Change The Channel
Updated: Jun 29, 2020
We see 5 able-bodied, affluent, white friends experiencing every imaginable experience and we do not bat an eye. We see them falling in love with the opposite sex and making punchlines out of the now-skinny character’s past as a fat, unlovable, excuse of a person and we do not twitch. We do not cringe. We do not change the channel. Why would we when this is normal and we like what is normal because abnormality is a stranger to us. But who defined the word “normal”? It was none other than the white, able-bodied, cis, heterosexual man whom we associate the word with today.
Seeing a predominantly Black cast or one that characterizes members of the LGBTQ+ community is a contemporary phenomenon. Although we have seen progress, we are far from reaching equal representation in the film industry and entertainment media.
Audre Lorde once stated that:
“We cannot dismantle the master's house using the master’s tool”.
How are we to dissolve a system that caters to a specific group of people when any attempt is met with claims of pandering? Even when casting directors try to give power to the powerless, they are berated for “going against the grain” and for not “casting colour blind”(even though the film industry has always seen colour all too well). There are merely a few lead characters that are women, racialized, LGBTQ+, differently-abled, and Indigenous in mainstream television shows because creators believe that audiences only want to hear the nuanced narratives of those who do not fit into those boxes. Creators want to depict a plot that does not hinge on suffering and oppression and to society, POC and the marginalized are nothing more than their trauma. Creators do not want to believe that the “Invisible Majority” are people with mundane and ordinary likes, dislikes, hobbies, and habits worthy of being broadcast on TV screens. Whether or not their biases are implicit and whether or not their intentions are conscious, creators want the marginalized to stay in the margins of society.
Take the Indigenous, for example, who are one of the most underrepresented groups in the media today. When I reflect on the media that I consume, I notice that none of them star Indigenous characters, employing them as protagonists or even secondary characters. Even when I ventured the web, I still came out empty-handed. The Indigenous are only represented on TV screens in order to exploit their trauma. They are seldom portrayed as ordinary youth who face obstacles and adversities that are not centred around their race and their oppression. It is important to showcase that oppression in order to work towards truth and reconciliation but it is also important to normalize seeing them on-screen undergo the same trials and tribulations that white children are shown overcoming. How will Indigenous children ever believe that their worth does not hinge on their marginalization if creators believe that this is the only aspect of them we find interesting enough to profit off of?
In the same way that we’ve perpetuated an unyielding system that refuses to cater to the oppressed, the media, our media, refuses to illustrate us. It only wilfully illustrates the straight-size, non-disabled, cis-gendered, heterosexual man. It hurts to reflect and think that when white people say “We watch movies to escape reality”, what they mean is, “We watch movies to escape a world in which you exist unapologetically”. Now when you watch TV, I urge every single one of you to view everything through an equitable, intersectional, feminist lens. Now when I watch TV, I count the number of POC I see on my TV screen, I change the channel when Friends is on, and actively put effort into finding movies and shows that cast the marginalized groups that are seldom seen because I am seldom seen‒ and it is about time we change that.