As I’ve grown, I realized that there was no one like me in any of my recreational distractions. I’m and African American female who also happens to be completely deaf in one ear. Granted these may be setbacks that don’t outrageously affect my everyday life, but they are still part of who I am and I’d like to see that portrayed in the media. Once my difference became apparent to me I began a full-fledged examination on the shortage of characters with disabilities in the media. When entertainment doesn’t do its best to reflect real people and real-life experiences by diversifying its characters, we “real people” feel cheated. It affects the self-esteem of any child with a disability who can never relate to what they watch or read, and it creates a strain on children who haven’t learned how to properly approach other children who are disabled.
The problem is not only the matter of the lack of children’s media that feature characters with disabilities but also the way they portray them. There is a difference between media about a character with a disability and media that includes a disabled character. The latter could easily be ensnared by “secondary character syndrome”, i.e. creating this character that is different from the others in race, sexual orientation, or special needs and using them as a prop or a filler instead of a character the audience can actually relate to. They have no story, they barely have a voice, and by the end of it you probably won’t remember their name (if they are given one). More effort should be put into making those characters count and creating a storyline around them that develops their needs and lifestyle in a way that accurately portrays someone who is disabled.
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Every kid grows up idolizing a superhero. For me it was Batman. I was in love with the city that he lives to protect–––Gotham, his trusty sidekick–––Robin, and even the villains he faced, my favourite being The Joker. Most of all I loved the fact that Batman was so relatable. He had no otherworldly powers whatsoever, just his brain, his billions and his brute strength. I thought that if Batman could defeat some nasty people with no real help, anyone has the potential to as well.
It’s obvious that not only Batman, but superheroes in general had a large impact on my life from childhood. Now though, as I enjoy the new movies and TV shows based on superheroes that come out–––I can’t help thinking about how hard it will be to introduce my potential children to them. It continuously crosses my mind how the market of superheroes for children is declining.
The kinda strange thing about the new wave of superhero movies/shows is that most of them totally aren't intended for kids. Sorry, kids.
— John Squires (@FreddyInSpace) March 25, 2016
Those of us who read Batman, Superman and Avengers comics are no doubt stoked about the movies. Everyone wants to see something they love created in a different media. Though with children, what do they have to look forward to? The cinematic industry is always growing, always changing, and now they are shameless with their Rated R explicit superhero remakes.
“Movies can and do have tremendous influence in shaping young lives in the realm of entertainment towards the ideals and objectives of normal adulthood.” These are some wise words from our father Walt Disney, who would be astonished at how we are butchering his movies today.
Disney movies are something that we all can relate to. They’ve gotten me through some especially tough times. I remember watching them on VCR (I know I’m basically ancient!) Where I would rewind the tapes and start them over again from the beginning. Mulan was one of my favorites, I aspired to be a woman warrior even as a child.
So how should I feel when the cartoons that touched my heart as a kid and shaped me into the woman I am today are created into revolutionized live-action movies that completely miss the point? How will children be influenced by this new development?
#MakeMulanRight is a petition that was circling social media to be signed. Its goal was for the live-action in-production Mulan movie to get an Asian writer and a script change. An anonymous person in the industry leaked the early script of the movie and since then Twitter has been livid. Instead of Li Shang (a Chinese general) being the main love interest for Mulan, the script told a different story. There was to be a European man who comes to China, saves it from potential harm, and sweeps Mulan off her feet. This calls to attention not only whitewashing in the industry, but also the failure to promote the feminism that Mulan so rightly deserves.
— laura (@ezrsmillers) October 10, 2016
Media offers a world of entertainment and learning possibilities for children and youth. The kidsmediacentre explores kids' media futures and is committed to supporting cross-platform content producers in Canada to ensure the kids' media industry is vibrant, indigenous and committed to the healthy growth of children.