Why Do You Think Diversity Is Equal To Representation?
The emphasis on diversity is becoming stronger as society is becoming more diverse itself. Whether it is in the workplace, a movie, a video game, or even school demographics, diversity is a requirement to reflect the equality and success of projects and organizations. Recently, there has been a natural increase of visible diversity in media such as movies and TV shows as the population becomes more diverse with the increase of equality and rights. While the casts of certain movies and shows contain diverse characters, the representation of this diversity still remains questionable.
The Overwhelming Want for White Casts
New trends of casting seem to fulfill unwritten requirements for diversity. There is an expectation for casts to be inclusive and represent more than just the typical straight, white characters, and casts are doing a better job of meeting this expectation but at a minimum. For example, a cast might include a gay male character, but the role is a stereotypical “gay best friend.” Another example is the inclusion of black or Asian characters but as token minorities, in a friend group as they are likely to have little significance to the plot. Movies and TV shows are still struggling to write these characters as leading roles.
Jenny Han, the author of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, encountered this disappointing trend in the production process of the movie adaption of her novel. While the main character of this novel is explicitly written as an Asian-American, a production company suggested that Han make the main character white in the movie, but fortunately, Han remained adamant on a proper representation of her Asian-American character. However, there are many more instances of primarily white casts barely being considered diverse with the lazy inclusion of minority characters.
Diversity in Leading Roles
Whether the diverse additions to a cast are leading or supporting roles, the representation is the most important part of diversity and what the majority of these casts are lacking. Continuing with the example of a “gay best friend” character, these characters are often written as flamboyant and feminine based on a stereotypical perception of a gay man. Black characters, and other characters that are supposed to represent people of color, are stripped of their identity to simply fill the role as a token racial minority. These unrealistic portrayals of minority groups do little to help the well-being of those who are supposed to be represented by diverse characters.
One show that had notably realistic representations of both lesbian and black characters is Trinkets. The three main characters are all minorities in some shape or form, but beyond that, the representation of these minorities is believably realistic. While lesbians are often portrayed as tough and masculine, the lesbian character in Trinkets looks like an average teenage girl and simply falls in love with another woman. There is no need to let a costume design define the character because there are no costumes in real life. The black character of the main trio learns to reclaim her heritage and stop shaping her image to fit what she thinks society wants her to look like. This show successfully represents a realistic balance of diversity and representation.
Shoving as many diverse characters as possible into a cast does not fix the problem of the lack of representation. This method just perpetuates the archetypal and stereotypical fulfillment of diversity which only perpetuates incorrect images of these minorities in society. True representation among the cast is just as important as the representation among the characters because that is how to get a step closer to real diversity. With underrepresented and minority groups, there are infinitely many unique experiences, and none of them are done justice with disappointing stereotypical displays.