In social justice circles, it can be easy for us to keep focusing on where things are still wrong and forget how far they have actually come in terms of improving where vulnerable or marginalized people are portrayed in the media.
Most people would still agree that things are far from perfect. But, taking a look at some of the most popular franchises in movies and TV, as discussed in various articles on SmashingTops.com, and how they are becoming far more inclusive and unafraid to represent minorities or have strong female characters carrying the narrative forward, can certainly reveal how things are beginning to shift in the right direction.
The Movie Industry
The movie industry was shaken last year by the #metoo movement and the major sexual harassment scandals, and this could in time be seen as a big catalyst for change. However, looking at movies that were already released or in production when these stories broke, it is clear that major studios are beginning to catch on to the idea that white, male leads are not the only thing that sells. Wonder Woman had a hugely positive reception and Star Wars continued to show that adding a new, more diverse cast to a well-loved existing franchise did nothing but boost popularity.
Long-Running TV Series
One of the most talked about shows of last year was of course Game of Thrones, which is a show that many people have seen as problematic in the past. However, in the most recent season, the story has become almost entirely about the powerful women of Westeros, offering strong characters from rulers to warriors. Doctor Who also impressed feminist communities by announcing that the lead character, who regenerates into different bodies periodically, would be played by a woman for the first time.
New TV Series
Netflix has been pumping out a lot of great television in terms of its own productions, and their treatment of some of the characters in the Marvel universe has tackled the macho world of superheroes with admirable sensitivity. As well as creating a series that put minor Marvel character Jessica Jones front and center – a series which received great critical acclaim for its relatable main character who, rather than being a perfect role model like Wonder Woman, is a damaged person with some bad habits and trauma from past events – Netflix also used an almost exclusively black and Latino cast for their Luke Cage series, set in the same fictional version of New York, and also produced two seasons about Daredevil, a superhero who is also blind. One of their flagship shows of 2018 so far has been Altered Carbon, based on the classic cyberpunk novel, which also features a highly diverse cast.
Movies and TV have been keen to move away from exhausted clichés and have also seemingly been looking at ways to create interesting stories that don’t exclude people.
This is setting an interesting – and exciting – precedent for the future. Change is coming!