The REAL Reason Representation Matters


Ria Panchal, Staff Writer

This past decade has been a remarkable one for diversity in films and movies, and in 2019, representation for members of the LGBTQ+ community hit an all-time high. Companies like ABC, NBC, and even Marvel have begun to include queer characters in their films and television shows. However, along with this increased representation come accusations of the LGBT community trying to “turn kids gay,” or comments that claim our disappointment at lack of queer relationships is nothing but anger over one fictional couple. Then, there comes the question: why does representation actually matter? 

When queer audiences demand more positive representation in films and television, it’s not just because we want to see ourselves on screen, or because we want to “turn your kids gay.” It’s because, for many marginalized groups, how we’re portrayed in the media significantly impacts how others view us in real life. Positive representation in media has real power to change hearts and minds and is critical to widespread acceptance of queer individuals in our society. In 1991, for example, the first-ever same-sex kiss was shown on the popular television series LA Law. It was followed by dozens more, and it’s no coincidence that some of the first pro-LGBT legislation in America came into effect just a few years after it. This representation is a sign that we are inching closer and closer to a society in which there is no longer a stigma attached to being LGBT. When I see diversity on the screen, I see a future where LGBT individuals are treated just like any other member of society, and a future where our stories are worth telling

Younger children especially must be exposed to queer characters. When I was in seventh grade, I read Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series for the first time, and the inclusion of the character Magnus Bane, a self-proclaimed “freewheeling bisexual,” in the series made me realize for the first time that I might bisexual. I never once felt ashamed of my sexuality, however, because I was exposed to a plethora of positive representation before I knew the concept of homophobia even existed. I saw queer characters on movies and television being celebrated instead of being criticized, and people on talk shows and the news fighting for diversity rather than against it. We are pushing for a world where children see a healthy same-sex relationship on television before they ever hear an anti-gay slur. It’s not just because we want characters that “look like us” — it’s because our society needs to be exposed to viewpoints other than those they already hold, and without doing so, we can never expect real change.