Why Representation Matters

Increasing the diversity of people in the media has been a demand people have been making for years. However, until recently, it is not a call I felt particularly concerned about.

It is not that I was never for it, quite the contrary. It’s just that I have always identified with other characters on screen even though they looked different than me. For me, that was irrelevant.  I wanted to be Tarzan even though I was a girl. I loved “Lilo and Stitch” and identified with Lilo even though I was not of Polynesian descent. I pretended I was a Pokémon trainer even though I wasn’t Japanese. I was raised to believe everyone was the same on the inside, so to me, how they looked was inconsequential, as it still is.

How people look is inconsequential if you can identify with them personally, but as I’ve recently learned, that is not the point of these rallying calls. I figured it out with some reflecting and when watching “Lara Croft.”

I have always loved “Beauty and the Beast.” I still love it. It’s a great animated classic. But I’ve found that I love it even more now because Belle looks like me.

I am a woman of partial French ancestry who has brown hair and brown eyes. That is how Belle looks, too. Most Disney princesses do not have brown hair and brown eyes if they’re Caucasian. Their eyes are usually blue or green, and that was considered beautiful.

I used to think brown eyes were not beautiful, but when I remembered “Beauty and the Beast,” I remembered that brown eyes were as beautiful as blue eyes, even if they were more common. It reminded me that I was beautiful the way I was.

Seeing a person who looked like me on screen affirmed me as a woman. Anyone seeing someone who looks like them on screen affirms their identity, too.

In addition, seeing someone who looks like them on a screen can be empowering for a person. I didn’t realize this until I saw the new “Lara Croft” movie.

I am used to seeing action movies with men, but I did not realize how empowering it was to watch a woman around my age as an action hero until I watched “Lara Croft.” Seeing a woman around my age kick butt and beat up bad guys was amazing. I felt stronger as a person because I realized that someone like me could kick butt, too.

The inside of a person still matters more than the outside, and I still identify with characters regardless of their outside appearance. However, seeing someone who looks like me on screen is affirming and empowering. People should call support the call to diversity so that others can feel the same way.

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