Representation of various races, ethnicities, sexualities and even disabilities within the media, especially in the online streaming medium, is extremely vital for a change in society’s views on what is considered “the norm.”
While this has been a serious problem that has recently been recognized and changed through shows such as “Fresh off the Boat,” “The Fosters” and “Black Panther,” there is still a wide gap needing to be filled.
The online streaming service that has really pushed diversity in casting and writing to the forefront is Netflix.
With Netflix’s increasing base of original content, it has done a great job in creating shows about and for the diverse community.
Take “Orange is the New Black” for example. In this show, it follows one woman’s time in prison where the viewers eventually meet the ethnically diverse cast comprised mainly of women, since the series takes place in a minimum security women’s prison.
The show presents many different races and backgrounds like blacks, Latinos, a few Asians and even one Russian.
It also depicts lesbian relationships in a different light than major series before it. The character relationships grew from real conversations, experiences and genuine feelings. Whether some of them were toxic or adorable, they were shown to have the same complications other couples handle as well.
Seeing these diverse characters and relationships help those who have felt underrepresented to feel like who they are is not abnormal or something to be ashamed of.
Another Netflix original animated show, “The Dragon Prince,” portrays a wide range of diverse characters within the fictional world of elves, dragons and magic. While the thought of a fantasy world having diversity at its core may not have crossed many viewers’ minds, it certainly did for the writers, Aaron Ehasz and Justin Richmond.
As the story progressed and the plot followed the three teenagers on their journey to return the dragon egg, there comes along characters like Rayla, the young shadow elf who has an interesting yet not quite authentic Scottish accent, and Ezran, the young prince of King Viren who is mixed and part of the main three.
The one character though who really piqued my interest was Captain Amaya, with her demanding presence in the military, strong loyalty to the King and fierce fighting style, not to mention her wicked use of sign language to portray her own disability, being deaf.
Although, throughout the series, many times her disability has proven to be no hindrance at all. Sometimes, it acts more as comedy relief since her faithful interpreter, Commander Glen, speaks her often rough and hilarious remarks for others.
The way the creators handle the tough, butt-kicking character of color really showed their dedication to inclusion. It’s nice to see diversity through not just skin color, sexuality or gender identity, but also through disabilities. Being aware of different ways to diversify characters has and will continue to further the media industry.
Not only is it important for the cast and character to be diverse, but one of the most crucial parts to showing true diversity comes from the writing process. Many people forget this because it’s not the most prominent job title like director or producer. Nonetheless, it plays a major role.
One show on Netflix that really exemplifies this is “Masters of None,” which is written by Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang. Both are Asian writers.
The diversity throughout the series as the viewers watch Dev Shah grow up could only be created by writers who had experienced different religions, cultures and grew up ethnically different from Americans. Ansari is known for putting some of his own life experience into writing the show, creating unique situations many could not imagine.
This is seen mostly in the Thanksgiving episode of season 8 written by both Lena Waithe and Ansari. Denise discovers more about her sexuality and deals with coming out to her mom, a black women who believes being gay is a choice.
Throughout the episode, the viewers are even given a little bit of an insight on how Dev spends Thanksgiving.
The best people to write their story are the people who experienced it or can best represent the situation.
While the gap for writers and actors of color is lessening every year, inclusion should be the main goal of media as it will lead to more engagement and relatability with different people and promote diverse content.