Uwase – Marketing Manager – Cinemaloop Inc.
Recently some of the biggest buzzwords in entertainment, especially film and cinema are inclusion and representation. Marginalized segments of society are tired of mainstream media pretending as though they don’t exist and therefore do not need to be represented. Through the various outcries and lobbying efforts, there has been a distinct, albeit small change in that regard.
Cue the first Marvel Universe installment of Black Panther, one of the most successful films that boldly defies the assumption that movies with black people as lead actors don’t do well at the box office. In fact, Black Panther has proved this theory entirely wrong, the film made box office history globally and has already reached the extremely allusive 1 Billion Dollar mark. Furthermore, earlier this month, the rumored Black Panther sequel was confirmed.
Other notable movies that have improved representation are Moonlight – a film that shines some much-needed light on the possible experiences of gay men in black societies. Hidden Figures – a true story about the black women who worked at NASA and contributed to the great American moon landing. Finally, Coco – an animated movie that explores that traditions of the Day of the Dead (Dia de Los Muertos). The film was made up of mostly Mexican and South American cast to ensure that the story was told as authentically as possible.
Other notable productions are Step Up: Highwater – a Youtube Red series based on the Step Up movie franchise that is centered around Highwater, a high school for the musically gifted. The series not only normalize gay relationships but also has a double amputee, wheelchair-bound character in the center of the storyline. The central character does not elicit pity as one would imagine, but rather inspiration and maybe even attraction. Black-ish – a modern day answer to the Cosby Show that follows the lives of a well-off black family living in the suburbs.
You may be asking yourself, why is representation a big deal in the first place? The argument is that when people don’t see themselves or people who are similar to them on mainstream media, then our self-images are distorted because it basically amounts to a rejection by the society that you live in. Making one feel as if one doesn’t fit in, is not attractive, smart, sexy, funny or good enough. This can lead to a lot of self-hate and low self-esteem. Representation, on the other hand, makes one feel accepted, empowered and recognized in the society especially when one’s stories are told in an authentic way that respects one’s experiences and points of view.
Mainstream media still has a long way to go regarding representation and inclusion, but the films mentioned above and series are definitely a step in the right direction.