In search of diversity and representation in the media we consume it may have seemed like we are battling from a non existent pass but Hollywood has always had diversification, but did it just keep it hidden? What roles do the actors themselves have in representing diversification? Why does diversification even matter?
As a writer diversification matters to me because it enriches my stories. Knowing the subtle influences that guide a characters development brings life to the story and allows the reader to read with realism instead of having to suspend reality with fantasy. Don’t get me wrong escaping from the reality of the world today is needed by everyone but can you truly escape to a world that has no connection to the real world? I don’t think so. In fact, I would argue the lack of diversification in our media is hindering our imaginations.
As a writer I know my role is to develop unique character the reader can identify with in their own lives but what if the readers life is diverse? Should I ignore that segment of people? Maya Angelou has spoken about authors who white wash their stories or “whiteplain” to their readers the intricacies of their culture. Overly describing basic foods they grew up on or interpreting basic slang from their environment. Many authors feel this kind of con stipulation makes the work less authentic.
I’m not sure I agree with this perspective because if your goal is to reach a wide audience The it is your responsibility to create the environment or world for all readers. Is “whiteplaining” any different than describing the unique qualities that make up the life of a fisherman or the tools used in forensics? Is a kid in rural Iowa supposed to understand the food and culture of my favorite Ethiopian foods?
The debate on what is a classic is alive and well. I recently came across a Tik Toker defending another persons comments acknowledging that they did not consider “The Great Gatsby” a classic. My first thought was how could anything that Leonardo di Caprio be in not be a classic. My second and more important thought was the story is about the pitfalls of capitalism and the setting of the story could be told anywhere with anyone. In my opinion what makes something a classic is it’s ability to create a story around a theme that is timeless. If white washing a story is bad then isn’t holding old white men and women’s stories to todays perspective the same thing?
Patriarchy and racism are not things of the past, so doesn’t reading works of the past help to highlight the structures engrained into our society. How can we change if we ignore the past? As a writer shouldn’t we be taking these classics and reinterpreting them in our own way, giving teaches a juxtaposition to the “classic writing? I know I’m looking forward to my own reinterpretations.