Diversity in Film/Television- ACorrelational Argument”Diversity is our strength#WelcometoCanada”, is a now infamous tweet that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,(Business Insider, 2017) wrote in regards to welcoming immigrants (minorities).Diversity seems to be tied to such strong and positive political views/debatesin Canada, but why? Arguably, it can be due to the word’s magnitude,contributing factors, benefits and the various environments that it creates…right? Yet, diversity in film/televisionis not portrayed positively in film/television in Canada. There tends to be muchtaboo and disregard to the word and usage in film/television. Therefore, theresearch question of- is there a correlation between diversity infilm/television and self-esteem across varying demographics, was constructed. InCanada, many contributions have been made to increase diversity infilm/television over the years.
Yet, these steps are not sufficient, and needsto be improved because of the sensitive relationship between diversity andself-esteem. The way in which diversityis represented can shape how an individual feels about his/her self and howothers similarly feel towards an individual. As a result of the theme and contextof this paper, there can be many counterpoints towards this topic. Such as, theneed to broaden research to include different areas of media such as socialmedia, pictures, videos, art.
These areas may have a more diverse climate andincreased feelings of self-esteem among demographics. There seems to be a lackof up-to date research, sources and findings. There were many studies conductedin past years rather than present or currently.
Therefore, such findings maynot be relatable or valid due to the date. There may have been potential biasfrom the researchers when conducting the studies because most of theresearchers were minorities, and this could have swayed their data, due toemotion and relatability. Also, self-esteem may have other contributing factorssuch as bullying, family or social involvement. One may argue that there is alack of minority actors and actresses (a lower diverse pool to choose from) intelevision and film, so it is hard to increase diversity.
These counterpointscan be argued against my stance that diversity in film/television is notrelevant and there is no correlation between such factors. Rather, it isbecause of different or other contributing factors.However, in this essay I will firstoperationally define the words: diversity, self-esteem, demographics andcharacteristics because these words are broad, and can have muchinterpretation. Secondly, I will discuss the importance and strategies toincrease diversity in film/television .Then, five claims will be made tosupport the standpoint/argument- thatthere should be more steps to made to increase diversity due to the sensitiverelationship between diversity and self-esteem in Canada. The first claim willfocus on statistical evidence of inequality in the film/television industry.The second claim discusses the varying impact of diversity and characteristicsin demographics.
The third claim will involve impacts to black males andfemales as a result of a lack of diversity. The fourth and fifth claim willdiscuss the white demographic and the significant toll the lack of diversitycreates. After each claim is stated, I will provide supporting evidence.
Then,I will analyze the evidence. The focus of this argument iscentered on the lack of diversity in any film/television show in the last five(5) years and the impact of stereotypical characteristic portrayals. Diversitycan be defined as the inclusion of different types of people.
Demographics areblack or white, female or male, variety of ages. Self-esteem is a person’sfeeling of worth/value and Characteristics are features, or qualities/traits(that one displays) to a person. However, different forms of media such aspictures or videos and other demographics such as Asian, Latino, Indigenous,LGBT or religion will not be discussed.Canada welcomes and strives tocreate a diverse population. Therefore diversity in film/television should beimportant because “the mediaprovides an important source of information through which citizens gainknowledge about their nation, and our attitudes and beliefs are shaped by whatthe media discerns as public knowledge” (Mahtani, M.
, 2017). This simply meansthat film/television is in control of how we (as Canadians) view, analyze anddepict each other. If film/television portrays negative illustrations andcharacteristics of a certain demographic, then a Canadian is likely to believe,treat and scrutinize that demographic more harshly and negatively. Asa result, that poorly illustrated demographic can have negative feelings ofvalue and worth. Therefore it is important to portray both demographicspositively. There are various solutions to increase diversity infilm/television. For example, companies that make film/television shows shouldinvite an independent third party to point out any (negative) stereotypes orcharacteristics before airing. Companies should also provide equal amounts ofdemographics in a film/television, and viewers should not supportfilm/television that do not have positive, diverse, character portrayal.
Through these solutions to increase diversity, self-esteem can increase in bothdemographics. It is important to have diversity inthe film/television industry .The lack of inequality in the film/televisionindustry can decrease self-esteem. In a comprehensive report and analysis,researchers Smith, S. L., Choueiti, M.
, Pieper, K., (2017) found that “viewerswill see 2.18 males for every 1 female character on screen, and females weremuch more likely than males to be shown in sexually revealing attire.” Infilm/television, a male is shown more than double the amount a female is shown.
This amount of film/television screen time, can increase self-esteem in malesbut decrease self-esteem across females. Males can inwardly feel superior andunstoppable, as a result of their dominant force of representation. Conversely,females can feel inferior and excluded when watching film/television because ofthe lack of representation. Such feelings can result in the higher levels ofself-esteem in males and lower levels of self-esteem in females. Also, a femalecan have a lower self-esteem due to the lack of diversity in her attire andimage. By wearing revealing clothing, a female may feel devalued, and only seethemselves as an individual made for mere pleasure. Smith, Choueiti, Pieper, (2017) found that, “70.8%characters were white and 13.
6% characters were black”. As a result of morewhite characters portrayed in film/television, self-esteem can be higher inwhite males and females. Conversely, self-esteem in black males and females canbe lower because of the lack of representation and diversity. The blackdemographic may feel less significant, compared to the white demographic.Overall, the lack of diversity and inequality in the film/television candirectly contribute to lower levels of self-esteem in demographics.Too successfully increase self-esteem in demographicsrequires positive character portrayal in film/television. The lack of diversityand positive stereotypical representation in film/television can negativelyimpact one’s self-esteem.
Researchers have concluded that “television exposurepredicted a decrease in self-esteem for white and black girls and boys, and anincrease in self-esteem among white boys” (Lee, M. 2012). Television shows tendto have more white male actors, represented positively. White males areportrayed as “powerful, strong, rational and the main character.
While, whitegirls are portrayed as emotional, sensitive and a love interest” (Lee, 2012).However, black males and females tend to be represented negatively. Black malesare “more likely to be depicted as menacing or unruly, and black femalecharacters are more likely to be shown as exotic and sexually available” (Lee,2012).
Due to the positive representation ofwhite males in film/television- they may subconsciously feel encouraged, positiveand grand. White males could have a higher overall self-esteem. However, for white girls, black boys andgirls, they may subconsciously feel unsuccessful, and inferior in comparison.White girls are illustrated as a wife, mother or partner in film/television.So, this demographic may group up to always feel and be dependent, thuscreating lower self-esteem. Black boys are represented as threatening infilm/television, and this can lower self-esteem because of the undesirable anddestructive traits portrayed. Black girls are shown as a trophy andpromiscuous.
Therefore, this demographic may, in fact, play directly into thatrole in real life. This can lower self-esteem because this portrayal can beseen as being devalued and trashy. Each demographic may use these views infilm/television and objectify the varying characteristics in real life. The lack of diversity in depictions ofstrength and power, can negatively affect self-esteem in these demographics dueto the lack of positive representation through characteristics. Therefore, moreefforts need to be made to increase diversity and positive characteristicrepresentation in black male and females, and white girls. Decreased self-esteemin film/television occurs as a result of exclusion and negative portrayals inblack demographics. The lack of diversity and the negative portrayal of theblack demographic in film/television in Canada can decrease self-esteem.
“Minority groups are regularly excluded and marginalized. Canadian mediacontinue to broadcast negative and stereotypical images that serve to demeanminority Canadians” (Mahtani, M., 2017). Negative images and characteristics ofblack male/female demographics in Canada, teach and show them that they do notbelong, and are irrelevant to society. Black males/females are often portrayedas criminals, and having a lower Socioeconomic Status (SES). These negative portrayal may evolveinto real-world situations and perspectives.
A black male/female who only seeshimself as a criminal and having a lower SES as a result of numerouscontributing factors, can have decreased self-esteem. He/she- ( along withother demographics) that mainly seenegative depictions, can start to believe that they cannot achieve anythingbetter than what is being represented in film/television. Therefore, the blackdemographic may feel as though there is no point of ambition and aspirations. Apositive portrayal is not what is being presented, and it is not applicable.
The black demographic may feel as though they do not belong, may feel excludedand lesser than others in Canada, thus lowering self-esteem. There should bemore diversity in film/television to increase self-esteem in the blackdemographic.Negative portrayals of particulardemographic groups in film/television can affect how other demographic groupsview, treat and act towards that group. Mahtani (2017) states that, negative portrayal in film/media “also affect non-minorityCanadians’ understandings of minorities through the replication of negativestereotypes of minority groups”. These negative stereotypes can increasedisrespect towards a certain demographic, thus, that demographic can have lowerlevels of self-esteem. Demographics with higher levels of self-esteem can feelsuperior and treat demographics with lower self-esteem negatively, thus,emphasizing, repeating and increasing a poor cycle.Having negative depictions of blackcharacters in film/television can significantly shape and affect blackchildren’s self-esteem negatively. “African Americans on television are bothunderrepresented in leading roles and misrepresented as a group…this will leaveBlack children to feel less positively about being Black and about themselvesin general” (Graves, 1993; Strongman, 1991 as cited in Ward, L.
, 2004). Thefindings that Ward (2004) concluded, emphasize the extreme impact towards ablack child’s self-esteem and feelings in general. As a result of not having manyleading roles in film/television, black children may not feel as involved ortreasured as they should. This can lower their self-esteem because they mayfeel as though they are not important enough to be considered as a maincharacter, or competent enough to have a leading career. Black children mayalways feel as though they are a second class citizen. Other demographics mayview black children in similar ways, which can also contribute to lower theself-esteem in the black demographics. Likewise, the misrepresentation in blackdemographics in film/television can decrease self-esteem because such examplescan alter the way a person feels and acts. A black child may watch a show thatdepicts a black character lacking education, and therefore he/she may feelembarrassed and badly about their race in general and themselves.
It isimportant to have a diverse and positive illustrations of black characters infilm/television, so that black children’s admirations can increase. When black characters arerepresented in film/television, it is hardly ever as a leading, positive role.Rather black characters are represented in a comical, or demeaning role.
“Blackcharacters are included in TV shows…as comic relief or supportive sidekicks”(Ward, 2004).
Black characters are portrayed to never be serious, or should betaken seriously. Therefore this can decrease self-esteem levels within andoutside of the black demographic. As a result, the black demographic can feelas though they should or never have a strong argument or stance. Or if theyever do have a strong argument, it will not be head anyway. Also, if the blackdemographic is always shown as a supportive mate/friend, they may feel asthough all of their efforts, and concerns should be thrown onto anotherdemographic and ignore themselves. There efforts or concerns are not importantand are not heard, so this can decrease the self-esteem levels in blackdemographics.An individual’s feeling of worth canbe elevated by improving and increasing a variety of body images infilm/television. The lack of body image diversity, in film/television cannegatively impact white females’ self-esteem.
Researchers, Dohnt, H., Tiggemann, M., (2006), examined the relationshipbetween self-esteem and media influences (television shows) in young whitegirls. The researchers found that “young girls who watched television showswith an appearance emphasis, were less likely to be satisfied with theirappearance which correlates to having a lower self-esteem.” White girls thatwatched television shows that had focus on ideal body images, seemed todecrease their esteem levels. This may be due to a correlation between thenegative portrayal of having a diverse body type and positive feelings of self-value.
White girls who do not have this body type may feel lesser than others who dohave an ideal body type, which can lower self-esteem. Similarly, otherdemographics that view white girls not having a certain body type may believethat white girl is unattractive, which can correlate to decreased self-esteemlevels. Dohnt and Tiggemann (2006), determined thatbecause there was a lack of diversity in female characters and their bodyimage/appearance, their self-esteem decreased. Young girls wanted to look/appearsimilar to those shown in film/television. If a white girl did not, she may feelesser about herself. White girls may go to extreme extents to look similar toimpossible character portrayal in film/media. Such extremes, can lowerself-esteem, because such praised/impossible body images are not real orhealthy. Therefore, there needs to be more diversity in film/television toincrease self-esteem across white females.
Having high levels of self-esteem isdifficult for white men because of impossible body standards and idealistic characteristics.There needs to be an improvement in diversity in white male body representationand qualities. “Men who viewed ideal physical images of other men or imagesdepicting status and wealth would report lower self-esteem” (Hobza, C., L,Walker, K.
, E, Yakusho, O., Peugh, J., L, 2007). These researchers found thatmen, are often overlooked in studies that examine self-esteem andfilm/television. However, it was concluded that men also feel lower self-esteemwhen viewing film/television that does not include a variety of people (anddiffering body images). White men may have decreased levelsof self-esteem because of a lack of diversity in body images.
White males mayfeel as though they have to live up to a certain standard to feel attractiveand desirable from other demographics. This can decrease their feelings ofself-regard. Film/television typically depicts white males as wealthy andhigh-powered. This can make white males who are not wealthy and/or high poweredfeel inferior, ultimately decreasing their self-esteem. Other demographics thatmainly view white men as superior, may mock or jeer and generally treat whitemen who are not wealthy or have an idealistic body type poorly. Such whitemales may constantly feel pressured to attain wealth and power, by any meansnecessary. This constant pressure can correlate to feelings of negativeself-appreciation.
In conclusion, there have been anincreasing number of steps made to increase diversity in film/television overthe years. However, these steps are not sufficient, and needs to be improvedbecause of the sensitive relationship between diversity and self-esteem. Thelack of diversity in film/television can either increase or decrease the way ademographic feels about themselves, or another (positively or negatively).
The way in which diversity is represented canshape how an individual feels about his/her self and how others similarly feeltowards an individual. Black females/males and white females/males are allaffected by varying portrayal in film/television. Since Canada, makes an effortto increase diversity within their population, the country should also makemore of an effort to increase diversity in film/television shows.