If you talk much about how nice it would be to have more diversity in media, you’ve probably noticed a number of people assume it’s not something you have actual feelings about – you’re just a poser trying to look all PC and enlightened. It’s amazing, because even upon realizing you are a member of the Them who is not being portrayed so well, there are these people who still assume you couldn’t possibly really be offended by the status quo. I’m not sure what the logic is, so I won’t hazard a guess. But I do want to disturb this little myth once and for all.
As a kid – and I’m talking ages 7-10 or so – I didn’t realize the -isms were still out in full force. I wasn’t even fully aware of them yet – not even sexism. I saw unfairness everywhere I looked, but I didn’t recognize the systemic nature of it yet. I certainly had no idea of the media’s role in perpetuating and even generating these prejudices.
But I remember TV and movies as this weird place inhabited only by vanilla-faced men. It was just so damn boring. I had nothing against white men and their stories. But couldn’t the same stories happen to women every now and then? Or men of color? Or people from, gasp, Not America? There were brilliant, drop-dead gorgeous actors in all these categories. How on earth could people not just be bored shitless looking at Mr. Honky hundreds of thousands of times?
That was my initial push for diversity. Sheer, untempered boredom with looking at similar people all the time. By the time I was twenty, I hungered for movies with different faces, different skin tones – and of course women. I didn’t rail at our objectification then. I didn’t realize the media was creating an historic record in which women didn’t exist except as decor. It never occurred to me the media thought “women’s stories” were strictly about shoes, man-catching and babies. I just wondered where all the other Ellen Ripleys were.
It was only after I got into the L.A. film community and learned that unfortunately those rednecks in other states force us fabulously enlightened Californians to write stories only about white men and hey where’d that damn Mexican go I need a refill that I realized there were much more serious problems in my culture than people who’d been raised bigoted and knew it and were capable of learning something new. There were also people who had so fully projected their own bigotry onto “rednecks” that there was little or no hope of getting them to realize how unenlightened – and even hate-filled – they actually were.
Now that I think about it, maybe I can understand why some people think all anti-bigots are just posers. If they’ve grown up around bigotry and see it as merely one team competing against another for survival, and then they watch media-makers pat themselves on the back for including some African-American dude as Sidekick #2 in the latest blockbuster, then they would see the media-makers as just another bullshit team competing for its bullshit survival. And a bunch of posers.
Why do you want diversity in entertainment? Because you think you’re supposed to, or because of some genuine feeling?