Why Representation on US Television Matters in 2017

Representation on TV continues to be a hot-button issue in the United States. With easier access to mediums like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and other social networks, people are asking why they don’t see a true representation of the rich diversity of the US on their TV screens? They aren’t seeing the stories of the people who have flocked to this country, built this country from the ground up, and have been contributing members of said country for decades. They want to know why their stories are not priorities for TV executives looking for the next big thing.

Imagine you’re an African American girl watching Doc McStuffins for the first time.

Imagine you’re a teenager watching Rick and Michonne from The Walking Dead start a relationship together after seasons of build-up.

Imagine you’re a 20 year old watching Alex Sanvers admit to herself, and others that she’s gay on Supergirl.

And now imagine that you feel like you’ve seen yourself in these people for the first time ever, and that who you are is more than ok.

Representation on TV matters because these three people will learn about the world through the media they’re consuming. Through media they will gain an understanding of what societal limitations are put on their gender and how to push back on them. They’ll see people just like them standing up for what they believe in and not stopping until they achieve their goals. Through media they will gain an understanding of what a healthy relationship should look like – that they’re bonds build on trust, friendship, and mutual respect. And through media, they will gain an understanding of acceptable responses to the feelings they are experiencing and how who you love doesn’t change or destroy who are or how much you are loved.

What we see on TV teaches every single one of us how and where we fit in this world.

Allowing diverse stories to be represented on TV also allows us to expand on the human experience and make people feel more welcomed for who they are or who they’ve decided to be. It breaks barriers, allowing dreamers to take the stage in new and wondrous ways. It allows us to understand our neighbors, our coworkers, and our friends of different genders, races, or sexualities, on a common platform on topics that maybe we’ve never understood, know about, or considered to be an issue that needed discussion.

To clarify, representation on TV isn’t about filling a quota or checking off a box on the the race, gender, or/and sexuality card. It’s about giving diverse voices a chance to tell their stories to ones who still haven’t defined theirs or even started their life’s journey. It’s about letting the young, who will one day run our country, see that they have a place in the US. That they can reach higher and be accepted and encouraged to do more.

TV teaches us lessons everyday about the “norms” in our country. Because of that, we need to tell a grander story from a multitude of voices. We need to educate and guide our young and old with honest, open, and respectful portrayals of gender, sex, and race. And we need to hold TV executives to a higher standard and hold them accountable for diversifying the media we consume on a daily basis.

The only way a country like the US will continue to flourish and thrive is with stories that tell all of its citizens that they are welcomed and encouraged. That they can do and be more than what they are, without fear of reproach and with a society that understands them at their back. Telling diverse stories of how we live, love, and learn is how we assure that whatever comes next, we will get through it together because we have an understanding of each other and what we are capable of inside.

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