Everyone should have chance to be seen as main character

by Aaliyah Alexander, Opinion Editor

No matter how evolved the entertainment industry seems, it still lacks a crucial component for its viewers: representation. 

I thought I was the only Black female who felt as if there was a lack of people who look like me in mainstream entertainment until TikTok user Kyla Diane posted a video that perfectly put into words my thought process. 

For people like me who love fantasy, rom-coms and coming-of-age movies and shows, there comes a day when you realize there’s a limited amount of films that depict Black individuals as the main characters who are the love interest, hero or quirky teen entering adulthood. 

All we have are films centered around slavery, police brutality and Black trauma. 

Although talking about those topics are important, I am not the first — and surely not the last —  Black person that will say this: our existence is way more than trauma and we deserve to be accurately depicted in entertainment. 

Black television shows such as “Family Matters,” “Living Single,” “Moesha,” “Sister, Sister” and more recently “Insecure” are great examples of television shows depicting the “Black experience” without making our struggles the main plot. Movies like “Love and Basketball,” “Dope,” and “Selah and the Spades” effectively balance the reality for Black people with Black joy.  

Former monk, author and speaker Jay Shetty once said in an interview, “You can’t be what you can’t see. If I never saw a monk, I would have never wanted to be a monk. If I never meet a billionaire, I wouldn’t want to be one.” 

This truth highlights one of the main reasons why representation in entertainment is so important. Non-people of color have the luxury to imitate and relate to a plethora of main characters in films while people of color have to go through the trenches just to find one decent film that depicts someone like them in a pure and accurate light. 

The lack of main characters that look like me can cause a feeling of exclusion. When all you have to watch as a Black kid growing up are films where you’re either the supporting character or victim, it sends the message that those are the only roles you can live up to. 

It shouldn’t be that hard to find a television show or movie with someone who looks like me or my two brothers as the main characters in 2021. 

If you can recall when the films “Princess and the Frog” and “Black Panther” were released, you’ll remember the excitement of the Black community because we finally got modern mainstream films that were light-hearted and depicted us as normal human beings. 

This isn’t to say I can’t enjoy my favorite coming-of-age films or television shows with white main characters, it’s to say we need to let everyone have a chance in the spotlight. 

We would be lying to ourselves as a society if we believed the quirky, joyful and lighthearted stories of Black and other people of color aren’t worthy to be told because they most definitely are. 

In the near future, I hope to see more main characters like me. 

Aaliyah Alexander is a junior studying journalism and international studies. Follow her on Twitter @aaliyahdanyell.