November 23, 2016
 Posted by Susan Tran

Media Representation Matters: 5 Reasons to Fight for It

Media shapes our perceptions of the world. If media doesn’t reflect the true diversity of our world, we are saying it is OK to perpetuate distorted realities. – Sunrise Seagull Productions on Instagram

As an Asian female pitching a feature length script I wrote that follows the story of a Vietnamese immigrant that lands smack dab in the middle of an over 30s, all Mexican soccer team, I’ve been receiving a lot of questions as to why I chose to write about these ethnic cultures instead of a story that may appeal more to the “mainstream” market. My answer: I’m consciously choosing to tell stories that are severely underrepresented in media and actively choosing to do my part in the fight for fair balance in media representation.

We live in a time when there’s more media to consume than ever before. Media is omnipresent and it has an undeniable influence on our emotions, thoughts and behaviors. This influence manifests into an immeasurable impact on our collective society, and as such, there is a responsibility we should all take when it comes to fighting for fair balance in media representation.

A study published earlier this year by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism titled,”Inclusion or Invisibility?,” reveal several dismal statistics highlighting gender and racial imbalance in media.

Of 109 motion pictures and 305 broadcast, cable, and digital series produced by 10 major media companies from Sep 2014 to Aug 2015:

• In films, nearly 75% of leads or co-leads are male
• 50% of films have no Asian characters and 18% have no Black characters
• Over 70% of speaking or named characters are white
• 87% of directors are white
• 77% of show creators are male

These statistics do not reflect our diverse demographic and here are 5 reasons why we need to fight for a change in our current state of media representation:

1. Acknowledge the shift in our demographics:
The U.S. Census Bureau projects that by 2020, more than 50% of people under the age of 18 will be part of a minority race or ethnic group. Let’s acknowledge this demographic shift and elevate the presence of ethnic minorities in media to properly reflect this change.

2. Take ownership of our stories:
Hundreds of years from now, our descendants will sift through the media content we produced and form conclusions about our era from what they see. How are we defining our stories? Do we want to be remembered through distorted lenses, or do we want to properly showcase the rich diversity of our communities?

3. It’s more than OK to smash the status quo:
Just because it’s always been this way doesn’t mean it has to continue to be this way. Yes, this may have been reflective of our society 15 or 20 years ago, but not anymore. The Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, once said, “change is the only constant life.” Let’s encourage media to keep up with the change.

4. Help a children’s dream take flight:
A 2011 study published in Communications Research by Nicole Martins and Kristen Harrison found that watching TV decreased the self-esteem of black students, while increasing the self-esteem of white students. White students saw a variety of roles that had white males in positions of power and prestige, while the black roles the black students saw usually were limited, and portrayed a life of crime or poverty. If we want our children to dream big, we need to place role models in media they can relate to, and aspire to become.

5. Embrace the benefits of being a diverse community:
Cultural and linguistic diversity promotes humanistic values, and communities with diverse populations stimulate economic growth. Diversity is not a negative word, and it is not something we should be ashamed of. We should embrace our diversity trends and ensure our media properly reflects them.

Change never comes easy, especially when it involves an institution such as the media industry. With that being said, it doesn’t mean it’s impossible, nor does it mean we should stop fighting for it. Media representation matters.

Please share your thoughts about our current state of media representation!

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