On Representation

Monday, March 5, 2018

Hi, hello. I haven’t blogged as much as I’d like since “returning” to blogging but I am spending time pitching and writing articles to publications (hopefully they’ll see the light of the internet eventually).

Something that did make it to the internet recently is this short piece I did for Mochi, about the importance of accurate representation in TV, especially network TV. Fresh Off the Boat had their Lunar New Year episode a couple weeks ago and they used 50% Mandarin dialogue, which is so exciting.

“What I love about the show is that it reflected some of the experiences I had growing up, such as the scene in the pilot episode where Eddie wants to fit in with his classmates and bring Lunchables to school, because they mocked his homemade noodles. Before that, I hadn’t really seen accurate portrayals of my own experiences on network TV, beyond stereotyped caricatures… It’s not an overly dramatic or exoticized portrayal, which is exactly what we need. For too long, Asian Americans have been shown in the media as “other,” but “Ride the Tiger” instead shows how relatable these characters’ lives are, despite knowing a second language.”

Representation in the media is a finicky beast. For every positive representation, there seems to be two steps backward. Within publishing, there are whispers of publishers and agents seeing the diverse books movement as a trend. I want to shout from the rooftops, “Goddamnit, my life, my experiences and my identity are not trends or marketing strategies.

I just watched Black Panther last weekend and it’s seriously one of the best movies I’ve watched in a long time. There was so much to unpack in a movie-- positive representation, the divide between Africans and African-Americans, racial tensions in the US and an action-packed story line. I was discussing it with my friends and how we’d be willing to watch the movie again in theaters. Across my Facebook, I’ve seen countless discussions and just general happiness about the movie. I want this momentum to continue in Hollywood, to tell stories that are accurate representations of people, not poor caricatures of people and what people imagine are the stories.

But these issues are indicative of larger issues within society. How do we fix these or start improving these issues?

Here are some suggestions:
  • Talk less, listen more. What are other people’s stories? My mentor Lisa Nielson puts it perfectly, “We need to stop justifying our past, and instead bear witness and listen. If we could do so with compassion, respect and acceptance, even when we ourselves feel threatened or ashamed, then we will start to inhabit change.” 
  • Learn something about a different culture. Visit cultural places. Take your friends. Don't give into stereotypes and broad strokes about people of other cultures. 
  • Seek out and support people of color. Read their books broadly. Watch their movies. Try and see the world through their lens. Buy what they create. You'll find that there's more similarities than differences. 
  • Create conversations. Inform yourself, inform others. These conversations are hard but with an open mind and an open heart, we can potentially move forward. 
  • Call out BS when it happens. Don't be complacent about the things that happen. 
image by Hélène Delmaire via Design*Sponge

Post a Comment

Latest Instagrams @byjessicayang

2009- © by jessica yang Design by FCD.