Demographic Representation in Media

Tabitha playing with the LEGO Research Institute set she’s finally old enough to build!

Preamble: I’ve had variations on a tweet in draft for about a year, but I haven’t pulled the trigger because I can’t be bothered with the inevitable outcome of it. I’m so tired of butthurt, snowflake conservatives and their entitlement complex when it comes to oppressing people that I don’t even bother expressing these things I feel now.

Anita Sarkeesian may not be credited with starting a movement but she certainly lit a fire under one, on a personal level for me, but also media as a whole. I know this because, before her videos, I didn’t consider that other people would feel under-represented by films, games, books, whatever because - as a straight, white male - I do pretty well as far as representation goes.

Since her videos, I’ve grown increasingly weary of homogeneity in books, TV, games, movies. The timing has been perfect for me. Around the time her videos were coming out, Tabitha was being born, or thinking about it at least.

I’ll be honest (because no-one’s reading), but when I first saw Anita’s videos, my reaction was “Does this matter? It’s just games”. The more I thought about it, the more I realised that it does matter, but not everyone has reached the same conclusion as me. Fortunately, I’m able to experience a pure version of this sort of thing on a reasonably regular basis and I’m here, armed with anecdotal evidence (the best kind of evidence), to tell you, non-believer, that it does matter.

I know that it matters because I’ve seen my daughter rummage through a huge box of LEGO, searching for the lady minifigs. I’ve seen her get excited about strong women in films (thank you, Disney, for Moana). And I’ve seen her play games that perpetuate the princess/damsel trope and break my heart a little.

By-the-by, I try to get involved in these games to make them about the princess saving herself or something a little more constructive. I don’t know where these games came from, but they’re here.

My point is that whilst Tabitha is starting to be affected by the world outside what we show her, she still has a strong instinct to seek role models with whom she can identify. Obviously, people can identify with anyone, but I’ve seen that she is very likely to identify with a character that represents her in some way. Whether it’s the paper bag princess outsmarting a dragon and rescuing a useless, loathsome prince, or Moana braving the sea to undo the damage done by man, or Mabel being herself and wearing a crazy jumper and winding her brother up: representation appeals to people, almost by definition. It’s possible that if you reject the need for variety in representation in media, that you do so because that homogeneity serves you, and it could be beneficial for many people if you thought a little more broadly.

Of course, I could be totally wrong, and a female Doctor Who could be the first sign of the apocalypse and we’re all doomed. I guess we’ll find out soon enough!