Story by Jenna Jones, Reviews and Opinions Editor
Music videos, commercials, TV shows, and almost any other media outlet one can imagine are what shape people in today’s society in a process psychologists call modeling. Young children and teenagers are especially susceptible to being influenced by what they see in the media.
Although media can be a great source of information, it can also be damaging to impressionable minds.
Lack of representation in the media is an issue that has been receiving more attention recently, but it is still one that many people do not understand. Much of western media has been, and continues to be, dominated by a culture of white, straight people.
Unfortunately for people who are not straight or white, this can be damaging. Seeing one type of person idolized on TV and in other media can make a person think that is the only right type of person, which is not true. As someone who grew up without seeing much of myself in the media, I know from experience that representation is important to the way people feel about themselves.
Without representation, people come to believe that something is wrong with them. What they see on television is what they should be, but it is not what or who they are.
Alexus Hunt, 11, stated, “I think that when the media erases certain types of people it makes it look like there is only one way to be in America. The media is the main thing that most people look at for what beauty, intelligence, kindness, or even courage look like. I think the media manipulates race, and anyone who is not white may be considered less important and less valued.”
It is hard for many people to understand what a lack of representation feels like if they have never experienced it, and that needs to change. Representation in our media excludes all kinds of people, from various races to deviating sexualities and genders.
With races, it often occurs in television and movies with something known as whitewashing, or using a white person to play a character who is not white, like in the movie “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” which takes place in Egypt, but has several main actors who are white.
The director of the movie, Ridley Scott, even stated, “I can’t mount a film of this budget, where I have to rely on tax rebates in Spain, and say that my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such.”
When it comes to people who are not straight, representation is even more limited. It is rare to see a character who is not heterosexual in media, and even rarer to see someone who is not straight play a character who is not straight.
Along with this limited representation comes extremely negative and harmful stereotypes that portray various races and sexualities as criminals, morally astray, or simply unnatural. The way the media controls what we see as right and wrong, good and bad, or any other combination of this over this, is something that people need to be aware of.