Representation in Entertainment: Why it Matters

May 9, 2018

The movie Black Panther features a cast full of strong black characters, both male and female. Its release is a powerful moment for many people who have longed to see themselves and their culture reflected on screen.

“I never saw that [growing up],” says Noreen Naseem Rodriguez, an assistant professor of elementary social studies at Iowa State University. “It’s so important, especially as an educator, to provide those mirrors to children, to affirm them, to show them that you have different options in life.”

She says the movie A Wrinkle in Time is another good example of representation in film.

“Never before have I been able to see a South Asian American and a Filipino American on-screen, in perfect American accents. Nothing about them is specific to the fact that they are Asian American. They’re just characters that are dynamic and interesting, and their cultural and ethnic identity is not at the center—just like as I walk through this world, I’m not always thinking about my own ethnicity.”

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe talks with Naseem Rodriguez, and University of Iowa Collegiate Scholar Meenakshi Gigi Durham about why media representation matters, particularly for young women, LGBT people, and for people of color.