Why we should support diversity in media
|Above: a poster for Black Panther, the newly released mediocre motion picture which indirectly inspired this article.|
My girlfriend & fellow blogger Chocolate Cosmos has recently explained to me why diversity in the media is important. She convinced me on the matter, and the second and fifth paragraphs of this article are largely her words reorganised into mine. So without much further ado, this is why you should support cultural, ethnic, racial, etc. diversity in Western media.
The West (by which I mean Europe and the lands it successfully colonised, such as North America, Argentina, and Australia (as opposed to, say, Angola)) has a majority “white” population. Therefore, our media tends to showcase white people rather than people of other races. This isn't usually to do with racism, but simply because, as I said, our population is majority white. But Western media is the most influential in the world. It has unprecedented viewership and readership, on a global scale. This has had an unfortunate effect on the psychology of the non-white, non-Western peoples of the world. What would it do to a person to see nothing but people who looked and acted so unlike them in the media? Well, it isn't healthy, and it has caused non-white non-Western people to have a deep insecurity. This is probably most noticeable in the adoption of “whiteness” as a beauty standard across the world; black people globally go to gross, terrible lengths to straighten their hair and bleach their skin, and East Asian parents pay for their daughters to have their eyelids cut as a graduation present (again, to look more white). Well, what do you expect when little girls rarely have anything but blonde Barbie dolls to play with? Likewise, are the heroes little boys are supposed to look up to rarely anything but white Western men? What, is heroism only a white man's virtue? You can see why the insecurity emerges.
Therefore, I now believe that the West, as the global hegemon, has a responsibility to represent racial, ethnic, cultural, etc. diversity in its media. If the West ceases to be the hegemon, then its successor (likely East Asia), will have the same responsibility. Of course, while I support this goal, I find it being carried out terribly clumsily. There are some elements of the pro-diversity movement which are unnecessarily racialistic or black/Chicano/etc. nationalistic, and some which are outrightly bigoted against white Western men (I am sick of the awful slogan, “pale, male, and stale”). It should be made abundantly clear that there is nothing wrong with being white Western men, lest they become insecure in their identity themselves (the product of which is the alt-right).
Neither should diversity come at the expense of truth. I recall an episode of the science fiction programme Doctor Who I watched when I was a boy, called “The Shakespeare Code”. The Doctor had his first black companion, Martha Jones (played by Freema Agyeman), but this presented problems for the time travel element of the show. A later episode in this same series, called “Human Nature”, represents history accurately when white schoolboys in Edwardian England mock Miss Jones for her skin colour as she's scrubbing the floor as a maid. It's brutal but it's historically accurate. In this previous episode though, “The Shakespeare Code”, the screenwriter side-steps the problem of historical racism altogether when he gets the Doctor to say (after sensibly being questioned on the matter by a concerned Martha, in Tudor England), something along the lines of “Oh, don't worry. Tudor times weren't so different to the modern era. You won't be treated any differently” before a black woman apparently native to Tudor England appears on the screen. Sadly, this is untrue. The few black people in England at the time were slaves. My manifesto is this: as much diversity as historical accuracy allows should be included in historical fiction. Likewise, Mozart, Alexandre Dumas, Alexander Pushkin, Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, and most of the Ancient Egyptians were not black. Stop saying they were. It truly shows the deep racial insecurity of many black people that such ridiculous claims would need to be made.
I do have one last quibble. What they call positive discrimination seems to me to be a clumsy and unfair way of creating diversity, and I will have to think on whether there is a viable alternative. But I do think that it's justified in those professions in which success is already largely based upon what one looks like, such as modelling, and acting. Would Brad Pitt be as successful as he is today without his looks? Perhaps, but perhaps not is also very likely. In any case his looks have certainly helped him in his acting career. Therefore, if these professions already judge people based on what they look like, why should they not judge people in order to fulfill their responsibility for ethnic, racial, etc. diversity? This idea, by the way, is another one from the intelligent Chocolate Cosmos which I have regurgitated. I would encourage you to visit her (albeit still largely unfinished) blog.
Anyway, diversity is also good from a humanistic point of view. By representing and including all colours, creeds, and cultures people will find it easier to be understanding of and empathetic towards them. They will realise that we're all human. Perhaps the Third Reich would never have existed had Adolf Hitler's favourite childhood storybook hero been Jewish.
It's also simply refreshing to see media made by and featuring people from all four corners of the globe. For example, the latest Marvel film, Black Panther (which prompted my discussions with Chocolate Cosmos and subsequently this article), while mediocre, is interesting in its depiction of African culture. Monotonous media is boring. The West is not the whole world.
Additionally, diversity is valuable for the sake of the free markets of culture, expression, and ideas. The broader these markets are, the more likely truth and value will be able to emerge from them, through a sort of consumerist natural selection. Note: in this article I am referring specifically to media. Do not necessarily interpret this as an endorsement of multiculturalism within one country, whis is a more complex issue. Anyhow, as always I hope you've found my writings enlightening. If you like what you see feel free to browse this website. God bless.