Representation in the Media

Cindy Diaz Rey, Copy Editor

To some people, diversity in media is not that big of a deal, especially to those who have always had someone to look up for, or simply someone they can relate to. But the underlying importance of being accurately portrayed in media, for those who have been underrepresented their entire life, is greater than you think.

Media has the power to influence people, their beliefs, their thoughts, and their ideas. This could be either a good or a dangerous thing. Think about it, unfortunately a lot of our basic understanding and knowledge about social issues comes from various media sources, and if those sources are inaccurate and erroneous, it could affect the way we see things.

Take mental illnesses as an example. According to Psych Central, an online mental health resource, the media perpetuates many myths about mental illnesses, which ultimately affects viewers and damages people who struggle with mental health. Sadly, we have all been victims of this. We believe many things we see on TV, or hear in the radio; the worst part is that we don’t question ourselves, or the places we get that information in, and these issues end up becoming stereotypes.

As a Latina myself I grew up wondering why most of the main characters on TV shows or movies I watched were white. It wasn’t very surprising when I found out the PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) conducted a study in which they estimated that only 5.2% of characters on TV were Hispanic or Latinx, while 73.1% were white. Not to mention the Opportunity Agenda, a social justice communication lab, found that 50% of Latinx immigrants characters were portrayed as criminals. And many people might think this is not an important issue, but I remember being asked in 9th , by a girl whose parents liked to watch Narcos, if my parents were part of an illegal drug cartel back in Colombia, and if that was the reason why they left the country. I was disgusted, angry and hurt at the same time. My family and my people were being reduced to the most prejudiced, ignorant, and heartless stereotypes people had of us. And trust me, this wasn’t the first time, or the last time, or the worst comment people made around me.

Even though diversity in media is not celebrated that much, there have been some movies and TV shows that in my opinion have positively impacted minorities, such as Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians.

The first time I saw myself being represented in media was last year. I found a TV show called One Day at a Time that portrayed a hard working Hispanic-American family (The Alvarez’s) and their daily life. I remember seeing my mom tearing up over an episode where the Alvarez family shared their immigration story and all the struggles they had to go through. Up to this day I can’t stress enough how much it means to me, how much representation matters to me, and how much a TV show has impacted me.

Representation has a massive educational impact on our society, so before you hold on to a bigoted idea next time you’re exposed to things you’re not very knowledgeable of on media, ask yourself if representation is not ‘important’, if people would like to be depicted inaccurately, or if you want to keep perpetuating stereotypes on people.