Under-representation in the Media
“Media is all around us, I mean, now more than ever. People see so many different images coming at them from advertising, from tv, from their phones, from movies,” Mr. Pryor said. The teenage years are a time where people start to form their identities and find out who they are as a person. It’s also a time where teens figure out where they fit into the world. The media also portrays different groups of people and impacts their expectations of themselves and others.When individuals see people who look like them and are portrayed doing incredible feats, they feel empowered to aspire to aim high themselves. When people do not see themselves, they get the message that they don’t fit in and often cease to try. This under-representation could have a tragic impact on many people.
Often, actors of color are put into token roles and aren’t seen in many mainstream movies with minority leads. Also, since Hollywood is largely run by white males, it sends an implicit message on who a leading man or woman is. Part of it is the question of the story Hollywood is trying to tell and to decide what others want to see. For instance, the director of the movie adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time, Ava DuVernay, wanted a multicultural cast that Disney fully supported. For the lead role of Meg Murry, the original casting announcement called for a “14-year-old girl of African-American and Caucasian descent” (Vanity Fair). Also, for the characters of Charles and Calvin, the casting announcement was for “‘a 5-year-old mixed-race boy of African-American and Caucasian descent’ and ‘a 16-year-old boy who is an ethnic minority.”’ (Vanity Fair). “It’s better than it was, but they’ve got a long way to go,” Mr. Pryor said.
When filmmakers create movies, they consider how much money it’s going to make and if they could put certain actors in the movie, then they could make millions of dollars. Hollywood is very conservative in taking chances since they don’t know what’s going to happen and a lot of their decision making is based on financials. On the other hand, once something gets proven and filmmakers take a chance, they would say “oh, this could work.” For example, Wonder Woman did an amazing job in the box office, who was directed by Ava Duvernay and starred Israeli model and actress Gal Gadot, and it’s one of the first blockbuster superhero films that was directed by a female.
The media creates meaning and understanding about race and ethnicity, which shapes how people view others. According to the Critical Media Project, “race and ethnicity are used as descriptors and markers to broad concepts and relationships.” “It marks people as apart of a group or an outsider and designates them to a background, function in the system, and relations with other racial and ethnic identities. In the system, certain groups have more power or privilege than other groups. Despite the physical and geographical roots that are tied to identity, race, and ethnicity, they are ideologies or ways people perceive the world.
Even with the success and awards for people of color such as Octavia Spencer being nominated for “Best Supporting Actress” and Dev Patel being the first Indian to be nominated for an Oscar in decades, there is still not enough representation for people of color, especially in television shows and movies. In an interview with NPR, Stacy L. Smith, who is a founding director of the Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, stated that, “We’re seeing that there’s not just a diversity problem in Hollywood; there’s actually an inclusion crisis.” (NPR). At last year’s Oscars, six out of the twenty nominated performers were black since the two years of white performers.
Some of the top paid actors are paid millions, but there’s a vast inequity in pay. Two of the top paid males in the film industry are Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel. Every year Dwayne Johnson gets paid approximately 65 million dollars while Jennifer Lawrence, who is the top paid actress, gets paid about 46 million. Also, Vin Diesel gets paid about 54.5 million per year, while Jennifer Aniston and Emma Stone get paid only about 26 million dollars. Mr. Pryor commented that Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel probably don’t have an Oscar yet, but they are still paid more than Jennifer Lawrence, who does have an Oscar. “There’s a huge inequity. It’s a big problem. I feel like the fact that people are noticing is a good step forward, but there’s still a lot of work to be done,” Mr. Pryor said.
In conclusion, media influences a lot of individuals’ lives and impacts how they see others and themselves. Since Hollywood is very conservative in taking risks, people don’t see that much diversity and it starting to define what a leading man or woman is. Also, people are noticing that there isn’t that much diversity in the media, so it’s up to them to help create more diversity.