The importance of equal representation in film

As much as filmmakers believe that casting minorities in stereotypical roles or as token characters is diversity, it is still harmful to viewers and the community. Photo by Trent Legaspi | The Signal

For many people of color, nothing is more special than seeing someone on a TV show or in a movie that looks like them. For children, this representation in films is vital because it gives them hope. defines representation as “action or speech on behalf of a person, group, character, symbol or the like.” Representation includes having characters of varying religions, genders, ethnicities, ages, social statuses and nationalities. Seeing different lifestyles and experiences in the media is not only helpful for those that remain underrepresented but for those who are only used to seeing one lifestyle on TV.

Photo by Trent Legaspi | The Signal

Minorities had fought for years when it came to getting equal and non-stereotypical representation in the media. Often prejudices and biases are formed due to stereotypes shown in films, creating vast misconceptions about an entire community. 

Some examples would be how some may believe in the idea of the angry Black woman or that all Latina women are crazy and loud.

Bad representations such as these can go over viewers’ heads when they are young as they are simply entertainment. Once they get older and mature, they look back at some of these depictions in shows and movies and realize how harmful and problematic they are.

As time went on, media started to become more inclusive of relating to their viewers. In some cases, this means only adding one or two people of color to the storyline in supporting roles. 

Scholars consistently define this as tokenism. Many shows and movies are guilty of this as the placement of these token characters tends to be an obvious shot at creating a more diverse cast.

Despite the efforts of these shows and films in creating more representation, people are still not giving minority-centered movies as much praise as they give films starring white actors. Lack of representation results from how much publicity and advertising these films receive.

These kinds of films are often geared towards specific demographics rather than across a broad spectrum of viewers. Limiting the audience determines how well a movie does in theatres and its overall success.

Luckily, many minority-led films are finally getting the recognition they deserve. 

Marvel’s recent film Shang-Chi has topped Venom 2 in the box office. Despite Shang-Chi not making a lot of noise online, the film was still able to do well compared to other pandemic-era films.

Even without millions in funding and advertising, minority films continue to push through barriers to amplify and uplift people that look like them.

As the film industry grows more each day, young filmmakers today create what they want to see and confront the norm in media today.