How Movies Went from My Weekend Activity to My Passion
Aka Why Representation Matters
When I was young, it was Billy Madison and The Waterboy, raunchy comedies. As I got older, it became The Princess Bride and the James Bond franchise. Now, they may not all be profound, critically-acclaimed films, but they hold a significant amount of sentimental value for me. My father and I always found a connection through film and other forms of entertainment. One of my earliest memories of us is watching Wizard of Oz over and over again when I was fouruntil I sporadically developed a deathly fear of the Wicked Witch of the West. To this day, I feel a cool wind flow down my spine when I think of unflattering chin moles and that sharp, shrill laugh. Even when he became estranged in my life, we still made time to go see the matinee screenings (“Because tickets are two dollars cheaper then, Giselle! That’s why. Alsobecause I said so.”) of the latest blockbusters. Despite the problematic aspects of who my father is, he introduced me to the wonderful world of Quentin Tarantino films, and for that, I am eternally grateful.
Flash forward a couple of years, and the irreconcilable differences I had with the disconcerting Wicked Witch of the West were at the bottom on my list of irrational fears. My bouts of anxiety are ones that have plagued me my entire life. The only positive upside to dealing with my capricious friend for 17 years, is that I’ve found ways to cope. My favorite coping mechanism is escaping into television shows for hours at a time until I become grounded once more. One of my favorite pastimes is immersing myself into Orange is the New Black world through the art of binge watching. Once I’m done rolling my eyes at Piper’s latest power trip, my heart rate has decreased tenfold, and it is safe for me to re-enter the real world.
Furthermore, I could watch a suspenseful thriller or a lowbrow reality TV show as my means of escape. I never really had a preference when it came to genres in entertainment, until I was in seventh grade. At the time, I had an odd obsession with 90s teen movies. Due to my insatiable desire for the nostalgia produced by these simplistic films, I watched them all. One, in particular, was not like the others. But I’m a Cheerleader is an iconic film, at least in my incredibly biased opinion, that puts a lighthearted twist on the traditionally dark narrative. It’s a story about an innocent cheerleader who is oblivious to her attraction to women and ironically comes to terms with her sexuality after her parents ship her off to a conversion therapy camp. I went into it expecting the cliché-ridden story of the loser guy who gets the most attractive girl in school, but came out pleasantly taken aback and questioning my sexuality. Watching an example of positive gay representation made everything suddenly fall into place. I like sci-fi, comedy, drama—you name it, but what I love is the representation of minorities, people who are like me.
Even now in 2016, as a lesbian woman of color, it is a struggle to turn on the television and see someone who looks like me. Non-stereotypical minority representation in the media is notoriously low. I honestly believe that with positive representation of different minorities will have a significant impact on how our society perceives us. Not only will this affect those who are plagued by ignorance, but to the little black girl who gets to see a female character with dark skin, natural hair, and whose vocabulary consists of more than just "girl, please," it means the world. For me, film and television add another dimension to storytelling. It is my goal to tell the stories that others have neglected to tell properly. I long to use my love for filmmaking and television as a weapon to combat ignorance. To be able to do this and get paid as a result? Well, I could only be so lucky.