Before I jump in with the exciting news about “Orange is the New Black,” let’s back up a bit.
If you’ve been reading Think or Blue for a while, you know we talk a lot about gender roles at home. The family environment has a strong influence on the possibilities that are open to our children. But beyond our immediate homes, the media feeds us with many impressions every day, and this influence grows and intensifies as children grow up.
Television, movies, magazines, advertisements, books, and video games are everywhere. They depict, either consciously or subconsciously, how gender, race, sexual orientation, age, and ability impact our experiences.
But sometimes the media tell us that we don’t really exist, because those identities are never shown. Or at least, not very often. How often do you see a person using a wheelchair outside of the hospital in movies? Is that person ever the protagonist? How often does a Black woman play a doctor or police officer on television?
Let’s take a quick look at what’s ACTUALLY happening:
- In a study of G-rated films, a total of 333 speaking characters were shown in a job-related light. Of these working characters, more than 80% are males (268) and 19.5% (65) were females.
- In that same study, not one female is depicted in medical science (e.g., doctors, dentists, veterinarians), top business executives, law, or politics.
- Approximately 28% of characters with dialogue were from non-white racial/ethnic groups, though such groups make up nearly 40% of the U.S. population, in a study of film and television in 2014.
- But Latinx characters were just 5.8 percent of characters, despite being about 17 percent of the U.S. population.
- Screen time for the LGBTQ* population is increasing, but it depends on the network. Major networks CBS and NBC were low, with only 28% of its prime time programming having “LGBT inclusive hours,” while the CW had 74%. From GLAAD’s Network Responsibility Index.
And the impact on children is real. Representation matters because viewers, especially children, internalize what they see, including stereotypes. They impact kids’ self-esteem, relationships, and career aspirations.
Think or Blue has reviewed television and films appropriate for younger and family audiences, such as Beauty and the Beast and Gilmore Girls. But sometimes we’ve gotta talk about our adult programming, too. Am I right? More diversity is a victory for both adult and family programming. Together they create our cultural and social media fabric. True success is when both adult and family programming depict layered stories of a rich and diverse array of characters.
In comes Mediaversity. This awesome site critiques movies and TV shows from a diversity perspective first; from a quality standpoint second. Mediaversity is the only game in town if you want the real story about how gender, LGBTQ status, and race are portrayed.
So I was thrilled to join forces with Li from Mediaversity to review Orange is the New Black. If you’re not watching it, you’ve at least heard about this bold, unadulterated series on Netflix about women in a minimum security federal prison. Diverse identities and experiences anchor this show in fresh way. But of course, it’s not perfect…
Photo: “Laverne Cox takes the stage at the Missouri Theater” Komu News, CC 2.0 license.