So I hear that phrase a lot, and I mean it a lot. Media representation, it’s important to be represented in the media. Logically, there is nothing wrong with presenting other people in the media if history allows. However, over time I have found that many people do not fully understand why media representation is so important and must be done well if it is to have a real lasting effect.
From now on I will talk about representing an African and black point of view. The reason I am talking about this is that it is not that simple with media representation, each aspect needs a different approach. To some extent, this can be applied to other areas as well. In recent years we have seen an increase in the representation of black people in the media. From good to bad, more and more people are confronted with black faces. And that’s it! Often black characters in fiction exist just to be there and represent the black race! Or they are black. That seems to be enough for most people, but not for me!
I say this because many attempts to portray Hollywood have been perceived as hollow and insincere. In the last ten years, in the kind of media I am interested in, I have yet to come up with a single character (male or female) that stands out in the West! I say this because with Hollywood and everything else in their field, their understanding of “representation” often falls into one of these categories :
- Replace white characters with non-white characters (including voice output).
- Any film with some kind of trauma, such as a labyrinth film, a ghetto story or war-torn Africa. ….
- Any movie that has a white savior mentality!
- Playing with the stereotype, but presenting it as something positive….
They will tell you that there are more black actors, voice actors, writers, directors, etc. now, but there is a catch. No matter what I try, no matter how we approach delivery, we always respond to “someone.” And that “someone” decides whether or not you get promoted/supported! And if “someone” doesn’t like what you have in mind, they will tell you to change it or throw it away!
Blacks never have total control over their image, and the only reason we are seeing an increase in diversity is that it is a trend. And like all trends, it will eventually disappear once we see it. The only way representation really matters is if we take total control of our image! Finally, we must find a way to create everything ourselves without depending on Hollywood. We must stop demanding and expecting other industries to properly represent us! We will never get anywhere if we keep waiting. I am glad that there is a movement of creative people stepping forward and taking charge, but that is not enough.
This is one aspect of representation. The other side of the coin is representation in reality. I’m sorry to say it, but a lot of the bad images we’ve had to face as a black community lately, we’ve done it ourselves. We are responsible for the things we put out into the world. No matter how much importance the media places on blacks, if most of us continue to upload videos on TikTok, YouTube, or other media sites, videos in which we demean ourselves, portray ourselves in a bad light, or just act in a toxic way, the effect will be less. Seriously, it’s very easy to find videos on the Internet of black people or groups making fun of themselves, but I can’t remember the last time I saw an Asian or an Arab filming himself doing something stupid and going viral as a result. And that’s another problem. Many blacks have a state mentality that drives them to seek influence and acceptance, so much so that they are willing to throw their community under the bus. And if you criticize them, they will push you away and call you hateful or even racist.
A perfect example is the girl with the gorilla glue. She could have handled her case privately, but she decided to write down her stupidity for the whole world to see. It was tested on her. Or the tendency of young black men to make TikTok videos attacking black women for no reason. Or videos of jokes with black people making “hoodies” to get a “hoodie” reaction. What about rappers who are literally paid to ruin the image of their own community. There are millions of such cases. Every one of them plays into negative stereotypes for power. And no matter how much people try to produce positive content, they get drowned in negativity.
In short, if we want performance to really matter, we must take total control of it, both in fiction and in reality, and we must do it ourselves, otherwise we are doomed to be at the mercy of others who see us. I understand that we have to start somewhere, and getting into the industry is a start, but it doesn’t have to be the end goal. Above all, we need to start calling more of ourselves!
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