There a lot of things that you may notice about a person walking down the street; among the first is their outward appearance. What is the tone of their skin, the texture of their hair, or the color of their eyes? Are they clean cut or edgy? Society requires us to classify people by these mundane things. A way that a person views themselves may not also be how the world sees them. That’s why representation matters.
Many of the things around us have been reflective of the dominant culture for a long time. Television and advertising showcased a certain image of a particular group of people and peddled products and movies in that lens. People who did not exactly identify with that group remained stuck because other options didn’t exist.
In the last decade or so, things have changed intensely to be more inclusive. Television has included actors and produced shows to really reflect the population of the people watching. Even brands made changes in the types of products that are sold. Barbie dolls and even band-aids are now more inclusive. Advertisements have same-sex couples, interracial couples and plus size women modeling the different realities of life.
Identity can be more than just outward appearance and heritage, it’s also about personalities because not everyone conforms to their assigned culture. The show Insecure on HBO has gotten a lot of praise for portraying black women as funny, dynamic and successful entities instead of being the stereotypical loud and ‘ghetto’ girl. Another show on Netflix, Orange is the New Black, took a comedic perspective on the prison population and made them relatable to everyday people even though they talked about real issues in the justice system.
Something as simple as a band-aid can have a tremendous impact. Visibility is something that many people don’t feel they get in their everyday lives. Turning on your phone or television and seeing something positive that is relatable to you is a morale booster. The message relayed is: We see you, We know you’re out there and this is for you. Inspiration is the clear goal of representation and everyone should have the opportunity to be inspired.