This just in: Politics have invaded American screens everywhere

With many complaining about political agendas in their evening entertainment, it begs the question: Is media becoming more political?

Lily Furlong

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It seems like ever since a certain controversial election, society has been hearing cries of “movies are shoving politics down my throat” and “keep politics out of my television shows”. It’s a simmering frustration expressed over the internet, popping up most recently with critics of the film “Captain Marvel”. A simple Marvel superhero movie, which also happens to be Marvel’s first solo-film with a female superhero. The film-review behemoth Rotten Tomatoes recorded the biggest difference between critical and public opinion of the film- with the critics praising it and the public rating as the lowest Marvel film ever. The film was a box-office hit, and beloved by many audiences. So why such low reviews from the public?   

Scrolling through the comments and reviews of the film and others like it (Wonder Woman and Black Panther) I found a similar trend. This being the belief that Hollywood has an agenda and creating diverse movies like these are forcing politics into the screens of unwitting audiences. Which isn’t exactly true: what we are seeing is an increase in diverse and representative films, and some groups are confusing this for political agendas. 

While we are seeing an increase in diverse media, we’re far from perfect when it comes to representing minority groups. This year’s Hollywood Diversity Report commissioned by UCLA found both minorities and women have made gains when it comes to representation in media. However, this gain is still very small. Ethnic Minorities, for example, make up about 40% of the U.S. population, but only 2 out of 10 film and television leads are people of color.  The annual study has also consistently found that diverse media does better with audiences. In other words, people want stories with diverse casts that they can relate to.  

Representation has a positive impact on communities. More than anything, fiction is meant to reflect reality. It helps us expand our worldview by showing people who are different from us. By showing all sides of communities, we create relatable stories that are inspiring. Research presented in a scholarly piece titled “A content analysis of LGBT representation on broadcast and streaming television” concluded that representation has had a positive effect on this respective community. It really comes down to a lot of common sense- having characters that are relatable helps build community and a strong sense of unity. 

From all this, I feel comfortable drawing the conclusion that it’s increased representation that’s causing the outcry of overly political media. However, it’s hard to say more political media is even a bad thing. In a time of political polarization and upheaval, it isn’t uncommon to see an uptick in politically-driven media. American Cinema has had a long history of political filmmaking. But even more than that, I would go so far as to say media is inherently political. Rather than being some separate, abstract thing, politics at its core is a reflection of values. Every movie is shown though the political lens of the person making it. Storytelling also gives a voice to those with something to say. With all the issues affecting us today, it only makes sense that people are using their platforms to send a message. And honestly that’s what they should be doing. Filmmakers, authors, musicians and other artists have been given a tool to help share their ideas. Making use of it isn’t a bad thing. To add onto that, accurately representing society and including a diverse cast isn’t and should never be a political statement. Normalizing how diverse and rich American culture is a huge step for building tolerance. These conservative groups who are made uncomfortable by diverse media need to take a step back and look at the job of storytelling, and maybe just learn to relax a little. 

It’s worth noting the Captain Marvel wasn’t promoting a political agenda, and certainly not any more than other box-office hits produced by the studio. “Captain America” featured our hero beating up Nazis, and never once did I hear someone complain of a political agenda. It’s ridiculous to say feminists and minorities are killing Hollywood. Great stories are great stories, regardless how the characters appear. The most important thing to do is support these stories. Feeling empowerment from film is an uplifting and rewarding sensation. The only way to normalize diversity is to continue to show we want it, and demand more of it.