#FirstTimeISawMe and why representation matters

04 Aug

First Time I Saw Me

The glorious people at Netflix (I believe only in the US at the moment) have launched a campaign this week with the help of influencers and celebrities under the hashtag "firsttimeIsawme".

I was lucky enough to grow up (until I was 12) in Barbados which had it's upsides and downsides with exposure to black culture. For one it was all around me as I grew up, and for a short period I'm pretty sure I thought there were only 2 races (kid logic) because there really weren't a lot of other races around me other than black/white. Of course this was completely wrong as I'm mixed race and my mums Indo-Trinidadian (look it up) but I didn't realise until I met her side of the family as she's lighter. The reason I mention this is that while television in Barbados did a wonderful job of ensuring that there were shows with black representation (there were a surprising amount for the time) being shown on television it was not truly representative of the world population as a whole.

For me television and films are both an escape as well as a way to learn about the world (with a pinch of salt). This is more than likely the case for a high proportion of the world who do not have the ability to travel to other countries on holiday or to explore even their own country as much as they would like. With this in mind the way culture is chosen to be represented by those who have the power to do so is extremely important.

If I think back to the first time I saw me on TV I can count shows like Smart Guy, Fresh Prince, The Hugeleys, Oprah even as shows that influenced how I interpreted the world and where I could go in life if I tried real hard. Unfortunately life isn't as simple as TV but I at least had characters in popular culture that I could identify with, other people have not been so lucky and it's not until the last few years that some other races, sexual orientations, disabilities and identities have been portrayed.

Take for example the story of the father who cried about the Mexican accent in Star Wars. This dad was more moved by his race being represented than he was by the film itself which was great but the casting...that was special. Fast and Furious is a franchises that should have ended long ago but it makes money not because of it's storyline but because it has a cast that is more representative of race than most other franchises (and shows off cars and a cool lifestyle).

Ugly Betty, Sense8, Insecure, Master of None, Blackish, Dear White People, Atlanta...I could go on and on about the shows that are finally filtering through and showing the world that there are people waiting to be counted and generations of kids that need to be inspired by who they see on their screens.

You can see the stream from the hashtag below or some highlights I've embedded.


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Trevor Price

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