Why Equal On and Off Screen Representation Is Crucial in Media?

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This may not come as a shock to anyone, but the media plays a major role in influencing the masses. Of course, some of it may be a positive impact- but on the contrary, if inaccurate it may sway a negative mindset on the individuals.

People learn from what they see and hear on television, movies, internet (web series) more than what they witness in real life and therefore as creators, producers, writers, directors it is their responsibility to bring about accurate representation- by avoiding ignorance and conducting thorough research on something they are uncertain or dubious about. 

The Common Mis-Interpretations:

They should aim to not misrepresent any character, culture, tradition, race, etc. Today, there is indeed much more diversity in media than it was decades ago. But is it accurate? Many times light-skinned or “fair” actors play the protagonists in the movies or television.

The rich, successful and elite almost always have a lighter complexion whereas if a character that hails from a poor family or is struggling or is a part of the lower caste the character would immediately be represented as someone who has darker skin. What makes this even worse- is the fact that the latter roles are played by light skin actors who are portrayed to have darker skin.

The Lack Of Diversity:

There is a lack of diversity today, even though the media tries to play it off as though it is diverse. Not enough, or- may I say hardly any women can be seen behind the cameras (off-screen) to guide their teams on the right path? Most times when a movie/ web series/ television series is about female empowerment the media tries to attach men to it. The blatant misogyny in the media is horrifying.

For instance, today women are only considered honorable, only if they can achieve success in both their careers as well as in their household chores or cooking, in the sense women will only be deemed praiseworthy if they can help their families financially as well as tend to the needs of their partner/kids/in-laws/family and serve them religiously. 

Meanwhile, if a woman would only want to focus on her career, goals and live independently, whilst also devoting her time to her loved ones she wouldn’t necessarily be considered as someone ideal.

There needs to be an inclusion of people of color, women, plus-sized people, the specially-abled, LGBTQ+, people of different races, ethnicities, castes, etc. And it would be beneficial if the actors playing these characters would be a part of the marginalized group or the aforementioned diversity.

The off-screen team should be diverse too. How can one write a script about the LGBTQ+, specially-abled, different races, religions, etc without being in their skin to experience what they've been through or doing absolute research on the said subject? If accurately represented- it will help the audience has a positive outlook about the marginalized, even though they have not interacted with them or have been misled about what they are like.

Acceptance and Appreciation:

As for instance, if more characters from the LGBTQ+ community are represented well in movies/tv shows and parents or people who are ignorant- watch them and learn that someone’s sexual preference, sexuality or gender identity does not entirely change them or make them strangers or “others” of the society, they remain the same people they were- just a little different. It will educate them.

If the Trans community or the LGBTQ+ are well-represented, then maybe the cases of their bullying and crimes against them may also fall. It would also be fabulous if these roles were played by members of the community themselves, so when someone wants to come out, they would know that it is not a foreign concept to the society, that it is normal, and the LGBTQ+ community is just like everyone else.

The people need to see the LGBTQ+ community for who they truly are, and not for what they are forced to blindly believe- what the bigots want them to believe. A lot of darker-skinned people, plus size, disabled, or from the LGBTQ+, etc mostly play the sidekicks, comical characters, or just plain sad/depressed as if they can’t be the lead. 

Once they are represented at the forefront it can be a powerful impact on the people, making them believe that they can be anything they want to be and rise above the barriers the society has mounted for them. Acceptance and appreciation of anyone will be much easier from someone unfamiliar with the marginalized or different cultures- if they are represented to them in a positive and authentic light. 

The audience can then see these characters and the people in real life for who they actually are and not for what the media or politics wants them to believe. Therefore, there’d be a lot more peace in the world if there were both on and off the equal and genuine representation of diverse and marginalized groups in our society.

Representation Matters:

Most Caucasians are the protagonists or ideal people in the media whereas brown, Muslims, Asians, black people are evil, criminals, drug dealers, thieves, violent, terrorists, etc. This horrifying representation is not only fictional but they also do the same in real life. The difference in the headlines of articles reporting news about a white person and a person of other races, color, religion, etc is appalling. 

For example, A Caucasian terrorist or shooter will be called “mentally ill”, “bullied”, “depressed” etc meanwhile an accused person of color, a Muslim, etc would be immediately referred to as a terrorist or a criminal. The media would also go onto lengths to blur out the face of the white perpetrators, on the other hand, using a full display of the others for the same. 

In the western media, usually, a Muslim woman who wears a hijab is portrayed to be independent and liberated only when she takes off her hijab or falls for a white man- as if she needs any validation from him. This representation is highly insensitive. 

People of color, from different religions, castes, etc do not need any validation from Caucasians, men, or people in general. Women are a powerhouse and could rule the world if they could. In the same way, South Asian countries are mostly shown as poor or more, when our countries are so much more than that. 

Our True Culture:

We have a varied culture, many festivals with beautiful significance, traditions, and more that they could focus on, but they refuse to do so. These are just a few examples of ignorant representations that are mentioned. There are many more blunders that take place in the media.

The women-centric, diverse, or marginalized not getting as much recognition and acknowledgment, as they deserve, is another a disappointing aspect of the media. No matter how hard they work they will not be appreciated as much as the men, white people, or the people who fit into the standards of society.

Blackface, brownface, misrepresentation needs to come to an end. Media can change the perception of the masses and if all the cards played right they can make the world a better place to live in. 

Here’s to diversity and equal off and screen representation in the media in the future. Hopefully we, the youth can be the change we wish to see in the world.

Written By - Ivanova

Edited By - Aditya Neelakantam 

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