Understanding Why Representation in Entertainment Matters
The entertainment landscape has changed significantly since the late 1880s, when the film industry was born. From Thomas Edison’s lab, a motion picture camera was created that began an industry still going strong today.
The film industry was the first part of what is now a vast entertainment industry, ranging from film and television to theater and web-based content. While the technology itself has changed, one of the biggest contentions among audiences has been the lack of representation across all categories. Representation has become one of the biggest requests across generations and genres because it offers so much in terms of equality and accessibility for a Trans Artist, a person of color, a differently-abled person and much more.
Understanding why representation in entertainment matters is essential to understanding how far the industry has come and how far it still has to go.
What is Representation?
Representation in the entertainment industry is simply how various media, including television, books, film, and social media, portray various groups of people. In these sub-industries, representation has often only included non-disabled caucasian entertainers and has often excluded members of LBGTQA+, those with different body types and skin colors, and differently-abled performers and characters.
How Stereotypes Have Affected Pop Culture
In some cases, arguments can be made about the progress that’s been made in terms of diversifying the content we consume. While there is a case to be made, it doesn’t negate the fact that there are still harmful stereotypes that are often attached to many characters and roles across film, television, and web content.
When any marginalized group is portrayed in a negative light, it creates harmful rhetoric around that group and often does not afford them the opportunity to really shine and represent their communities. It’s important to seek out content that doesn’t just check the diversity box but that offers character complexity and teaches audiences something about another culture or group of people.
The Importance of Media Representation
Representation in the entertainment industry is about more than simply hiring a more diverse cast of performers or creating diverse characters. It’s about giving those performers and characters depth and accurately representing who they are. This is an important step in fighting those stereotypes that often still plague the industry as a whole.
The Future of Representation in the Media
Today, significant steps have been taken across all entertainment platforms to tell different stories and engage audiences in learning from the experiences of those who are different from them. Though that doesn’t mean there isn’t still just as much progress to be done. In fact, an analysis from Marketing Drive found that, after notable gains in 2020 and 2021, diversity in video ads decreased in 2022.
So, what does that mean? Simply put, it means holding the entertainment companies and platforms we consume accountable for these statistics. It means seeking out more diverse content across all platforms, including local streaming sites, to ensure we’re giving time and attention to stories that can teach us more about the world around us.