As much as we’d like to deny it, the media does in fact have an impact on our lives, influencing to some degree our aspirations, how we view ourselves and others, and our perspectives of the world. The media is a powerful tool with the ability to shape our society and culture, including how others view it, for better or worse. This is why it is so important for the media to present diverse representations of people, places, and various situations. Sometimes, the media is the only exposure an individual may have to a group of people or a culture. If that group or place is only portrayed from one perspective, good or bad, then it may very well determine an individual’s thoughts, feelings, and even behaviors towards the place or group members. Instead of portraying a certain group of people in stereotypical roles, whether that be women, ethnic/racial minorities, people with disabilities, etc., it is necessary for the media to recognize that group members are not all the same and to showcase this fact.
I recently stumbled upon a show that is dispelling stereotypes and misconceptions about individuals with disabilities, Down Syndrome in particular. “Born This Way”, a docuseries on A&E, chronicles the lives of 7 young adults with Down Syndrome, showing that they can do “normal” things and live “normal” lives despite their condition. I love the fact that the series shows these individuals pursuing their dreams, goals, and passions, not using their condition as an excuse to limit themselves.
We need more shows, movies, and advertisements like this that depict images of people that more accurately represent the diversity that exists within different groups. Perpetuating stereotypes, whether positive or negative, is a disservice to our society and culture and hinders our progress. Although we shouldn’t rely solely on the media to learn about and understand each other, the media is probably the tool with the most reach and influence; therefore, it has a responsibility to reflect the diversity of the world we live in.