I recently wrote a paper on how racial diversity is used and displayed throughout the first three seasons of the New Who Series. Looking at this was very interesting and I learned a lot. I looked at the history of race in the UK along with the current state of race issues in the UK. This gave me a basis of why Doctor who lacks in racial diversity at times. Throughout this blog post I want to talk about other forms of diversity I found while watching more Doctor Who episodes for class. I found a good amount of gender diversity while watching Doctor Who. The Doctor is a male and the companions is typically a female, but other jobs that are present in the show do not seem to have gender specific roles. You see males in roles that are typically seen as female jobs and you have females who are in what we would typically consider masculine roles. This is something that I like about the show because it is different than a lot of other shows on television. Through the recent episodes I saw which were the eleventh and twelfth doctor, there was a lot more racial diversity than what was there in the start of the new who. You saw many different ethnic groups. In the first few seasons of the new who it seemed that the only racial diversity was a black male here or there. Now it seems that there are several different ethnicities present in Doctor Who. There were some points in the show where I noticed stereotypical ethnic jobs. There were a couple scenes where the real-life doctor would be someone of the Asian or Indian heritage which to me seemed stereotypical. We have discussed that the goal of this show is not to display diversity, but it makes the show more enjoyable that they do. In our society, today we expect to see diversity and when we do not see diversity it is weird. It was completely opposite of this a long time ago. I have enjoyed watching and interpreting the plot of Doctor Who and the diversity that exists in the show. I have now become more aware of diversity throughout the media which is something that is important to me now. I hope to continue to interpret other shows that I see along with other pieces of the media in the future.
Too many times I see and hear people complain about diversity within a show, movie, or book. Often times it goes something like this: “I don’t have a problem with (insert minority here), but I hate how (minority group) makes such a big deal about it” or “It’s fine if you’re (insert minority here), but I don’t get why it has to be in every single (movie, show, book) now days”. Well, I’ll tell you why, and the answer really is quite simple: representation matters.
If you’re a minority, chances are you don’t see yourself represented a lot in movies, shows, books, video games, etc. And being represented accurately or in a non harmful way is even rarer. So for minorities, seeing themselves represented accurately in their favourite show is a big deal.
And it’s especially important for children (minorities or not) to see all kinds of diversity on the screen from a young age. A child who grows up watching shows with many different kinds of diversity is more likely to be more tolerant and understanding. But the children it impacts the most are the ones who belong to minority groups. A gay child watching a show with LGBT+ characters is taught that there’s nothing shameful about being gay. A black child watching a show with POC characters is inspired to become whatever they want to be. A young girl watching a show with female characters is strengthened and empowered.
For adult minorities it’s a bit different. Often times seeing representation on television is a great reminder that there’s no reason to be ashamed of who you are. Some groups of adult minorities though have never or very rarely see their respective group portrayed on television, so when a character does represent them it can be shocking and emotive. For the first time, they finally see someone like them in their favourite show, book, movie, or video game.
If you still don’t understand why representation is so important, try thinking about it this way. Think of the colour of your hair. I’ll use brown as the example. Imagine that only one or two of your friends have brown hair, maybe none of them do. You hear and see a lot of comments that people with brown hair are mean, they say that people with brown hair are stuck up and only care about themselves. Some people even say that people with brown hair don’t exist because they’ve never seen a brown-haired person. But you know that’s not true. At least you think so. You’re not mean or stuck up, right? You did stand up for yourself the other day, but that wasn’t being mean, right? Maybe it was. Maybe you are as stuck up as people say. But you do exist. When you think about yourself you think about your brown hair. It’s really there, right? Or maybe you’re just pretending to have brown hair. Did something happen when you were younger that turned your hair brown? Are you sure you aren’t mistaking your brown hair for black hair? You probably just want to feel special so you say you have brown hair, but you really don’t.
Then, one day while you’re watching your favourite show, a brown-haired character is suddenly introduced. And you’re in shock because that character is like you. And they aren’t mean and they aren’t stuck up, and they aren’t faking having brown hair. Can you imagine how happy you’d feel to finally see someone like you on tv, especially after hearing and seeing so many comments stereotyping who you are? This character finally shows what it’s like to be a brown-haired person. This character reminds you that you aren’t alone.
This is what it feels like for many minorities to see themselves represented on the screen. Hopefully you can imagine what a big deal this would be and why minorities demand that they see more of themselves on television.
Lastly, diversity isn’t just about minorities. Television shows, books, and movies that showcase minority groups help raise awareness among majorities. For example, searches on Google that contained the word “asexuality” spiked to the highest it’s ever been after Todd from BoJack Horseman came out as asexual in September 2017. Because BoJack Horseman decided to feature a minority many more people are now aware of a term they probably didn’t know before. Like the asexual community, many other minority groups benefit from people actually knowing who they are and that they exist. And all groups of minorities benefit greatly when a character representing them is not shown in a negative and harmful light.
In conclusion, representation matters. Minority groups get so worked up because they often don’t have good representation to be satisfied with all the time. What makes them a minority also makes them who they are. It’s a lot easier to feel good about yourself when you’re given good representation.
Recently I have gotten really into the show Aquarius. It popped up on my Netflix recommended and had one of my favorite actors as one of the main characters. I knew I just had to check it out and I’m sure glad that I did.
The show was created by John McNamara and stars David Duchovny, Gray Damon, Gethin Anthony, and Emma Dumont as some of the main characters. David Duchovny had been in many television shows and is widely known as being Fox Mulder on the X-Files.
It is set in the late 1960’s and the story follows Charles Manson and his family. David Duchovny plays the main detective, Sam Hodiak, and gets called to help with a missing teenager case. As it turns out the missing teenager, Emma, gets taken in by Charles Manson. She heard of all his ideas and just really wanted to see what it was all about. The seasons then follow Charles, Emma, and the family up until Helter Skelter. Even though Emma goes back to Manson after Sam Hodiak takes her home Hodiak’s life still intertwines with Manson’s. But that’s just a quick flow through of the show. I would definitely check out the show.
But how does this deal with diversity?
Since it is set in the late 1960’s there are still a lot of issues between races. Many of the officers in the police station are older white men and often accuse black males of the crimes when it is found out in the show that many were by white males.
There is also an instance where Hodiak gets invited to his partners house to meet his wife. Everyone knew that his partner, Brian Shafe, was married, but no one has never met her and Shafe didn’t have photos of her on his desk. When Hodiak gets introduced to his wife he gets quite the surprised look on his face. Shafe’s wife was a black woman and they had a daughter together. Everyone in Shafe’s neighborhood knew that they were an interracial couple and that caused strife with both the black and white community, especially since Shafe was a cop. His wife worked with the Black Panther Party and they also weren’t happy that Shafe was married to a black woman.
Charles Manson was also not a huge fan of other races and the show made sure to pull that in. When Martin Luther King Jr. passed Manson was more than excited. And while Manson was planning his murder sprees he wanted to make sure that his family knew that they were setting it up as if white people hadn’t done it. Manson was often saying “don’t get any white finger prints anywhere” or “don’t leave our white things around at the scenes”.
All in all this is a super good show and shows a lot of diversity!
On September 8th, 2017 the hit animated TV series “BoJack Horseman” became the first ever television show to say the word asexual aloud. At the same time, one of the leading characters, Todd, became the first ever confirmed asexual character on television.
Throughout the series, Todd seemed to struggle with his identity. Several scenes showed Todd not picking up on sexualy or romantically suggestive situations, and in season four Todd is quoted as saying, “I’m not gay. I mean, I don’t think I am, but… I don’t think I’m straight, either. I don’t know what I am. I think I might be nothing.”
This line resonated with a lot of people in the asexual community who admitted they felt similarly before realizing they were asexual. A lack of representation hits the asexual community especially hard. Few characters on television or in movies have ever shown asexual characteristics, making it hard for a-spec people to find themselves in popular media. Some characters such as Sherlock Holmes, Sheldon Cooper, and Jughead have been accepted into the asexual community as a-spec characters, but up until Todd Chavez, none have been confirmed as such, much less said the word out loud.
In a heteronormative world with next to zero representation in the media, asexuals and aromantics have an extra hard time coming to terms with their identity. For some people, Todd exclaiming that he’s asexual on television may have been the first time they had heard the word, period. And in a sex-obsessed world, it’s no wonder so many a-spec people take so long to realize who they are.
Todd Chavez coming out on television is especially important because of who he is as a character. First of all, he’s lovable. He has a quirky, likeable personality, and he’s interesting; someone you’d want to be friends with. Second, he has several close and loving relationships on the show, and he’s got feelings. He’s not an unfeeling robot and his lack of sexual attraction doesn’t make him any less human than his companion characters. This can’t be said for almost all headcannoned asexual characters. Both Sherlock Holmes and Sheldon Cooper have very stiff, stuffy personalities. They lack almost any sort of affection whether it be toward friends or romantic partners. And for the most part, they’re emotionless shells, barely human. But very few headcannoned asexuals are protagonists in movies or television shows. Most are cold, unfeeling villains such as Voldemort from Harry Potter, Moriarty from Sherlock, or Dexter Morgan from Dexter. And if they’re not villains, they’re mentally insane, or both. This creates a toxic image of asexual people as being less than human. Todd is one of the very few characters to portray asexuality in a positive light.
Todd’s asexual announcement has made asexual history, and will hopefully pave the way for even more positive a-spec representation in all forms of entertainment. Todd Chavez has become an asexual television idol for a-spec people to see themselves represented in. I have no doubt that by actually hearing the word asexual on television will help many non-asexual people understand the orientation, and many a-spec people come to better realize who they are.
Many of us know that tv shows and movies are often white washed. Angelina Jolie playing an African American woman. Emma Stone playing a half Chinese woman. John Bennet playing an Asian man. Honestly there is probably a list of hundreds of actors that have played someone not of their race.
In Doctor Who a major one is when John Bennet, an English actor, played an Asian man named Li H’sen Chang. Li H’sen Chang was supposed to be a stage magician. Also when watching the scenes with Li H’sen Chang there are many instances of racism. He is wearing quite a bit of grab and has a very awful and offensive “typical” Asian American accent. The episode as a whole has quite a few racist aspects to it. Is this because of the time or because of the director and writer?
There have been many instances here in America of white washing as well.
When Disney first came out saying they would be making a live action Mulan there was a lot of stir that they were trying to cast a white actor as the main male. This has now been confirmed as not true, but is this because of the backlash or was this the plan all along?
In the movie Drive Carey Mulligan played a character that was originally written for a Latina woman. The director felt that Mulligan was perfect for the part… even though she wasn’t Latina I guess… In the movie Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Christopher Abbott and Alfred Molina were both cast as Afghan characters. Last time I checked they were both white actors, but I guess they fit the role better than an Afghan actor.
Johnny Depp played as a Native American in the movie The Lone Ranger. He said that he has some Native American heritage, but honestly it isn’t enough for me. Johnny is still too white of an actor to be playing a Native American in a movie.
Honestly this list could go on and on. I found a ton when I was looking online to even spark this topic. This is something that has been happening for years. Looking at the past we could say that they have an excuse. It honestly was pretty racist back in the day and it was “better” for the companies to hire white actors and actresses. But now? We don’t have anything to say to explain this. Times are changing, but not fast enough in the film industry.