Over the weekend, my husband and I took the kids to see the new Dreamworks animated movie Home. I can’t remember when we first saw the trailer for the movie, but my first thought was that Tip (voiced by Rihanna) looked liked my daughter. Not only was did our young heroine have brown skin, she had naturally curly hair–a rarity on the big screen. I wanted my kids to see the film not just because of Tip, but because it looked like a cute family film.
The film was a great way to kick off our spring break. A fun movie that made us laugh out loud and dance in our seats. It didn’t hurt that we got to see it in the new Regal that offered adjustable cushy seats. Days later, the kids are still cracking jokes from the movie.
Whenever there is a lack of representation, we tend to notice (and get excited) to see ourselves represented. That’s one of the reasons Asian Americans are so excited about Fresh Off the Boat. While I can’t speak for my 9-year-old daughter, I was personally excited for her to see someone similar to herself on the big screen. I even tweeted my excitement that morning.
Imagine my shock when someone responded that kids movies are really diverse. This person went on to name Lilo (from Lilo & Stitch) , Pocahontas, Shrek, and Ike, the one-eyed monster from Monsters, Inc.
In case you missed it, ogres and green monsters were included in this person’s diversity count.
I tried to ignore these tweets, but I was stewing inside. Instances like these is why we need more representation of people of color in our movies and television shows. When we see so few brown skinned people that our reality of diversity includes fantasy characters that are green.
Green, y’all. (I had to pull out my southern for this one.) I won’t even start on how old those movies are.
I’m still upset thinking about this. I know that this person meant no harm or offense. However, just because you don’t mean to hurt doesn’t mean that you didn’t cause any.
The characters we see on television and movies don’t come close to representing our country’s diversity. We’re getting a teeny bit closer, but even then people decry there’s too much ethnic casting on tv.
My daughter loves watching the various versions of the Power Rangers, thanks to the beauty of Netflix. I remember watching that first season with my younger cousins, excited because the Yellow Ranger was Asian. I didn’t even care about the blatant stereotype that she had to be yellow. Sophia shared an observation about all the Power Rangers series she’d seen: there were no black female Power Rangers. She noticed without me pointing it out to her. (We did some research and learned that Aisha Campbell played the Yellow Ranger in season 2 of the original series. And she took Asian Power Ranger’s place–go figure.)
The point is, Sophia doesn’t see enough of herself represented in the television shows and movies that she watches. Her friends (of different races and ethnicities) don’t see enough brown-skinned heroines in movies. None of us do.
Until it becomes so normal to see brown-skinned heroines in family movies, I will continue to celebrate each and everyone. We might not be able to see the film when it’s in the movie theaters, but I will damn well make sure our family watches them.
I will celebrate family movies with brown-skinned heroes and heroines until we see so many that it becomes no big deal. Because seeing my children represented onscreen shouldn’t be a big deal.
Have you seen the Home? If you haven’t, you should. It’s a funny, cute, and has a great message about friendship and love.
Images courtesy of Dreamworks Animation.