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Representation-Why does it matter?

The topic of representation has been brought up quite a lot over the years. Within different modes of media, whether it be books, TV or movies, people often discuss the need to include a more diverse array of characters/faces. However, it seems that some people don't quite grasp why this is so important and so I thought I would give my perspective on the subject.

With great power comes great responsibility!

I have been a fan of comic books for as long as I can remember and my all time favourite superhero without a shadow of a doubt is Spider-Man! Every two weeks I would go down to my local off licence and purchase the latest issue of 'The Astonishing Spider-Man', a collection of three separate Spider-Man stories. Watching Peter Parker crack jokes as he dealt with the various hardships associated with a double life really entertained me and the constant life lessons were always taken to heart. Then one day, I had heard of a new character that been added to the Ultimate Spider-Man mythos named Miles Morales. For those who don't know, the 'Ultimate' Marvel Comics is a separate universe from the standard stories where most of the characters remain the same but certain aspects of their origins have been changed/updated. In this universe, after the death of Peter Parker, Miles Morales takes up the mantle of Spider-Man. Miles is a 13 year old boy of mixed Hispanic and African American heritage. Although he was a different character, he still retained some of the themes and issues that Peter had to face, notably having so much power at such a young age. Not only does this make it easier invest in the character, but the fact that he was black also made it more relatable for me to read. When I found out that they were then making a cartoon movie where Miles would be the main character, I was ecstatic. If you haven't already watched Into the Spider-Verse, I highly recommend that you do. It has an excellent blend of comedy, heart and brilliantly illustrated action.

When it comes to representation for black comic book characters, it seems that the momentum isn't stopping anytime soon. The success of Marvel's Black Panther movie was incredible! The amazing visuals and engaging narrative were well received amongst comic book lovers and non comic book lovers alike, almost sparking a newfound feeling of unity within black people across the globe. Better still is the pride amongst younger fans who now get to grow up with better access to fictional characters that look like them. I expect we'll be seeing alot of children dressing up as Black Panther at Halloween for years to come. This success has been mirrored again with the TV shows Luke Cage and Black Lightning, the property of which belongs to Marvel and DC respectively. For years I have wondered about the possibility of a live action Luke Cage and so to be treated with two spectacular seasons of the show was beyond anything I was expecting. A bulletproof black man doing his best to clean up his local community! It's not hard to envision where the success comes from, especially given the political climate of modern day America!

This woman wondered when her movie would finally be made!

Of course, representation isn't always about race. Gender plays a very big role in this topic too. When it comes to DC comics, The Big Three characters (or Trinity if you wish to call them that) are Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. We have seen an abundance of Batman and Superman movies over the years, but since the TV series starring Lynda Carter, we had yet to see any notable live action interpretations of Wonder Woman. That was until 2016 when Gal Gadot took up the role in her appearance in Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice. Whilst the character certainly held enough gravitas to be given her own solo movie beforehand, the cameo was definitely a good field test as some might argue she was the best part of the movie. 2017 finally saw her origin story on the big screen and as expected it was well received by movie goers all over the world. It would make sense that there would be a demand for a film based off the most iconic woman in comic books. In fact, the success of the movie has even warranted a sequel which is due to come out next year.

The success of Wonder Woman's film has set the groundwork for other female comic book characters to take centre stage. Captain Marvel will be released in March this year. A force to be reckoned with, Captain Marvel is one of Marvel's most powerful characters and alongside fellow female characters Gamora and Black Widow, she falls into the category of being strong and independent. As her origin story takes place in the 90's, it will serve as a refereshing addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and a better chance for her to shine out in her own way. I had mentioned previously in another blog that one of my favourite TV shows was Doctor Who. Due to the unique regenerative abilities of the Doctor's race, the Timelords, his recent incarnation has been that of a woman portrayed by Jodie Whittaker. Once again, the latest series has received great reviews despite initial concerns from long time fans who dreaded the shift in gender. Jodie's portrayal maintained the same energy that we are used to seeing from the titular character, with only a few nods here and there to the subject of her gender change. More diverse representation can be found in the show from her three companions, Ryan, Yas and Graham, an Afro-Caribbean teenager, an Asian teenager and a middle aged white man respectively.

All in all, these examples should demonstrate how important diverse representation in the media really is. More importantly, it should show how ready the world is to accept it. This is one of the many reasons why I find it important to write black characters of different ages and backgrounds in my books, along with other characters from minority groups.

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Alex Ransome
Alex Ransome
22 nov 2019

Writers only write what they know and the same goes for audiences who watch stuff. If people only watch one type of thing, then that’s the only thing they will engage with and have respect for. Whether people like it or not, the truth is that the human race is made up of more than just the straight white males in Hollywood who make the content we watch. Talented writers and directors of all genders and races have interesting stories to tell. The huge successes of movies like Black Panther and Wonder Woman have shown that there is an audience for everything and everyone.

Variety is the spice of life and should be encouraged and applied more to movies and…

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