Still, as much as I’d like to continue commending media creators for their effort in taking those baby steps towards the betterment of humanity, a closer look will show that we have yet to even graze the glass ceiling. Look even closer and you’ll discover problems so glaringly alive and well, you wonder why you even had to squint at all. A non-exhaustive list of tropes that continues to plague media contain, in varying levels and combinations: Aggressive Heterosexuality, What The Hell Is An Asexual, I Am A Strong And Independent Woman Who Don’t Need No Man Just Masculine Character Traits So You Can Take Me Seriously, Fat Is Funny,The Whiter The Better,Oh I Don’t Hate Queer People, I Just Don’t Think Marriage and Access To Other Human Rights Are A Necessity, and so on and so forth.
Wherever you look, media creators are guilt-laden with misrepresenting communities that are already near-invisible or inaccurately depicted in media to begin with. Unfair, you cry, creators try! Why, yes they do! Just like J.K. Rowling tried and wrote one Chinese person and a handful of people of color (who barely even make it past supporting character status) and, like, one gay person (of course, we only find out about this inconsequential detail subsequent to the books). Just like video game developer Square Enix tried, releasing a female led trilogy for Final Fantasy as well asissigning a revealing costume to a male lead for Mobius, only to alter said look after the collective fan protest of “Too sexy! How can he fight in that?” Not that I have any qualms with the male physique, but it’s strange, really, how they couldn’t take the same liberties for their other characters (Read: Every Female Character Square Has Ever Written). An exaggeration, perhaps, but you get my point.
The industry is chock-full of these hit-and-misses and other cases of cringe-worthy “representation” – or lack thereof, which is just as bad, because media doesn’t even acknowledge you exist; your identity is a myth, invisible, unreal.
Media does not exist in a vacuum. Whatever is out there will inevitably worm its way into public perception and affect how people see themselves and how they form their identities. Maybe that’s the price we have to pay for this patch of civilization, being so affected by what media has to say; it’s our own little window to the world, that unifying language we can all speak.
But intentions don’t always reflect their outcomes, and sometimes our wording can get a little too confusing. We begin to realize, maybe “trying” isn’t enough. But that really isn’t our call, is it? In the grand scheme of things, we’re just consumers – thirsty and educated and a little too impatient, for good reason, but still just consumers. What say do we have in the creative process of engineering human identity?
It’s a travesty that most fans fail to realize the power they possess. In a digital world that is rapidly growing more and more convoluted day by day, social media is now a cornucopia of marketing insights. Producers are aware of the crucial role fandom plays in media creation and proliferation. They analyze our market behavior, aware that even the slightest ripple in a sea of voices can always make waves. In this game, we’re the foremost players; and if the battlefield is on the Internet, then we’re playing in our own backyard.
So, now what? What’s the game plan? Well, reason with a touch of anger is always a good start (that, or the other way around). We start by making noise – making some relevant noise. Don’t like how most Filipina leads in telenovelas are fair-skinned when the average Filipina is, well, not white? Then don’t be silent. And don’t be casual about it either – being lukewarm won’t get you anywhere but slight nods of indifference. Get angry. Rant. Be honest with your criticism; even your favorite shows can be problematic. Bring these issues online, find like-minded people who agree with your cause and help you bring it to a greater sphere of awareness. Get angry, and don’t stop talking; if you’re starting to get on people’s nerves, then congratulations! As long as your rage is grounded on legitimate reasons, you’re doing it right. People are noticing, and that’s the whole point. Sooner or later you’ll find the pebble you threw into the water has now grown into a tsunami. Sooner or later they’ll be listening.
After you’ve established your stand, you need to go out and find media content that actually represents you, because they exist, and they need your support. In her talk in Brown University, Natalie Tran explained: “If you see something and it resonates with you, then support it because at the end of the day it’s all about supply and demand . . .If you see it, then back it up, let it be known that you enjoy it. . . because why would they ever make content for you if you don’t exist as a market?”
Start with looking for those works – not those with vague implications and half-hearted attempts at representing you, but those that explicitly say: this story is about you, wholly and honestly and unabashedly. Find those and talk about them, constantly, instead of 50 Shades or TFIOS. Tell your friends. Tell your neighbors, mom and dad, your professors, the world. The fandom, after all, is just a collection of people pointing at the object of their affections and saying, ‘look at this thing, this thing is great!’ And in this case, the louder you are, the better. This is how you garner publicity for those works.
To take it one step further, if you’re gonna be angry, better make it worth your while. If you want your outrage to count, make it count with your wallet. Again, supply and demand. Show them that this time, you aren’t kidding around. You think the upcoming The Last Naruto movie is just another marketing ploy disguised within two hours of Aggressive and Unnecessary Heteronormativity? Don’t watch it. Say, f*ck this, I’m not doing this anymore, and take that 250 pesos you would’ve wasted in the cinemas and spend it on more worthwhile pursuits. Like, on media content with actual accurate representation! Or I don’t know, an 8-Inch Four Cheese Garlic pizza. That stuff is always great.
- Andrea Lopez