Why Representation In Media Matters

For years, representation of minorities has been executed unsuccessfully, and sometimes does more harm than good. Thankfully with characters like Miles Morales’ Spider-Man and T’challa’s Black Panther, things are starting to look hopeful for minority groups who look to the big screen to see themselves represented. 

Article & Photo By: Emmanuel Vallarta

With the current state of our world, representation of minorities in our media, such as people of color, disabled people, and LGBTQ+ people, is important. For decades, white actors have dominated the entertainment industry when it comes to representing racial minorities. White actors have taken the roles of black, asian, and latino people by having make up done to “look” like those races. Similarly, disabled and LGBTQ+ roles are played by those who aren’t part of these communities. This not only sets back actors who are part of these minority groups but also negates the ability of these groups to play roles based on them.

 Thankfully, Hollywood and other entertainment mediums have started to incorporate minorities into their stories. Some are not good while others achieve greatness. For example, recently Miles Morales’ Spider-Man has become a go to character when it comes to representation of black people. This representation of black people has impacted kids and adults all over the world because of how well writers handle Miles as a character. It is always good to see yourself represented in a way that you feel empowered. Representation like that needs to be repeated for all minorities so that they feel included and like they have stories worth being in. 

To understand why Miles Morales has grown into popularity, we have to look at two stories told about him. Into the Spider-Verse follows the main protagonist, Miles Morales, on his journey to tackle the responsibilities of being the new Spider-Man, returning the many Spider-People to their own dimensions, and the expectations set upon him for being at a prestigious school by his father and society. Aside from being one of the best superhero movies ever made, the way the writers tackle Miles’ personal life to his superhero life is amazing. He doesn’t feel like he is written to solely the black character, he is a real person, full of complex emotions and growth. He isn’t defined by being the black Spider-Man, he is just Miles, a smart kid who goes through so much to grow as a person. Watching Miles transform from an insecure kid who ran away from his problems, to confidently swinging himself through New York City to fight the villains he must face will forever hold the same emotion as the first viewing. The “Leap of Faith” scene would not be the same without witnessing Miles’ journey. With this movie, we saw Miles repeat the phrase iconic Stan Lee said, “Anyone can wear the mask.” which is a very powerful statement, and fits the story perfectly.

Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales is a video game released by Insomniac Games. It has more diversity and it is just as well done as Into the Spider-Verse. In this video game, Miles’ Morales takes over Peter Parker’s role of Spider-Man for a couple of weeks. In these weeks, Miles discovers new abilities related to his spider bite and a corporation who is using hazardous materials to power his neighborhood, Harlem. It is his job to stop this material from being used. Throughout the game, the player can complete side missions, which develops a good relationship with the people of Harlem. These side missions show how much Miles truly cares about the people of Harlem. The people represented in Harlem are incredibly diverse, which is great to see. The side missions involve directly helping Harlem’s citizens and Miles truly feels like he is a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. The people of Harlem aren’t just blank faces because of these side missions. They have emotions and problems like anyone else, and their race, sexuality, or disability doesn’t define them, it is merely a part of them. 

The similarities between these two stories are that the diverse characters aren’t defined because they are a minority. They have real problems that anyone can face. They doubt themselves from time to time, whether it be a civilian walking through the streets of Harlem or Spider-Man swinging through NYC. This type of diversity makes minority characters feel like people, instead of lazily tokenized shells of people. Far too often minorities are defined by their diversity. This hyper focused lens on only their diversity makes those who are ignorant believe that all minorities are defined by their diversity, and do more harm than good or they are not in the picture at all. Valeria Cervantes, a junior at SRHS agrees on this, “ I don’t think there is enough [representation.] Yeah there’s some but not enough where all minorities get recognition. There is definitely more room for improvement in every [medium] to add some more minorities.”. Thankfully, the entertainment industry is getting better at writing diverse characters and including them, which will benefit everyone. 

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