to include diversity whenever possible. Remember, diversity is a broad spectrum, so you have lots and lots of chances to include it! Seize that chance, and you might just open a new horizon for younger generations.
If You’re an Enthusiast
If you have no intention to work in media, you can still help! You’re the motor behind the media makers’ mission of creating more diverse representation in the media! You can diversify your media consumption by watching films from multiple regions (non-Hollywood movies deserve so much love, and there are a lot of hidden gems there!), or read a book written by women and queer people to understand what it feels like to be in their shoes, for starters.
If you’d like to take one step further, you can promote those remarkable media to social media to raise people’s awareness! Feel like there’s a piece of media that’s done an exceptional or lousy job at inclusivity? You can also send a message to media creators and tell them about your thoughts!
There are so many beautiful kinds of people in the world. Without our differences, our world would look so bland and colourless. Let’s celebrate diversity, and create a world where everyone is accepted and loved!