Sunday, November 6, 2016

Representation is Important

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been thinking more and more about the topic of representation. In class, we talked a lot about how telenovelas have touched delicate subjects like aspergers, rape, and breast cancer. The more I've thought about it, the more I've realized that most American entertainment forms veer away from these topics. The only representation of aspergers that I can think of is Sheldon in the Big Bang Theory. I haven't seen the show in quite some time but in the episodes I watched, they never directly addressed Sheldon or why he has trouble with social interactions. I wish they would address this issue not because he should change, but because it would mean a lot to the asperger's community. Overall, Sheldon is an unapologetically genuine character but entertainment has a lot of catching up to do in terms of representing characters like him.In regards to breast cancer or cancer in general, there is more representation. Stories of childhood and teenage cancer are more common. Aside from the Big C, representation of adult cancer like in La Mujer Perfect, is hard to find. Seeing these issues on screen helps create awareness about the issues and can help those affected cope with their situation.

Up until about a decade or two ago, finding gay characters on tv was pretty much unheard of. However, shows like Glee and Modern Family helped do away with some of the stigma and taboo surrounding homosexuality. I think shows like this helped sway public opinion in favor of gay rights as a result. Telenovelas have also made important strides in representing gay characters. In recent years, they have begun to show greater diversity within the LGBTQ community. Many Latin American countries legalized gay marriage long before the United States did (Uruguay, Mexico)

Rape is an issue that continues to be avoided in American entertainment. Rape culture, however, is still largely prevalent, as made prevalent by the Brock Turner case and the current political climate.
These issues need to be addressed not just in entertainment but in everyday conversations. Turkey was forced to address these issues and has made some progress on the issue of rape and gender violence.
In terms of racial and ethnic representation, I think both telenovelas and entertainment as a whole have a long way to go. Telenovelas have a tendency of showing lighter skinned men and women as protagonists. However, telenovelas have brought racism in Latin America to light and as a result, have provoked conversations on the issue.
Ultimately, telenovelas have broken many boundaries in terms of representation. In many of these countries, telenovelas have a unifying power that is as (and oftentimes, more) powerful than sports, politics, and economic status. Therefore, it is a clear cut way to send a message to a majority of a country's population. Clearly, representation is important and has the potential to change lives and cause political change.


  1. Creo que este es un tema muy interesante para discutir y estoy completamente de acuerdo en que los programas de televisión en los Estados Unidos tienden a alejarse de temas de controversia como asperiegos, cáncer y violación (rape). Si bien estos son temas enormes en la sociedad de hoy en día, no se habla de programas de televisión o películas, lo que es extraño porque creo que estas son conversaciones más importantes que nunca en nuestra sociedad. Además, en muchas de mis clases, especialmente en mi clase sobre derecho y los medios de comunicación, hablamos de cómo la sociedad actual no está tan herida por temas de controversia como solíamos ser. Debido a esta razón, la gente puede hablar más abiertamente sobre temas sin temer represalias. Creo que si nuestros medios de comunicación normalizan estas situaciones con más frecuencia, se crearía para un aumento de la discusión sobre estos temas muy importantes que no debemos evitar.

  2. I definitely agree with your point about Asperger's. The main representation of this condition that I have seen on television has been in portrayals of Sherlock Holmes, of whom I am a huge fan. The original character (written in 19th century novels) has always been speculated as to having some form of Asperger's due to his inability to form bonds socially and connect with people or understand some social cues. This is seen in the newest adaptation, the BBC television series "Sherlock." In the series, Sherlock is depicted as a cold, heartless man who is a self-proclaimed "high-functioning sociopath." However, I think this description romanticizes his condition. In reality, many professional observers have agreed that he seems to display symptoms of Asperger's, but the way the producers portray it leads to confusion: he's a genius–almost to the point where he's not normal at all. I think shows like this definitely dehumanize disorders like Asperger's and lack in accurately portraying them.

  3. I think you are spot on. It's been encouraging going through the course and seeing how telenovelas are making strides towards representation in areas that are for the most part totally unrecognized by the masses. It had not occurred to me how much better Spanish television has been at this over English production until we began discussing it in class.

    To me, it is especially important to talk about issues like aspergers, mild muscular dystrophy, and other ailments that are not noticeable upon first glance and so are typically not accounted for, which makes life infinitely harder for those dealing with it. While Sheldon is an American example of an attempt at bringing up discussion about a high- functioning person, but I don't believe the show has done much for awareness and seems to use him more as a source of comedy rather than education. It is my hope that both industries grow in this area

  4. First off, I'd just like to say how much I appreciate that most of this class understands the character of Sheldon Cooper and enjoys watching The Big Bang Theory, I feel like people really rag on it. We should all watch together some time.

    But more importantly (and on topic), I think you raise a good conversation. When Dr. A was introducing the class, representation was the topic I was most looking forward to discussing. In regards to the LGBTQ community, I was surprised by how much the telenovela industry has made aware issues faced by the individuals in this community. I really like how La Mujer Perfecta spreads awareness about mental health and socialization issues, that's not something I've seen a lot in television and media. I agree with what Rachel said above; in fact, I didn't even consider Sheldon when trying to think of Asperger's in the media because that aspect of his character isn't as obvious as one like Micaela's in La Mujer Perfecta.

    In America, I'd say we've made some great strides in having diverse representation in terms of race and ethnicity with still room to grow. My hope is that we see as direct attempts for representation in the telenovela industry.

  5. Izzy, I completely agree with your post. I feel like American television is definitely still scared to push the boundaries by bringing light to certain issues. Though I was first made aware of Aspergers though a show called Parenthood on NBC, this show didn't really last long and there were so many other story lines that I don't think the show accurately portrayed the trouble with social interactions, as La Mujer Perfecta did. In Parenthood, it focused on what it's like to be raising a child with Aspergers, not so much on how the child, Max, felt about certain things. I liked that La Mujer Perfecta focused on the difficulties and challenges of functioning in society as an adult with this condition.
    I could not even imagine a show in America showing the gang rape and basing a whole show off that incident so that was very progressive of Turkey. Rape culture is definitely seen as something taboo to talk about and swept under the rug and I would like to see more shows tackle this info.

  6. Great examples guys. I realize how steeped I've been in American television only, and t makes me reflect of our own example we have in the states. Many of the have come in the last decade or so, where the audience has a little cerebral twist that we love - it makes us see from another perspective. Productions like Forest Gump, Good Will Hunting, Big Bang Theory, etc. could only be what they are because of the mental headspace they put us in. This is a really great way to spice up television and make us question as we watch - considering mental differences or even mental disease. It plays a humanistic chord, I think a great example of that was Walt's relationship with his son in the Breaking Bad. I love to relate this to Latin American t.v. going forward. Cheers!