Representation Matters Pt. I

I thought I would make a multi-part post series about representation. Some of you know that it’s an issue that is dear to my heart. Recently, I’ve been having some revelations from likely and unlikely places when it comes to this particular situation.

Let me tell you a personal story and how things correlated to a study I found out about with a video and a separate site.

I’ve always struggled with low self-esteem even to this day. When I was a child, I have to admit that I watched more TV than I should. Sure, I read a lot which certainly helped, but when I wasn’t in school or reading, I’d check out the TV. I watched a lot of cartoons and live action shows. One thing I wondered was that there weren’t many heroes who looked like me. There were a few token characters here and there, but none were really compelling. They were either the token best friend or comic relief. Some characters that I did find very interesting would only be there were only in a few episodes. One I can remember was Bishop from the X-Men cartoon back in the 90s. He was the first black male superhero I ever saw and I thought he was cool with his time traveling ability while also being legitimately tough. I’m sure I had an action figure of him amongst other heroes of different races. Even though I didn’t have cable until I was in high school when my family moved, I still watched the basic TV shows and I saw the cable stuff when I was at my grandparent’s house or at a friend’s place. As someone who would be considered an ethnic minority in America, it was tough finding positive representation in mainstream media. Sure, I have a white dad, but someone like me is obviously not considered Caucasian and I’m not just talking about my skin tone, but I digress. Some idiots have said online “Why don’t you make your own characters?” years ago. Oh wait, I’m a freaking indie author and I’ve made multiethnic casts in my stories. Just saying.

What really caught my eye was a video I saw that had a slideshow as part of it. The featured image is a screenshot from said video that featured statistics from different ethnic groups of children watching TV. I wasn’t surprised about some of the statistics when it came to the ratios despite not thinking about the numbers or hours. What really floored me was the last stat as shown in the picture: “Children’s self-esteem generally decreases as TV watching increases; except for white boys.” The rationale makes perfect sense especially in Western media. Most protagonists are white males where they are the lead characters, the most desirable, most heroic, and the most idealized characters in the show. This surprisingly applies to villains, too. Even they have agency in their stories and they may have some strengths like being legitimately threatening, powerful, smart, etc. The Joker certainly comes to mind among other examples. This is not meant to shame anyone, but the stats can really speak volumes on how impressionable children can get their values or see their own worth (or not) depending on their race or gender. Here’s a bit more information on that issue: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/tv-children-self-esteem-black-white_n_1616957.

Anyways, I will be talking about this sporadically (hopefully once a week) about positive representation in the media. I never realized how much of a psychological effect it had on me and I want to share these findings mixed with my own personal experiences.

The screenshot is property of Jabari Osaze from the video “Seven Little White Lies” on YouTube.

I Longed For Someone Like Me

When I was in front of the silver screen or the tiny screen
When I immersed myself in hardcovers or paperbacks
I felt empty on the inside, but didn’t even know it then
As a child, I was impressionable
The others found their heroes (however fictional)
While I looked for others who didn’t look like me
Grasping for something to boost my esteem
As I died on the inside while being oblivious
The others found their heroes or morals
When they NEVER applied to me
The others assumed I was a villain
Who deserved to be punished at all costs
Even when I minded my own business
No prince, no superhero, no fairy tale protagonist
Looked like me
Years later, I was forced to create my own worlds and heroes
While it was constructive, I wished I did it sooner

Reki

I was looked up to by so many in the community
The de facto leader of sorts for them
I was there to show them the way and to learn about the town
After so many hours of being in front of others
I had to retreat to my studio

With canvases, brushes, and paint
I had to express myself when I wasn’t around the rest
While I was seen as the big sibling around
I felt so insecure
Like I was constantly being stepped on
Or having a train racing through my direction

Was I truly ready for flight no matter how small my charcoal feathered wings were?
I hated to admit this, but I needed to be rescued