Media representation is a powerful tool in normalising minorities into mainstream society.
The first time I saw myself represented on screen was quite surreal. Although the circumstances were a little difficult at the time.
At 11 pm, on certain weeknights, SBS would play Queer As Folk. And with mum being an early sleeper, it was perfect timing for my developing sexuality.
Admittedly, I mostly watched it for the sex scenes. But I didn’t realise how much of an impact it had on me until I reached adulthood. Now I see it as my first step in normalising sexuality and making me feel somehow a part of the growing fabric of society. Being gay was never a burden for me. In fact, it was practically instant acceptance.
This how powerful media representation is. It has the ability to engage the right audience and show them that this is their way of life.
Now, in the year 2020, media representation for gays and lesbians in the mainstream media is growing in the right direction. We are being represented in all the various facets of the human psyche.
We are lovers, fighters, intellects and all the other wonderful sides of humanity. Because all communities in this wide and wavering world have something to offer. But the best gay media representations have one thing in common:
It’s Not About Being Gay
Queer As Folk is one of the first true representations of gay life in mainstream media. It shows the common trivialities of being gay in the 1990s and early 2000s. From discrimination to sexual health and everything in between. And at that time, a lot of gay representation was purely for the fact that they were gay.
But lately, mainstream media has moved on from that. Now, a lot of gay characters are just part of the ordinary. In SOAPs, they are the next-door neighbour who strives to be a doctor. Or they are the outlandish best friend on TV shows like Sex Education. Or they’re just simply looking for love. They’re not there simply because they are gay, it’s just that them being gay is part of their character.
In other words, true representation does not focus on the character’s minority, but simply allows it to be. It’s just a mere facet of their attractive personality. And as a gay man, that’s all I really want.
Media Representation Done Right
In recent years, we’ve seen all-female casts in movies like Ghostbusters and Oceans 8 and an all-black cast for Black Panther. And look, it’s a great way to bring awareness to the cause, but it’s not the end-game here.
Minorities aren’t asking for special privileges. If we were, we wouldn’t care about tokenism in films. In fact, all minorities really want is to be part of the main table.
Not to conquer it, but purely for balanced representation in an industry that has been relatively dominated by white men. And this is not to lay siege against the past but to purely point it out so we can sail towards newer, more diverse waters.
No one is asking to change the past, or even suggesting it’s eradication.
We just want you to know where it’s led us so we can reconsider the future. One that doesn’t really care if you’re gay or black or differently gendered.
Because, unfortunately, far too many of us still do…