When Vogue Spain put Aya Jones on the cover of their March issue, blogs everywhere started singing their praises. Aplus.com called the cover and spread pages a “majestic celebration of black beauty” and theroot.com said that Vogue had declared that “black really is beautiful” by using a black model featuring cornrows.
Jones’ pictures are taken against a backdrop of an exotic savannah, with one image even featuring her along side of herd of elephants. Though many black-oriented blogs deemed this a celebration of black beauty, Jean Kilbourne—the force behind the “Killing Them Softly” videos, which discusses the perceptions of women in advertising—would say that this is another example of the media “exoticising” black women.
The shoot took place in Botswana and Jones herself is of both British and Ivorian descent. Probably the most notable action of the shoot was that Jones’ hairstylists were all local women.
Is this shoot another example of black women being “exoticisied”? Or is it a declaration of black beauty? One of the differences here is the level of authenticity provided by the setting and the local participation, not to mention the model’s own ethnicity. Probably the most important difference, however, is how the black community decided that it would be perceived. They saw it as a celebration of black beauty rather than a mockery of their ancestral heritage. Kilbourne, who is a knowledgeable professional with research and experience to back up her theories, is still a white woman, and in the end the most important opinion is that of the minority begin affected.
Finn Jones, of Game of Thrones fame, has officially been cast as Danny Rand in the new Netflix original series Iron Fist. The show will join the hugely popular Marvel crossovers Jessica Jones, Daredevil and the soon-to-premiere Luke Cage. With the success of its predecessors, there’s no doubt that Iron Fist will be a big hit, so why are some fans so upset?
Fans have been lobbying for Marvel to cast an Asian-American actor in the role to add some diversity to their universe. Though Rand is depicted as a white man in the original comics, fans hope that changing his race will not only add diversity to a whitewashed world, but also create more depth to the character.
Representation in the media has been a hot topic recently, ranging from A-list events like the Oscars to issues involving the silver screen. Still, people wonder why it matters so much.
A study performed by two Indian University professors researched how the lack representation can affect preteen children. They found that these young children use the media to evaluate themselves, and when their favorite shows misrepresent or fail to represent them at all, the lack of something to compare themselves to can have a huge impact on their self-esteem. Overall, they found that television exposure leads to a decrease in self-esteem for white girls and black boys and an increase for white boys. Looking at the kind of representation these children are exposed to, the results really aren’t that shocking.
Choosing not to represent minorities in the media is a choice. There are many successful shows that make a conscious effort to emphasize representation, and some critics even claim that this is the secret to their success. As we continue into the 2016 season of television and film, we have to realize that we can’t ignore the minorities any longer. They’ve always been there, and now it’s time to bring them into the light.