With 2017 ending and 2018 set to begin, we here at A Plus are looking back on some of the uplifting stories we’ve covered during the past year. One theme that we noticed time and time again throughout the last 12 months was people seeing themselves reflected in media — whether it be on TV, on the big screen, in music, or in literature, or in some other realm — and proved that representation matters. We don’t have anything against men who are both straight and White, it’s just that they see each themselves all the time and everywhere.
We’ve scoured the interwebs and found some of our favorite moments of people feeling as though them, and others like them, were getting a chance to shine. Here are seven instances that women, people of all colors, and the LGBTQ community were given the limelight in 2017:
1. All Things “Wonder Woman”
Perhaps the biggest movie of the year was Wonder Woman. The Patty Jenkins-directed film was a win for female directors and showed little girls that they could grow up to be strong women. Wonder Woman has grossed nearly $822 million worldwide, earned rave reviews from critics, and made star Gal Gadot a beacon of and embodiment of girl power.
This DC offering made an impact this year, for sure, but Marvel’s leading ladies are making an impact as well. Young girls seeing these fully developed and multidimensional characters is teaching them that they can be anything they want to be when they grow up — whether that’s a doctor or, yes, even a superhero.
2. People of Color Tweet About the #FirstTimeISawMe
This summer, a Netflix venture had people tweet using the hashtag #FirstTimeISawMe in regards to when they first felt reflected in media. The streaming site got their own creators and stars to chime in with their personal #FirstTimeISawMe moments and teamed up with groups such as Black Girl Nerds and HuffPost’s Black Voices to spread the movement, too.
The result from a simple hashtag was people sharing what diversity in pop culture meant to them, showing the power of inclusion. These tweets — all of which were quite moving to read — covered things such as movies and TV shows from decades ago to shows from within the past few years. It was a moment when specific groups (even intersectional groups) got a chance to point out films or shows are getting it right and making them feel like a part of society.
3. A Galaxy of Inclusion
The Star Wars universe has been a big win for diversity lately for including people of diverse backgrounds in its galaxy worthy of storytelling. Earlier this year, Diego Luna posted an emotional message from a fan explaining what seeing a Mexican-American actor on the big screen in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, on offshoot, meant to his family.
A similar thing happened with Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the eighth film in the main franchise, with new star Kelly Marie Tran who using the platform to pay tribute to her Vietnamese roots. Throw in the fact that the late Carrie Fisher made an impact on generations worth of people and you’ve got one inspiring film series, one that other movies should strive to be more like.
4. Creating Literature to Represent Yourself
When one doesn’t see themselves reflected in what they’re consuming — say, in a book — what options are there to change that? By creating them yourself, that’s how. This year alone we saw folks like Tee Franklin and Jerry Zhang doing just that, by finding a niche that is being underserved and creating works that will be meaningful to that group of people.
With Franklin, that was an intersectional one. Franklin created Bingo Love, a comic centered around an elderly, Black, lesbian couple and the love they shared throughout the years. With Zhang, it was creating children’s literature with a young Asian main character in Pepper Zhang. Both of these people saw a need and didn’t hesitate to fulfill that need and their actions are small steps to help an industry as big as publishing continue to evolve and include everyone.
5. Confronting or Avoiding Stereotypes
Stereotypes can be harmful — and avoiding them can show a group of people that you care about their feelings. This year Hari Kondabolu took aim at confronting a controversial character from The Simpsons, the beloved Kwik-E-Mart owner Apu Nahasapeemapetilon. The Problem With Apu discussed about how racist, one-dimensional, and ultimately harmful this character is and attempts to educate people about the issue.
Avoiding stereotypes can also result in people embracing a work — much like they did with Pixar’s first-ever all-Latinx cast and the first Pixar movie with a minority in the lead role: Coco. Cultural consultants were hired to help filmmakers get things correct and it paid off in the end by not pandering to stereotypes and, instead, had audiences connect with it on a deeper level.
6. LGBTQ Kids Programming FTW
Disney admittedly made many strides in embracing the LGBTQ community this year, like by featuring its first-ever same-sex kiss with Star vs. the Forces of Evil (the same show that later took on gender norms with a male princess storyline) and promising to feature its first-ever coming out moment on Andi Mack.
For the family-friendly company, these are both major milestones and ones that should be celebrated. It means that a new generation of kids will hopefully grow up and know that it’s OK to be different. And, just maybe, they’ll realize they aren’t that different after all. Other than Disney, a viral animated short film took the internet by storm: In a Heartbeat. Millions fell in love with the LGBTQ storyline and its popularity shows a changing tide in children’s content.
7. Casting is Getting Better — Hopefully
Sometimes casting departments get it so wrong that people have to recast things on social media. Even though diverse films have been proven to perform at the box office, we still see Hollywood attempting to whitewash roles from time to time. When Disney announced it was doing a live-action version of Mulan, the voice of the character from the animated 1998 version had one request: cast a person of Chinese descent. Thankfully, in the end, that’s exactly what it did.
Beyond that, there are other important news items in the world of casting that made headlines. The first was when one actor turned down a role that was being whitewashed, choosing to forego a project and let someone who should be in the role play the part. The other momentous occasion was learning that Ryan Murphy was assembling the largest cast of transgender actors as series regulars than any other scripted show ever.
Progress is progress, y’all!
Cover image via Warner Bros. | Beth David and Esteban Bravo