Growing up, I have been through all the early ’00s pop culture obsessions you could name.
High School Musical, Twilight, Harry Potter, Glee, Jonas Brothers… Whatever world’s phenomenon between 2004 and 2014 you can think about, believe me, I’ve passed straight into it.
I’ve never really thought about the possibility that all my younger obsessions could have shaped me over the years but I’ve recently came to realise how much the stories and people that have been with me during the early of my teenage years influenced the woman that I became.
What I saw in TV and in movies, in that fragile age between 12 and 17, did influenced me – if I wanted to admit or not.
The characters we fell in love with growing up become a bit like our friends, our alter-egos in another dimension, we see ourselves in them and we cry, laugh with them – their success become our success and their failure become ours. And at the end, their happy ending become ours as well.
All of us has that character that it is exactly like them – someone that we identify with and that will always be part of ourselves.
Talking with my friends I came to realise I wasn’t the only one that felt influenced by media and most of them confided me that they didn’t realise till after their twenties how deep this influence was.
Federica, 26, now a manager in London, told me that “Many of my insecurities derive from media representation, definitely. What I always saw in TV was skinny girls and I thought that in TV as in real life what it counts is your size and that you are willing to give everything to become like that. It made me feel like my hard work, my brain, my willing to learn would never be enough because I am not skinny”.
But Federica and me have been lucky – because we are white Christian women and we had plenty of characters, growing up, to identify with.
Those girls in TV, in movies and on the red carpet were, yes, all incredibly beautiful and skinny – but they had our same skin, our same culture, our same religion, our same traditions.
We had the possibility to choose between an ample rank of women and role model to identify with: our female heroine all looked similar to us, their families where just like our families and the places where they were from where not much different from our little towns.
But what about the others girls and boys that have a different skin, a different religion, different traditions but were born in our same country or in the same continent? Where are they in the Media?
Does black people deserve to be always and only represented as the funny best pal of the white protagonist? Do gay men deserve to be represented almost always as the stereotypical over the top feminine gay that likes to shop and musicals? Do Indian people really deserve to be represented only when you need a computer genius in your favourite action movie?
There are exceptions – obviously – but it looks like that when a protagonist of a movie or a TV show is a not-white-straight person, all the plot of the movie/TV show itself goes around the fact that person is either black/gay/has a different religion.
As Maria Elena, a 22 years old student says, “I don’t only wish that minorities would be more represented, but also that Media would do it with the same normality as they represent everyone else. Lately I do see an opening in Media towards minorities but it always looks like if you do it you are doing something special, as it is something that has to be praised more than normalized”.
Still now, in the era globalization and internet, in a Europe that has citizen of every colour, religion and sexuality (and takes pride from it), our mainstream media still fail to represent people from every race, religion and sexuality as a ‘normality’ and that’s it is simply not right.
I want to live in a world where everyone has their space and where every little boy or girl has the possibility to identify themselves with a character that they love and admire.
In a world where everyone should be able to turn on TV and see people that look a bit as they look and where none feel like they matter less because they don’t look or act as the people they see in TV.
In a world where next time a little 8 years old black girl tells me she wants to have my same skin to look more similar to her favourite cartoon character I can be able to turn any TV channel and show her that she doesn’t have to have my skin colour to be her favourite heroine.