I wrote this piece for my school’s newspaper about the need for diverse entertainment. It is more formal than most of things I post on this blog, but I wanted to share it, because this is definitely a discussion being had in the bookish world, and the current push for diverse literature is a movement I fully support.
Diversity has become the buzzword of the entertainment industry. Sexually, racially, and physically diverse characters are taking center stage in new movies, TV shows, and especially in young adult books. This sudden uptick in wide-ranging representation poses an important question: do we really need this much diversity in our entertainment?
Advocates of diverse entertainment argue that the answer to this question is an obvious YES. By creating storylines that feature characters that break the normal straight, white, and physically enviable mold, writers offer their readers a unique chance: to read their own story.
LGBTQ+ people should be able to read love stories that are not solely heterosexual. People struggling with body image should be able to recognize their figures on television, instead of watching a parade of golden ratio women take leading roles. Non-white people should be able to see members of their culture as protagonists instead of token background characters. People suffering from mental illnesses or living with disabilities should be included in fictional narratives as more than inspiration for the “more able” main character.
The simple answer is yes, we need to push for diversity, because it is not yet a reality in the entertainment industry.
Moreover, we need diversity in entertainment because the current landscape is a myth. The world is not made up of straight, white size-two women and muscled men with all other races and identities crammed in the background. In a tweet on Oct. 11, children’s book author Laura Ruby eloquently illustrated this point.
“If books are here to teach kids about the world, what does it mean when books don’t reflect the world?” she asked.
It is the twenty-first century, a time of rising social movements advocating equality of all types. How many Black Lives Matter protests must we see before we realize that the sentiment extends beyond cop-related violence? How many Pride parades have to dominate cities before we realize that the LGBTQ+ movement is not a niche issue? How many body-positive ad campaigns have to spread like wildfire across social media platforms before we realize that people are tired of the size-zero ideal?
We need diversity in entertainment because without it, social equality will forever be handicapped. The entertainment we consume is a reflection of who we are—and one of the most potentially powerful forces of change in our lives. Until the entertainment industry pushes the exclusive boundaries that they have imposed on themselves, consumers remain trapped in an unrealistic world. There is immense potential to change minds in entertainment, because seeing diversity brought to life directly contradicts the hatred and fear of ignorant masses.
We need diversity in entertainment because we live in a time of change, and diverse art is both the cause and effect of this movement.