True diversity is about passes, not tokens.
I don’t watch a lot of TV.
Or you know, a lot of movies, a lot of Netflix, etc.
Mostly because my entertainment time = me glued to Tumblr with a glazed expression.
Or a sprinkled expression. Whatever.
But a big portion of why I’m not is because I’ve chosen to opt out of paying to not see myself represented. Makes sense—at least I should HOPE so. Protagonists that are black women are hard to come by. Easier than before, certainly! But still difficult.
Were I an Asian-American woman, I imagine I’d have given up altogether.
And of course, that says nothing of the types/lengths of hair, bodies, and skin-tones that get cast to play certain roles or do certain things. More to the point though, by and large we don’t have a lot to hold on to. And what there is is spread across a few different channels/networks at any given time. As far as mainstream providers go (we’ll see about getting hooked up with KweliTV someday) I suppose I can have Netflix, AND, Hulu, AND Starz, and just flip flop between them.
However the representation pendulum with what we DO get swings fairly wildly. A black woman in cinematic/tv media can be a throw-away role as a matronly housekeeper or sharp tongued gangster’s main squeeze, or a character with her own lines and arcs if she's an extra competent superhero like Michonne of The Walking Dead, or so sanitized of any flaws that any hint of character development becomes almost entirely unnecessary, like Disney’s Tiana. But it’s not that characterization that’s the problem...at least not entirely.
Fictional characters living as extremes is far from new. No one in real life is as broody as Batman, or as knife flippingly jolly as Crocodile Dundee. But because we have a wealth of white male action-movie characters in between them on a scale, it’s not an issue.
So the answer to all of this isn’t necessarily flipping every aspect of the script, it’s just to KEEP ADDING MORE BLACK WOMEN IN CENTRAL ROLES.
I know, right?
And the same can go for ANY under-represented roles: Indo-Caribbean folks, wheelchair users, trans men, Romani people, the Plains Natives, Vietnamese immigrants, people with Down’s Syndrome, amputees, heck, even young slender white women with big curly hair that DON’T have to have it straightened as part of some ‘She’s pretty and/or badass now’ plot point. The more roles we have go to actually diverse leads scripted, shot, and produced by an actually diverse staff, the less we have to worry about EACH ONE being boring, hypercompetent, token-like or problematic! The more types of each demographic we get representation of, the less people have to worry about each single character being a mascot for their real-life label counterparts, and the more they can be appreciated for what they are! Fictional characters!
We need range, people.
I definitely also need more curls and coils onscreen, but I know with a certainty that there needs to be more of...well, more! And box office numbers as well as buzz DO show that the money and enthusiasm are there. I’ve been picking out my Black Panther opening weekend outfit (think flowy yet fierce, then add cheetah print). But as far as getting execs to really open their eyes to the audiences they’ve been ignoring, that’s a fix we’re still working on.