It is 2022 and we cannot really justify mainstream media’s reluctance with queer representation. Not to suggest that the progress made so far could be dismissed entirely in its effort, yet the accurate representation remains elusive in its execution. There are plenty of misleading examples resulting due to inaccurate representations. They have either contributed to inherent ignorance within people or been ‘celebrated’ under the tone of comic relief.
Since the matter of representation is intricate, it tends to produce different outcomes in terms of audience reaction despite the maker’s sincere intentions. Therefore, a layered understanding becomes necessity in order to draw a sensitive portrayal of the queer relationship between two individuals. Even with careful consideration of all possible aspects, a compelling and appropriate representation could cause a havoc within a queer community– this remains a significant possibility to consider as the different forms of representation will always have different reactions.
Before we divulge into the complexity of representation, it’s important to understand why representation matters.
A majority of our civilisation is still a ‘work in progress’ about accepting the fact that queer personalities do ‘exist’ in real and not alien to what is perceived to be normal. Many research studies have shown that proper representation does negate the ignorance or stereotypes, as the mere screen presence of queer characters do normalise their existence within our lives.
Especially for the older generation, a certain form of acceptance is a definite possibility once they understand inner lives of queer people are as complex as anyone’s with relatable struggles.
Media with its growing reach to the wider audience is capable of informing people through entertainment, and should enable communities to think in the right direction. Accurate representation can question the taboos and stigmas associated with queer relationships or individuals within society, and generate a ‘genuine’ conversation.
A queer voice is essential to have their stories represented in the media that could help nullify stigmas and insecurities framed on the community. Lack of knowledge does create a hostile and distressing space for queer folks, not benefiting any cause in terms of educating people and findining a much needed expression .
‘Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui’ is one of the recent examples in Bollywood, where a trans woman looking to start a new life falls in love with a man who suffers from toxic masculinity. It is less of a surprise that he isn’t even aware what a transgender person is when the woman reveals the truth about her gender identity. The film shows a man going through a realisation of his love for a trans woman. We see him overcoming the societal conditioned notion of ‘normal love’. There’s also an argument about a transgender character not being represented by a real trans person in the movie. However, this sort of representation could be a conversation starter and also inform the viewer about the general perception towards transgender communities within the country.
Being represented does not close the matter, but instead opens up a safe space to have our perception tested in terms of intersectionality and diversity. We also need to examine whether representation done is categorical that excludes distinct gender identities, different sexualities and races, and must raise questions if any of it is being ignored to have our experiences sanitised under the impression of ‘normalcy’.
Many of you may have come across certain shows or movies where queer characters have been represented for the sake of it. This is to draw the viewership from LGBTQIA community and gather profits to label the show as inclusive in general perception, without having a credible, sincere representation. Such tendencies are becoming rarer in recent times as a ‘woke’ section of society does call these shows out in the open.
There have been some meaningful, moving depictions with queer center narratives such as 2016’s Moonlight and 2018’s Boy Erased. Movies like these have managed to bring about in depth understanding about the queer people struggles within heterosexual and cisgender communities. A show like, ‘I May Destory You’, does portray a complexity in sexual life of a gay character, and also shades light on how the boundary of consent becomes blurry to an extent that can lead into a territory of sexual crime. Representations such as these do help us discover the prejudices about queer sexuality and questionable practises that exist within the society. But this realistic representation can often lead to a triggering experience for someone with similar struggles that may have occurred in their past. They wouldn’t want to be reminded of discriminating events happened in their life. This potential impact on queer community, however, hasn’t been studied efficiently to derive a definite conclusion.
Representation is a nuanced subject. A compelling story with its intention at the right place may still cause ripples in the water whereas an ignorant projection may as well be taken as a comic exercise. It is rather difficult to have a set of regulations in place to accurately assess the representation criteria since representation will always be complex because the living experiences are often critical. A collective sense to have diversity and intersectionality in representation remains significant to showcase how diverse the community is.
No part of community, such as bisexuals and transgenders, should be sidelined or sanitised to have them represented under the misinformed impression of ‘normalcy’. Our collective responsibility is to be critical of what we consume in the media. Media representation can shape our perception, but it shouldn’t destroy a collective consciousness.
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