There are many practices that I wish would stay back in 2015 when the calendar page flips over to the new year. I’m limiting this list to habits that impact me as a media consumer, because I have (remote) control, the power to browse and can make a decision to engage, or not with them. Media takes up a big chunk of my waking hours and has an effect on my sleep. I can remember scenes from shows better than my own lived experiences and the way things are framed color my lenses and distort my views. So to unclog my own perceptions and make the way clear for 2016, here’s what I don’t want to watch, read or hear as of the first of January 2016.
1. The idea that a human being has only one dimension. Starting with our relationships to other people every human is at least a child, possibly a sibling, a friend and a lover. And throughout our lives most of us are students, teachers, co-workers, employees, in charge, followers and leaders. We are younger than others, we are older than others. We have faiths, or no faith. Some of us mother, father and in other ways raise others. We have bonds to people we share belonging with (because we occupy a land, a language, a boundary, an experience, traditions, histories.) All this complexity is erased In reporting and writing in the media — people are reduced to one dimension. The murder victim, the assailant. The race, the sexual orientation, the gender identity. The immigration status. The employment status. The nationality. I am tired of seeing, hearing and reading stories that reduce people to one dimension, because that way of portraying us erases our humanity. In 2016 I challenge media producers to take the time to tell a fuller complex story — that means less stereotyped stories, because in 2016 as a media consumer I plan not to digest any more one dimensional stories.
2. Fabricated conflicts: There is real conflict in the world that we can all have a part in confronting and addressing, I don’t want to waste my time with created scandals, controversies and drama just for the sake of ratings. This happens in the news often: comments are made and treated like actions. Reporters go back and forth getting reactions. Nothing real is happening. People get undue attention while the real life tension, violence, exploitation and resource depletion continues without comment. In fiction real conflicts that are more compelling to watch are replaced by old narratives without specificity and depth.
3. A person’s existence is not a controversy: Too many programs frame discussions about differences (whether about race, faith, sexual orientation, gender identity, citizenship status, body size, age, physical, mental or emotional health status, etc.) as controversies in order to heighten the drama. Unfortunately this distorts the reality that we are all different — even identical twins can and do have different personalities. It also forces writers/reporters to look for someone who is against whatever difference is being talked about.
4. Voice of the People: This one is about news items. It is unfair to both the public and the viewers to go out and ask random people on the street what they think about policies, laws and events. Uninformed opinions add nothing to the conversations we are having as a society and in many cases do harm especially when they are about a class of people. I hope these type of segments stay behind in 2015.
5. B-Roll: This is another news related item. I hope that we get to see fresh images next to the anchors when they talk about LGBT issues. If people are talking about discrimination in the workplace it doesn’t make sense or add anything to the story if the picture that is used is a couple getting married. If the story is about transgender immigrants in detention images of the Pride parade will not help viewers understand the plight these women face.
6. Whole people: Ending where I began but in a slightly different way; my last point is related to the first. Not only are people more than one dimension, they are also all those dimensions at once. Everything that I experience is filtered through my whole self and there isn’t one part of me that is only a woman, or only of African descent, or only lesbian, or only a daughter of immigrants or only a person of faith y mas. On the news side issues are presented in a way that shows false divides, for example between race and sexual orientation, that negates the visibility of people who are both a person of color and gay, lesbian or bisexual. Or transgender and also an immigrant, etc. Characters too who are drawn in these way only serve one particular function on the show, to be the joke, to be the best friend, to make the snappy remark. I want to see the whole, complex people I commute with every day in 2016.
Lists are better when they are added to and countered, so I’m curious if others would add, take away or modify this list.
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