The "So Called" Age of Diversity
The following was written for Megan Terriss' #action project about Diversity in the Canadian Media industries. Please Visit her site http://meganterriss.com/gillian/ and follow the series at https://www.instagram.com/filmfeedback/
True diverse representation looks like what I see on a typical ride on the TTC.
This is why we should shift from the word diversity to the word normalizing, the term ‘diversity’ has a bad habit of perpetuating the ‘othering’ of those in the diverse community, implying that their inclusion is a favour bestowed upon them by the people who gave them the ‘opportunity’. It brings a hyper-awareness to the OPTICS of diversity, not the understanding that diverse storytelling makes our work richer. Diversity is appreciating under-heard voices, diversity is celebrating unique perspectives, diversity is evolution. It’s already here - there is no benefit to resisting it.
You don’t get true representation in front of the camera without representation behind the camera. That means at least one-third of a TV Writer’s Room should be representational of the non-dominant culture. A token person-of-colour is the same as a token woman in the room. With the amount of work it takes to get a seat at the table, we then put all the pressure on that one person to be representational of everyone in the diverse community. How can one person to speak for everyone? And how much easier is it to dismiss that singular point-of-view? A token writer in the room shows that the minimum amount of effort has been put in, likely in order to play to that hyper-awareness of the optics and to avoid being called-out.
It’s a myth that the lack of diversity in writer’s rooms is because of a lack of candidates. The reality is there is a lack of effort to enforce normalized staffing practices. When the words “not diverse enough” have been used as a reason why folks haven’t received access to writing jobs in the age of diversity, we have to realize that the dominant culture is the one defining what diversity is.
Are we parading our diverse storytellers out to create “very special episodes” of standard narratives? Are those token episodes the only episodes that hire more than one actor from the community they are talking about? Have shows acknowledged that there is more than one kind of diversity to represent? Are the actors the only members they have hired with diversity in mind? Were the episodes written with the help of consultants, rather than over hiring writers from the community?
We combat this by existing; never going away. Continuing to write and put ourselves out there, even if the stuff we write is a ‘hard sell’. We combat this by supporting each other, working hard, learning from our failures. And if we believe that all boats rise with the tide, we succeed together.
The numbers don’t lie, everyone else has to get on board, from active awareness on the part of education systems and networks, seeking out talent on the part of casting directors and other writers. Growing is painful, but my solve for them is everyone should ride the TTC more often. Because that’s what the world looks like today.