Why Representation Matters

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Public relations is a field of work dedicated to communicating a message clearly to an audience. One message that is heavily pushed by production companies and individuals in Hollywood is that minorities lack of representation on the big screen. People are stressing the importance of having their own likeness presented well because it effects how society sees color and sexual orientation. We all look to movie stars and celebrities to influence our lives, but for a staggering number of people, there is no one in Hollywood they can identify with. Mattel understood the importance of representation way back in the 60’s when they debuted Christie, the first black Barbie. Why has it taken Hollywood so long to start pushing the concept of diversity?

Here are two works that are representing minorities well on screen.

1. The Black Panther, set to release on February 16th, is said to change the way super hero movies are created. Isaac Baily from CNN wrote that, “Black Panther is for film what Barack Obama was for the presidency.” This film, similar to Get Out, is getting released in a very charged political climate. Critics are saying this is the movie black culture has been waiting for. Had this franchise debuted during Obamas administration, the impact of representation would have not been nearly as significant as it is now. The black experience is portrayed as much more than and not just a by-product of slavery.

2. The Mindy Project was created by Mindy Kaling because she felt underrepresented as an Indian woman in television. Reese Witherspoon asked her, 'Don't you ever get exhausted by always having to create your own roles?' and Mindy replied, 'Reese, I've never had anything that I didn't create for myself.'" On The Mindy Project, she plays a young, spunky Indian woman with a very successful career as an OBGYN in New York City.

Representation on the silver screen is important because it shapes how our culture acts. In this study, scientists found that children were more likely to play with a white doll instead of a black one, even if they were black themselves. If a little girl sees a woman of color on screen portrayed in a powerful light, she might be given some inspiration to go fourth and be a role model for other little girls that look like her. Messages that shape our society are what those in the public relations field must strive to communicate. 

sophia cleugh