Banerjee: Is progress in entertainment circles a waiting game?

As entertainment becomes easier and quicker to access, we can fall into the trap of expecting our activism to be achieved easily and quickly as well. However, the often slow-paced nature of progress hasn’t changed, and we need to adapt to better our campaigns.

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Miles Brown as Jack Johnson, Tracee Ellis Ross as Rainbow Johnson, Yara Shahidi as Zoey Johnson, Anthony Anderson as Andre "Dre" Johnson, Marcus Scribner as Andre Johnson, Jr., Austin and Berlin Gross as Devonte Johnson, Marsai Martin as Diane Johnson, Laurence Fishburne as Pops Johnson and Jenifer Lewis as Ruby Johnson star in ABC's "black-ish." (ABC/Bob D'Amico)

Anna Banerjee, Opinions Columnist

It is difficult to look at the faces of entertainment without having to immediately confront the flaws in our media. It is clear we have major issues with the types of people and stories that get told, ranging from troubling content to unrepresentative casts.

With a number of successful campaigns, many continue to demand better and better treatment on screen and in other places — and rightfully so — but time is rarely afforded for any change to be initiated, causing mistrust, resentment, and frustration among activist communities.

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Negativity in activist circles seems to be somewhat of an ingrained quality — because we wish for progress, we can never be satiated with what we are given now. And to make matters worse, because progress in artistic media does occur slowly and incrementally because of the number of hoops one must jump through to publish or produce anything, this negativity isn’t going anywhere. It seems as if, some days, it’s only getting worse. For example, racist rhetoric that shouldn’t be aired still appeared in 2018 in ABC’s now-canceled “Roseanne.”

Activist communities, writers, producers, and directors need to establish a more open, honest discourse about the issues that concern them.”

The problem with pairing a generation of people used to instant gratification with pushes for social progress, especially those in media generally known for instantly gratifying consumers, is that we open up a fundamentally flawed channel of communication. Activists want to see change enacted on a small scope — television, movies, books, etc. — and often we feel as if we should see immediate results. Because everything seems very instantaneous in these media, which are intrinsically created to seem that way. But creators and content providers, meanwhile, often deal with lengthy backlogs of work, and it may take years for the film you’re seeing on screen to reach you.

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As a result, it often seems as though creators are satisfying only the most immediate of concerns and not listening to us in the present day. Yes, a show aired with a gay major character, but he’s a walking stereotype and a sidekick. In terms of progress, it’s a murky line to walk. Is placing a gay character in a prominent spotlight still progressive if it can only do so with major flaws? Yes and no.

Yes, it is progressive in a relative scope of the media and what the norm was even 20 years ago. But does that mean it’s enough? Or all we should look for in the entertainment we consume? No, not by a long shot.

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Demanding better and better representation is important and seemingly exceedingly crucial in our political and social climate. But this representation, as with any changes in culture and especially in media in which it takes years to produce or publish, is incremental. It cannot be expected to happen overnight and should be met with some understanding of what it takes to be a content creator right now and how change can be implemented accurately and efficiently.

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What’s the easiest way for this to happen? Activist communities, writers, producers, and directors need to establish a more open, honest discourse about the issues that concern them. There is a clear break in the line of communication, but through social media and other campaigns, this can easily be turned around. Instead of continuing to list our demands to a faceless industry, we can turn to the people who are responsible for creating, casting, and performing the stories we care so much about.

 

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