Entertainment media needs to be diversified

While diversity in the media has been on the rise in recent years, Hollywood’s work isn’t finished yet

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Ally Nguyen, JagWire editor-in-chief

During one of my AP Literature and Composition classes, we were asked the question “who inspires you most?” I started writing about my grandmother and all of the qualities we share as well as those that I idolize. My classmates wrote about their fair share of family members as well, but to me, some of the most shocking responses were pop culture icons. While I understand that there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, I will admit that at first look, I scoffed. How could anyone possibly idolize someone they’ve never met and couldn’t actually relate to? However, the answer lies in my own ignorance: they probably could relate to those individuals because they were alike in many ways. I, on the other hand, don’t have many pop culture icons to idolize because there aren’t many people like me in the mainstream media.

When I say “like me,” I mean people who are Asian, and beyond that, tan Asians. Diversity in entertainment media has been on the rise in recent years,  but we’re nowhere near where we should be. According to the Pew Research Center, between 2000 and 2015 the Asian population in America was the largest growing ethnic group, increasing from 11.9 million to 20.4 million. In a broad sense, that’s a pretty small portion of America’s 330 million people. Still, 20 million people are represented by Asian actors who, according to a University of California, Los Angeles study, make up just 4.3 percent of series regulars on TV. Something needs to change.

While there is some representation on TV, it’s still hard to relate to many of the characters. In previous years, many of the roles held by Asians were centered around harmful stereotypes that neither I, nor any of my family members can relate to because it’s just not accurate.

Hollywood needs to work on being more accepting of all ethnicities and if they need a model for that, I have just the thing. I was among the many Asian-Americans that watched, laughed and cried during the “Crazy Rich Asians” opening weekend and I was definitely celebrating Vietnamese-American actress Lana Condor as she took on the lead role of Netflix’s “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.” Both of these cinematic masterpieces portray the characters’ identities in a fairly accurate way, but still allow for the movies themselves to stand up to the  romantic-comedy genre.

Many may believe that since they’re not casting and filming entertainment media, there isn’t much to be done about this problem, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Advocacy, ranging from supporting diverse movies at the box office to gushing to your friends about the newest Netflix rom-com, has an impact. Maybe, just maybe, ten years from now my eight-year-old sister will be writing about a pop culture icon that looks like her in her AP Literature and Composition class.

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