Why is Representation important?
Television shows have become part of our daily lives. This makes what these TV shows consist of quite important.
That’s why it’s only logical the world of television reflects the real world accurately. So, isn’t it shocking that women only take up 40% of speaking roles in television? Which really doesn’t make sense if you think about how there’s basically an equal amount of men and women in this world. It makes more sense when you find out 91% of TV shows across platforms employed no women directors. 76% had no women creators and 71% no female writers. It’s laughable in a kind of ‘laugh so you don’t cry’ kind of way. So it makes sense that when you don’t see yourself in any of the characters you see daily… You begin to feel insignificant.
Obviously, I’m only talking about humanoid characters, I’m not saying you’re going to have a mental breakdown if you don’t see yourself in a giant floating head from Rick and Morty.
There’s this body of research and a term known as ‘symbolic annihilation,’ which is the idea that if you don’t see people like you in the media you consume, you must somehow be unimportant
-Nicole Martins of Indiana University
How Representation Affects its Audience
Think about a little boy whose black and never saw himself as a popular superhero until 2018. Think about a little girl who wants to be a spy or a scientist- evil or not.
Furthermore, even as adults its irritating to see women solely forced into the role of the love interest to the male protagonist. Bella from Twilight would literally rather die than remain a virgin or single. Which is slightly relatable, but that’s irrelevant. I’m tired of shows with great female casts that just revolve around their personal lives. Women’s struggles aren’t just motherhood and affairs. But hey, I guess the 58% of male characters in competitive professional lives have it handled without us. I can’t believe we don’t even have an equal fictional workplace. At least its realistic.
Summary of Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Brooklyn Nine-Nine is an American television series about the 99th precinct of the New York police force. The story follows detective Jake Peralta as the main character, your typical yet lovable immature white guy. But when a stern new Captain is hired and there’s a charming clash of personalities in the workplace. So far the show has won awards for its comedy genius and has been praised for its balanced portrayal of serious issues mingled with humour.
Significant Characters in Brooklyn Nine-Nine
It’s not only race and gender that matter in terms of representation but it’s also significant for the LGBTQ community. Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Captain Raymond Holt is happily married to his husband. Neither his husband or he leans towards generic gay stereotypes like being overly camp, extremely emotive or any feminine attributes. Captain Holt instead wears his work-standard uniform and humorously expressionless face. Being gay becomes a secondary trait of Raymond’s to the team as they accept him immediately and only have issues with his stern leadership, that until is he proves his worth to them with his wisdom and witty insults and soon becomes a beloved captain. However, as a gay and black male, characters like Holt are especially under-represented. In live tv, recurring LGBTQ characters are 72% white and in streaming services, they are 71% white.
Secondly, there is Sergeant Terry, another African American in a power position. Terry is a positive family man with great leadership qualities when it comes to teaching his team valuable life lessons during cases and protecting them. This highly contrasts the negative stereotypes of black men that abandon their families that we sadly often see as. Instead, we see this extremely muscled man as caring and nurturing in his relationships with his colleagues and his family.
The Representation of Latina Women and Bisexuality
Below him in ranking is the rest of the team including the two latina women Amy Santiago and Rosa Diaz. The representation of Latin women in television in 2017-18 reached a historical highpoint. You would think that’s a major improvement right? But it’s 7%, making them the most underrepresented ethnic group. Neither Amy or Rosa fit into the hypersexualised, fiery and passionate stereotypes that dominate representations of Latina women. Amy is constantly trying to prove herself as a goody-two-shoes who aspires to be Captain one day. Yet, Diaz is a blunt, tomboy who is tough with a good heart.
Whilst both characters happen to be Latina and hilarious, that is where their similarities end. Rosa is bisexual. Look at the infographic below. There are less than 10 LGBTQ Latinas on television and there are even fewer bisexuals specifically. It’s amazing we have two Latinas on one show, let alone a bisexual Latina character. It’s even rarer that the character is multi-dimensional by being a funny, loving, badass who clearly identifies as a bisexual.
This show is a large step forward for the underrepresented.
And to those in the LGBTQ community, who have never felt like you belonged in the world of television or the real world I hope this show will validate that what you’re feeling. It is real and it is normal.
But before you cheer, take a look at that info-graphic again and remind yourself how she’s one of the few.
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