Only two out of every 10 lead film actors (or 19.8 percent) were minorities in 2017, this year’s UCLA Hollywood Diversity Report found. In 2020, roughly 4 out of 10 (39.7 percent) leads were minorities. What will 2021 and beyond reveal when it comes to seeing representation in the media?

As a young person watches TV today, the question that might come to mind is, ‘Where are all the people that look like me? Well, at least there is one character that kind of looks like me.” Many young people of diverse ethnic backgrounds start to develop these thoughts. Ana-Christina Ramón, co-author of the UCLA Division of Social Sciences, told Deadline that “viewers want to see themselves on screen not just as a reflection based on how they look, but also how they live.” It’s empowering to see your cultural identity represented in more inclusive ways on many popular streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, Disney +, etc.

In a 2019 article by PBS, teens mentioned in their interviews how the importance of seeing representation in media affects minorities in pop-culture. They discuss how important it is for people to know that they belong and can be whatever they’d want regardless of the stereotypes expected by the media.  

As a young person watches TV today, the question that might come to mind is, where are all the people that look more like me?

When it comes to stereotypes in media, people may wonder if the portrayal is all that is expected of them in society; these portrayals can lead to inequality and racism. There are many portrayals in shows that reinforce false perceptions: a gangster or “thug” characters for black people, or smart and nerdy characters for Asians. As explored in a 2017 article by Sara Bobltz and Kimberly Yam in the HuffPos, watching TV and always seeing “that one token actor” portrayed as a stereotype, really isn’t the representation anyone is looking for. “I do think it’s powerful for people of a minority race to be represented in pop culture to really show a message that everybody has a place in this world,” said Alec Fields in an interview with PBS in 2019.  

According to a Anti-Defamation League article about “diversity in media and why visibility matters,” mirrors and windows are some different concepts used in improving the representation of different ethnic groups but in a non-stereotypical way. The Mirrors are defined to assist and “validate one’s identity and experience;” they help to reflect an actors’ social group and identity into the show. While the windows help to “provide a view into other people’s lives and experiences” by informing others with details about different identity groups.

Another method to increase diversity is Blind Casting. It is a method when directors do not run their auditions for roles based on colour or historical accuracy to the show, but instead, cast parts mostly based  on an actor’s acting abilities. Blind casting has been used a lot more recently, including in shows such as BridgertonGrey’s Anatomy and the 2014 version of Annie. 

However, in a 2020 article from the Guardian, Micha Frazer-Carroll wrote about how people complained about blind-casting shows becoming “not historically correct or un-realistic” even in fictional shows. As mentioned previously, Blind Casting can be beneficial and has helped improve the diversity in media today, but some people claim that when shows have a historical factor, even in a fictional narrative, the historical accuracy needs to match up. For example, in shows such as Bridgerton, where the show takes place in a time when the people living there would have been all-white; however, since Blind Casting was used and the directors didn’t pay much attention to race while running auditions. But the show didn’t fully make sense historically by having a more diverse cast. Even for shows such as the Little Mermaid or James Bond being played by black actors instead of the original white actors has led backlash as they are seen as classics and a “different” version would wreck it. So one has to ask, what is more important? Historical accuracy or diversity and representation? Reading, seeing and listening to stories that affect how we live our lives, how we see other people, how we think about ourselves is important.

These are not just actors playing characters on TV for the viewers, but they are also changing the course of the ideas of different minorities, by having these minorities be more than just their race or ethnicity. It’s important to see at an early age that there is more than just a stereotype on TV that defines diverse groups.

Over the years society has grown for the better, but there is still need for progress. However, the “perfect” casting is achievable and has already been proven and thanks to the help of many people sharing their stories we are able to improve many shows, re-makes and overall, representation in media.

Photo Courtesy of Rachel Idzerda for Variety