Whitlam Institute

What Matters 2019 Shortlist

What Matters 2019 Shortlist

Media Representation

Media Representation

Helen Tran

Year 9, Castle Hill High School

Growing up in Vietnam, I remember wishing I had blond hair and blue eyes.

Looking back, I realise how odd it was that I, an Asian girl living in an Asian country with predominately Asian citizens, thought the more Caucasian I looked, the prettier or more normal I'd be.

It's not that I didn't view the people around me as attractive or normal, but rather none of the people I saw on TV ever looked like me.

It probably sounds ridiculous but think about it.

Other than Mulan, Aladdin and Princess and the Frog, how many Disney movies can you name that had protagonists of colour?

Probably less than those with talking animals.

Also, I can't recall ever seeing any trace of a single queer or disabled person.

Some will argue that things are better now. Coco, Black Panther, Love, Simon and a handful of other films mean diversity isn't a problem anymore.

And I do agree that things are better.

I remember watching the trailer of Crazy Rich Asians for the first time and not being able to stop rambling about it for days. I felt so excited and strangely accepted just knowing there was going to be a film where I can see myself in the main characters.

Even with movies I couldn't personally relate to, it was amazing to learn about someone else's culture and see it through their eyes. I had no idea what Día de Muertos was before Coco but after watching it 6 times with my baby cousins, I developed a vague idea.

So yes, things are better.

But it's not enough.

A handful of films centred on some marginalised groups aren't enough when all the other movies are based around a single demographic. Diverse representation shouldn't only appear in movies revolving around the particular race, gender, disability or sexual orientation, it should be in all mainstream films.

For example, even though women make up over half the population in both Australia and America, the prevalence of female speaking characters in 2017 was just 31.8 %.

Another is the representation of different ethnicities. It's almost impossible to go to a public place in Australia and not find a coloured person, yet we only make up almost 30% of characters in Hollywood.

Can you see why it's an issue?

It's an issue not just because minority actors and performers aren't getting the same opportunities because Hollywood believes white actors sell better.

It's also because my two baby cousins never see an Asian character in any movie other than Mulan. If this continues, they will start to wish they were someone they can never be, just like I still do.

It's an issue because I never saw any other girls who like girls the way I do. Because I was disgusted with myself, not knowing it was okay to like girls the way I was taught to like boys.

If it wasn't for the few LGBTQI+ characters I later saw in shows, I would've still believed there was something wrong with me.

If not for them, I would still hate myself.

Representation of different stories and people brings a sense of belonging and validation for millions, so shouldn't we use it?

No type of human is inherently superior or more important than the rest, and everyone should understand this.

No one should ever feel alone or inferior because of who they are.

We should all be able see ourselves reflected in well-known and admired characters.

We all deserve to feel loved and have our stories heard and respected.

We deserve to be visible.