You may or may not be familiar with the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign. If you aren’t, it was a thing on Twitter recently where people tweeted pictures of themselves or their loved ones holding signs that said why we need diverse books. However, it’s sort of lost momentum, and I don’t know about you, but I haven’t noticed a change in the literary landscape as far as representation is concerned. In fact, other than Orange is the New Black, I haven’t seen much of any representation in any form of media recently. And as a consumer, that makes me livid.
In some ways, I am fully satisfied with how I am represented in the media. I mean, I’m a well-off, cisgender white girl in my late teens. There’s millions of me in books, TV shows, movies, etcetera. However, when you take my sexuality into account, suddenly the number of characters who I can easily identify with drops significantly. Factor my mental illness into the picture, and you’re left with almost no characters who fit my profile. Honestly, I can’t name any.
Why are these things swept under the rug? And why is it ignored in movie adaptations when authors do bother to write a realistic cast of characters? A quick example would be Katniss Everdeen, who was supposed to have black hair and olive skin. So, definitely not Jennifer Lawrence. And when characters are not aligned with the mold, why do we freak out so much? When Idris Elba was cast as in Thor (2011) there was a major uproar, with dozens of articles being published regarding the controversy, when there shouldn’t even have been a controversy to begin with.
Why is it okay for Angelina Jolie and Elizabeth Taylor to play Cleopatra but not for a black man to play an imaginary god? Basically, it’s because we’re all still racist as hell. It’s that simple. So, we don’t just need diverse books. When it comes to media, we need representation galore. We need diversity to be spilling out of our socks. Authors, screenwriters, casting directors, and anyone else in media need to be making a concerted effort to accurately represent the diverse range of people who exist in this world. In terms of race, sexuality, ability versus disability, and so many other things, we have decades of underrepresentation to make up for. So get to it, people!
photos via Google Images