“There’s this idea that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. And what I’ve always thought isn’t that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. It’s that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves. And growing up, I felt like a monster in some ways. I didn’t see myself reflected at all. I was like, “Yo, is something wrong with me? That the whole society seems to think that people like me don’t exist?”” – Junot Diaz
At the crux of it, all of this might not matter to you. It’s just a few characters in films right? Why would people make such a big deal about this?
Because it matters to us.
Representation is a mirror into what society thinks of you, their initial prejudices into what you would act like. We can dance around the notion that people don’t do this anymore but that would be denying that the whole idea of race relations is non-existent. So what do you do when people just don’t think of you at all?
The lack of representation within the film industry shows that we are constantly the other, the invisible audience to the grand stories that the industry pumps out starring people who are not us. Would you find it fair to see people say “I’m such a (Character Name)” but you find yourself worrying if you’re allowed to be that fictional character because of your skin colour? Its not.
The invisibility of minorities kills mirrors into our culture and makes our stories irrelevant to the great stage. People think that minority stories are just that, a minority that has no connection to the mainstream at all.
If people think that about stories, imagine how would the extrapolate that into real life? Imagine feeling invisible in the media, and being treated as such in the real life.
I’ll avoid being too heavy handed, but here’s Donald Glover with a story about how representational invisibility hurts culture.