Media: How It’s Really Influenced By Us

All media tries to tell us something about ourselves. Movies, and TV shows tell us how gender norms are dangerously enforced, or at least should be followed if you don’t want consequences. Women must be weak, and waiting for a prince or a superhero (or The Doctor) to save her. Otherwise, she must be aggressive and hit every man she sees with her fist, or her foot, or her weapon. There is no in between, as far as movies and TV shows tell us, which means it must be hard to live in the in between in real life.

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According to a wide majority of our media, reality is like this*:

If you’re not cis, you’re not acknowledged, with some rare exceptions.

If you’re not straight, and are a white gay guy, you’re portrayed with either how much you LOVE theater and fashion, or the media being shown is centered around pity with how hard it is to come out and feel accepted.

In rare circumstances, white lesbians are shown. Bi people are imaginary, according to our current media. So are non-white non-straight people.

If you’re not white, good luck finding yourself not as a criminal, or a villain, or an all-knowing being.

If you’re not able-bodied, apparently you can only exist in rare situations, like if the movie or TV show takes place in a middle school or high school, and the lonely nerd needs someone he can talk to.

If you’re not able-minded, you must be always in a mental ward or psychiatric hospital.  The only other option is a nursing home with dementia. It isn’t even mentioned that lots of people suffer from mental health issues, and aren’t in those places.

If you’re not young, you’re wise by default. If you’re not old, you’re stupid and immature.

If you’re not a man, you’re a woman, which means you must be sexualized at all costs, for the male gaze is the only gaze there apparently is in this world.

The media we have, that we watch, is all about the black and white of things, sometimes literally, using race and ethnicity as a model for how they should act. You apparently can’t be Irish without an accent, Chinese or Asian in general without a thick accent, or dark-skinned and male without sounding tough and threatening. Apparently, if you’re a foreign exchange student, you have no concept of English and everyone scorns you for it.

All of these examples are of course extremes: not everyone believes these to be true, or goes about their daily lives thinking these are true.

But if these strict guidelines are in our media, what are we doing, and not doing, to make it this way?

Mary Wright 

*Of course, reality is not like this. Bi people exist. Trans people exist. Non-white, non-straight people exist. But this post is meant to show that what we’re watching is influenced by who writes it, and what the audience thinks of it. If we don’t protest it, or at least try to talk about it, the media will stay the same, or will change more gradually than it could if we did. 

EDIT 4/18/14: Thanks to Camille for featuring it in this week’s Citizen Radio newsletter! 😀

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