Understanding Representation in Media

There are hundreds of articles debating the importance of representation of social groups. The dilemma I faced growing up was trying to compare myself to others and seek “appropriate” role models. Over time, I’ve grown more interested in characters that show personality quirks, flaws and alternative lifestyles.

A problem I find with many queer-themed programs is that they tend to over compensate with the ratio of LGBT characters in an attempt to show more variety of queer backgrounds. The opposite is true for big production films where they can have a bunch of straight relationship’s however,  They fall short on LGBT representation and commonly try to fill the void with the token “gay best friend” role or the “experimental lesbian relationship”.

As a character artist, I have begun to understand the difficulty when trying not to pigeonhole potential social groups, whilst also recognizing that these individual characters have just as much right to exist in any way the artist/ writer desires. Often when people try hard to represent a diverse range of social backgrounds, they are more likely to accidently pigeonhole the characters with labels like “the gay character” or “the sassy black woman”.

We the audience should learn to accept that certain stereotypes do actually exist coincidentally in real life, and give some consideration to context of the characters and their narrative. Artists / writers should try to find a good balance between strong independent role models and cliche idolisation based around pre-existing social constructs/ stereotypes.

augustine.jpg

I created this illustration as a fan-art tribute to a show called ‘Looking‘. I wanted to create something that expressed a slight romance and confusion. I have been trying hard to break my own wall of personal interests, to become less afraid of expressing myself through personal work.

This piece illustrates two characters (Augustine & Eddie) which showed a lot of character growth, with a subtle yet ironic use of stereotypes and personality traits. Their relationship commented on the initial emotional detachment symptoms most people face after experiencing low self-esteem or a previous traumatic relationship. Although the characters weren’t particularly likeable to begin with, throughout the show we began to build up a sense of understanding and empathy towards them as they progressed to improve themselves. I hope that people from all backgrounds will be able to relate to this story, regardless of the explicit sexuality expressed in the show and some of my work.

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