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Well, the latest firestorm of drama hit BZP earlier - this time on representation in media. It's a change of pace from what these flare-ups are normally about, but that doesn't mean that it's not an important and hot-button issue.
My three major points are bolded.
There is no excuse for not having female characters in modern media.
First, though, let's look at what representation really is.
Representation is, for the most part, determined from capitalistic tendencies. Once the media gets in its collective head that the men are the people they should be focusing their energies and spending their money on, the vicious cycle begins. This goes for race as well - I was watching an episode of the brilliant late '90s sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun the other day and the main characters - aliens in the show's narrative - said that they'd chosen to be white because that was the color of everyone on TV. While a throwaway gag in the context of the episode (one which poignantly highlighted the inherent absurdity of racism), it stuck with me.
Women make up half of all the people on Earth, so it's much easier to explain a male-dominated media as an offshoot of a patriarchal society. But if we defocus the issue from one of representation of women and into representation as a whole, things get quite a bit dicier.
People of all races, genders, and orientations exist. I mean, there are over seven billion of us now, so even the most minor of minority groups have significant numbers. One would think that what would follow would be representation for every group equal to their number.
Unless you've been living under a rock, however, it's clear that it hasn't happened.
So ... why?
Some point to internalized prejudices. While this could account for some media behavior, I harbor serious reservations that it accounts for all media - and all media are affected by this. What, then, is the most logical explanation?
Like I said - by following the money.
If you're a member of a group, you're going to want to get a cut of the majority. In America and much of the West, this means white people. If you're the biggest ethnic group, people who want to market stuff to the mainstream will probably market it towards you, because that's where the money lies.
If you're a member of a minority group, I think it's only fair to have media representation for you. The culture that led to the situation we're in has to change.
When minorities appear, they are often in token form. I shouldn't have to explain why this perpetuates stereotypes, but if we look at this from the broad view that I keep trying to get at, then we see that the smaller the minority, the less of a chance that a character from that minority will appear in media. Why? Again, money. If you're a studio executive and you want to make a movie sell, would you include characters that the perceived "majority" would relate to?
Most of them answer "yes," because it's the easy way out. Only now are we started to see the inklings of a fundamental change. The more bits of media that have minorities that are successful, the more that the people who are in charge of the media will see the fundamental error of their ways.
Here's another thing to keep in mind here: Representation does not always mean positive representation.
Let's take The Big Bang Theory. Among its quartet of protagonists, a trio represent some sort of minority: asexuals, Indians, and Jews. All of which are, at some point, played for laughs - or for whatever the writers think is funny. (It's not funny.)
When the most prominent asexual character in modern media is Sheldon Cooper, you know something's gone off the rails somewhere along the line. While gay characters are on the rise, a lot of them are accompanied by harmful stereotypes. Don't even get me started on bisexual erasure and the dearth of pansexual characters.
Hypothetically, every movie and book and TV show could change tomorrow to one where women outnumber men, but yet the women are always portrayed with harmful stereotypes. Let's imagine the same with sexual and ethnic minorities. You'd have more representation, but if it's with even more sexism, racism, and homophobia, how is that better? Mathematically speaking, it's actually worse.
Let's not support mere representation. Let's support good, positive representation. Let's prove to the media that they don't have to follow where they think the money is, but rather, where the moral thing to do lies.
I welcome discussion on these issues, but I am not afraid to defend myself if I see something I wrote taken out of context.