Thursday, July 19, 2012

Dear Entertainment Industry

Dear Entertainment Industry,

We have a problem.

You've known about this problem for a long time, but let's go over it again.

People spend a lot of time watching TV.  They also spend a lot of time playing videogames.

TV, movies, and games show us a wide variety of white men and boys.  White men and boys are portrayed as heroes, villains, hotshots, nerds, athletes, homebodies, wealthy, impoverished, and on, and on, and on.  If you're a white guy, you're going to see a lot of other white guys onscreen who might look and act similarly to you, and a lot of white guys onscreen with enviable lives you wish you had.  Because white guys are often in major roles, they have more fully developed characters, so you'll see more white guys as fully rounded people.

For women and for guys of color, not so much.  They're not as often the protagonist.  Sometimes they're an obvious token character; sometimes they're nowhere to be seen.  Without as many fleshed-out roles, they're easily pigeonholed.  Women are hangers-on, love interests, eye candy, worthless if not sexually appealing.  Black men are thugs.  People of color who aren't black are adrift in a sea of whiteness.

This is not good for anyone.
If you are a white girl, a black girl or a black boy, exposure to today's electronic media in the long run tends to make you feel worse about yourself. If you're a white boy, you'll feel better, according to a new study led by an Indiana University professor.
Boys of color and all girls watch TV and play videogames and learn to feel like crap about themselves.  They're seeing images and watching stories which portray them as less-than, pigeonholed, stereotyped.

At least we can feel good about the white boys, right?  They feel great about themselves!

But how do they feel about everyone else?  They're watching the same shows as the girls, as the boys of color.  They're hearing and seeing the same messages, that girls are less-than, that boys of color fall into various stereotypes.  They're pulling in the same sexist, racist ideas.

You're making white boys feel great!  At the expense of everyone else.  Why not make everyone feel great?  Why not portray a rich array of all people?  Let's see more interesting, witty, heroic women.  More confident, intelligent, well-rounded people of color.  Let's give these boys and girls (and men and women) characters they can identify with and aspire to be.
An earlier study co-authored by her and Harrison suggests that video games "are the worst offenders when it comes to representation of ethnicity and gender."
Gaming companies, come on.  Get your shit together.  You can do better than this.  "Kids playing games" is an idea we like to associate with happy, fun times, fond memories, laughter.  Give them a good time that everyone can enjoy, not just the white guys.

With love,
Frank Lee

With thanks to

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