Little white girls have Disney princesses and Hannah Montana to look up to. Teenage white girls use Allie from The Notebook and Rose from Titanic as models for their true love stories. Sure, BIPOC can look up to Disney princesses and dream of having a love story like Allie and Noah's, but still, their stories would never be the same. Little white girls don’t expect to fall in love on a sinking ship or have a small town love affair either, but they still get to watch people who look like themselves fall in love. Not only do little white girls know that they are capable of love and being loved because of TV and movies, but little white boys do too. Where does that leave everyone else?
Many young BIPOC lead their lives believing that they will not have a true love story, because people who look like them on TV and in movies don’t either. A lot of the time in TV and movies, characters of color are one dimensional. Asian characters are nerdy and cringey. Black characters are sassy and usually a sidekick best friend. Latina characters are fiery and dramatic. Indigenous characters are so rare, and most of the time, they aren’t even played by actors who are Indigenous themselves. The point is, BIPOC don’t get love stories, and if they’re even a side character, it’s out of tokenism. When LGBTQ+ characters are in love stories, they’re often a sidekick best friend, and they’re almost always white, too.
As a result of these stereotypes, BIPOC spend much of their childhoods thinking that the people around them are only attracted to white people. As time goes on, kids are impacted more and more by who they see on their screens everyday, and begin to mirror the stories told there in their own lives. BIPOC kids and teenagers begin to believe that they can’t be smart and funny and pretty at the same time because only white characters got to be all three. Most of the time, people of color characters only filled one of those characteristics out of tokenism. The lack of representation of different races and ethnicities on TV makes BIPOC, especially those who are LGBTQ+, feel unworthy, unlovable, and undeserving of some great story like those characters got. But the thing is, they DO deserve a great story. Everyone does. So we need to be giving those stories to kids who need them, the ones who need to feel like they are lovable.
When Never Have I Ever came out on Netflix this year, I watched the whole thing, even though I'm probably too old and too mature for it. But the main character, Devi, got a love story. She got a love story that didn't push her Indian culture to the side, one that acknowledged her ethnicity and her want to feel lovable simultaneously. She was unlikeable sometimes, but it was real and she was everything I was in middle school. Devi is what I needed when I was in middle school, to tell me that I was normal, and worthy of love and drama and teenager things.
TV and movies need to let BIPOC know that they are normal, and worthy of love and drama and teenager things. The lack of representation allows many BIPOC teenagers to live their lives feeling unworthy, whether that be of a depth in personality, love, or a career.
In reality, we're not one dimensional. We're very real people, with wants and interests and dreams and love. Putting us in a show to say you ticked a box isn't enough. Give us stories. We need them. And we have them, just like the rest of you.