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Why Representation in Movies and on TV Matters

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Why Representation in Movies and on TV Matters

A pie chart that shows exactly how underrepresented non-white races are.

A pie chart that shows exactly how underrepresented non-white races are.

A pie chart that shows exactly how underrepresented non-white races are.

A pie chart that shows exactly how underrepresented non-white races are.

Rita Nava-Orozco, Contributing Writer

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Ethnically diverse representation in movies and TV shows was once seen as the most complicated concept in Hollywood history. Now, we see movies and documentaries with female protagonists and an all-Asian and all-Black cast getting more support and viewership compared to an all-white cast. This change has been monumental. I would go as far to say that it is life changing– here’s why.

 

Growing up, I watched television a lot. Every single program I would watch featured a blue-eyed, light-haired, tall, skinny white-passing Latina woman being the protagonist to every single telenovela. At first, I didn’t mind it, but then I realized that it was an unrealistic depiction of the average Mexican woman. Not a single woman I encountered daily in Mexico looked like that. They were brown, they had thick, black hair, and they did not have blue eyes.

 

Realizing how these women were not being represented in their own country made me want to pay close attention to how movies and TV shows depicted typical Americans here in the U.S. What I found out was ridiculous to the point where I burst out laughing.

 

Most of the media made white characters the hero, the victim, and the best character ever brought to this Earth. Meanwhile, they made minorities the criminals, the pushovers, and the ones that get killed off first. I was tired of seeing the same cycle of bad representation or no representation at all.

 

Up until 2017 and onward, movies with actual diverse actors and actresses (that were not Scarlett Johansson) paved through and made one-of-a-kind films that had people talking. Movies like Get Out, Crazy Rich Asians, Love, Simon, Black Panther, The Purge: Election Year, The First Purge, and my top favorite, Coco were getting exceptional praise and support leaving whitewashed messes like Ghost in The Shell and Death Note shook.

 

I mentioned Coco being my personal favorite, and it wasn’t just the amazing visuals and story line that got to me, it was my parent’s reaction to seeing it that made me appreciate this film a lot. They laughed at the cultural references and would smile non stop throughout the movie. When the movie ended, my dad wiped his eyes and said that he had never genuinely enjoyed a movie from this generation as he did with Coco. Representation matters, so much.

 

I read somewhere online that Hollywood finds it difficult to find a non-white protagonist for a film but don’t hesitate to cast them to portray terrorist or criminals– which is saddening. All forms of media have an influence on our lives, both good and bad.

 

If you can’t find a legitimate reason to believe me, I want you to take the time to look at yourself in the mirror and think, is there a character in my favorite TV show/movie that looks like me? If there is, I’m happy for you. Being represented in our media is amazing, just don’t bring those of us who want to be represented down.

 

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