November 17, 2020

By  Annabelle


What is diversity?

Diversity means having a range of people with various racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and cultural backgrounds and various lifestyles, experience and interests.

Mirrors and windows

“Mirrors” and “Windows” are often used to describe the diversity or lack of diversity, in media. Mirror media, reflects to people who they are – This means they can see themselves so they feel more included. Window media is media that provides a view into other people’s lives and experiences for which people may be unfamiliar. They provide information about identity groups they may not know much about.

Example of diversity in television shows

In September 2019, Kodi Lee created a historical finale when he won the 14th season of America’s Got Talent. Lee is an Asian-American who has autism and is blind which was why his win was so ground-breaking. With his victory, Lee provides inspiration and affirmation for those who share these identity traits, which are rarely seen in mainstream media. For the people who don’t, it allows them to see and learn about identity characteristics they could be unfamiliar with.

Examples of racial diversity in films

In 2014, Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan), was introduced as the first Muslim-American superhero.

In 2018, the film Black Panther, made by a black director and starring a mostly African-American cast, was the second highest-grossing film that year.

In 2019, Halle Bailey, an African-American actress, was selected for the role of Ariel in the upcoming remake of The Little Mermaid.

Racial Diversity

Doctor Who

The original series of Doctor Who from 1963-1989 was almost exclusively cast as white people. There were very few black actors on screen and when there were, they would often fall into the trope as being portrayed as silent strongmen. However, it isn’t only the classic series that has caused much questioning of Doctor Who’s on screen portrayal of race. An episode called Turn Left in 2008 included a story of inscrutable and mysterious Asian fortune-tellers. Scenes in the episode were described by many British-Asian people as painfully unwatchable.

The climax of Peter Capaldi’s final season, The Doctor Falls, has also been criticised for the racial subtext on display. In the story, companion Bill is converted to being a Cyberman, and then is told by the Doctor to exercise self-control for the rest of the story to avoid firing the weapons built into her new body. Mel Perez critiqued that approach in a review of the episode. “I can’t ignore the optics of a white man telling a black woman who is justifiably upset to not get angry because now her anger is dangerous,” she wrote. “I can’t ignore the optics of having a black woman sleep in the barn because she frightens the children… This is our history and this is our present without the excuse of being a Cyberman.”

To add on a final point, Mickey Smith, Danny Pink, Clyde Langer and Ryan Sinclair, four prominent young black male characters that featured in Doctor Who all ended up coming from a broken home with an absent father. Perhaps with more diverse writers someone would have noticed this unfortunate pattern.

So we’ve seen that Doctor Who has been caught in a recurrence of lacking black cast with each series and that the representation of the few black characters on the show hasn’t been put over well. Thankfully, things are changing with Jodie Whitaker’s new diverse cast, but Doctor Who will always hold that history of misdealing with racial diversity.

Little Mix The Search

A recent event caused some uproar due to the winner of the BBC One show Little Mix The Search. The winning all white boy band, SINCE SEPTEMBER, was up against popular diverse groups, that included majority black members, YCHANGE and NOSTALIA. People were angry and argued that these other groups should have won for a few obvious reasons. One of these reasons was talent differences, another was the complaint that the audience was made up of young girls who “just voted for the cute band”. But a final reason that I picked out was due to race. Because the other two groups had so much diversity, watchers of the show were not happy. Netizens commented under a twitter post that announced the all white boy band’s win:

“It would be the all white boy band...”

“… yet we get another mostly white straight male boyband that people are gonna forget in several years”

“And the winners are the least interesting, least diverse but most obvious choice!”

“The British just couldn't bring themselves to vote for a culturally diverse group. Pretty reflective of what's happening in Britain.”

“...yay another all white cookie cutter boy rock band.”

I can certainly see where they were coming from. Diversity is clearly a good thing and lately in the 21st century we are seeing more of it and more of a demand for it too. Having a group with racial diversity would have definitely made listeners and watchers feel more included and it probably would have gotten a lot of praise too if they were the winning group. Not to mention that having friendships, characters, groups and so on with a mix of race is becoming more and more normalized and common. The point behind this is that it is just more proof that diversity is what people want and this is a good thing. It is evident that things are changing.

Why is diversity a good thing that needs to be increased?

It helps people feel included and it gives people who live a different lifestyle a chance to relate to other people. There are multiple examples where films have been highly successful due to a diverse and refreshing cast. It is clear that people want to see more of it because the feedback when diversity in media is noticed is astounding. Inclusion is the key and people feel inclusion most when their group is represented in something they see in media.

What can we do to increase diversity in media?

A way in which diversity like this can become more common is by being careful when casting for movies or films. In order to create a well put out cast of people in movies and films it is important to have lots of content producers who don't all think alike, and a diverse group of writers is key to creating stories that are fair and not stereotyped. Another way to increase diversity in media is choosing a diverse group of people to take part on popular television shows. Good examples of this would be Strictly Come Dancing and Bake Off. If media continues to apply all of this the amount of inclusion diversity will be hugely multiplied and hopefully this topic won't be such a big issue in the future.

Here is the video I created using my research:

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