Conscious: Disney Is In Need of A Doctor

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Disney Junior has bowed to pressure from the social community to renew popular children’s programme Doc McStuffins amidst rumours of cancellation.

For those unfamiliar with the show, Doc McStuffins features an African-American girl as a doctor who fixes her stuffed animals when they become sick or broken. There are multiple facets to the ongoing conversation for why the show should be saved, but they all hit on pertinent factors of the Conscious trend.

Here is a little girl who is depicted not as a princess, but as a doctor – following in her mother’s footsteps  – which, in itself, is a powerful message to young girls. But most importantly to the community, Doc McStuffins is black.

With the lack of diversity still an issue in Television, the social community took action with trending hashtag #renewdocmcstuffins to show Disney Junior just how hugely important it was to protect their only show featuring an African-American lead.

Supported by celebrities and fans alike, this movement made clear the significance of Doc McStuffins to the wider community in providing genuinely diverse role models for the next generation. This is a perfect example of the Conscious trend; the community seizing opportunity to facilitate change using the platform of social conversation.

From the other side of the coin, it would seem that, like Disney Junior, brands must value social chatter as a real-time taking of the cultural temperature. Failing to understand the social significance of their decisions can mean real cultural damage.

 

 

Image @ Disney Junior

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Conscious: The Culture Of Diversity.

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Image @ Academy of Motion Pictures

 

Everyday. Multiples times a day. There is chatter on diversity. Gender equality. Racial equality. Age equality. Equality within sexuality. If you are looking for the biggest theme in culture today. Here.It.Is.

Let’s take the Academy of Motion Pictures. Facing possibly its largest backlash to date with some of Hollywood’s finest staging a boycott of the #oscarssowhite on Sunday 28th February due to its lack of recognition of actors from different cultures and races. Some would argue that the reason there are so few black and latino actors nominated is because there were far fewer playing buzz-worthy roles. And herein lies the problem. 

The cultural tension exists in the film industry failing to supply the demand for equality in racial representation and the audience – society at large – collectively pushing back. See, we want images in culture to reflect how we see ourselves. In all our different shape, colour, and size glory. In order to fully relate to its story, we need film to better depict the world as we see it. Yet so much of Hollywood and beyond has concerned itself with portraying “normal” and “majority” as young, white, skinny and beautiful. If film is the modern day equivalent of storytelling around the campfire, and we don’t recognise ourselves, our friends and our communities, the stories ultimately lose their meaning. And their cultural relevance.

Diversity, as a concept in its own right, is still relatively new. That is, that it has only recently in the last year or two been consistently labelled as such. Due in part perhaps to the wider accepted belief that in some cases, and particularly racial diversity, we have taken backwards steps and that we need to, once again, make it a priority.

In response to the macro theme of Diversity we have seen a new trend gaining traction. And this trend is no longer just about acceptance or tolerance. At The Chatter we call this trend “Conscious” because it seeks to actively make fundamental changes to the community within which the conversation takes place. This narrative is a decisive step-change towards a new outcome where culture must reflect the value we have come to attribute to, in this case, diversity. 

“Conscious” means the direction of cultural influence is changing.

Whilst traditionally cultural influence originated within the facilitators – studios, big corporations and brands – down to the audience,  we are witnessing a reversal trend. Exhibited by the upward influential push from the audience themselves. This is thanks largely to our “social neighbourhood” where the majority of conversation takes place with the purpose of addressing the imbalance. For newer, more realistic representations of authentic diversity to reflect back at us from the big screen. From sharing of videos and ideas on social media, to new role models – think Amy SchumerLaverne Cox and Lena Dunham – back to the Oscars boycott in mainstream media.

At what point diversity will have been believed to have been fully achieved is unclear. But ultimately the desire to pursue it will continue until real change comes about. When the idea of majority becomes something different altogether. When differences are perceived as positive or – even better – unnoticeable. Women playing traditionally male parts. Actors simply playing a “role”, not “Indian Taxi Driver”, or “Asian Restaurant Owner” or even “Black Best Friend”. 

As the cultural tension of the diversity debate reaches its tipping point, the academy was quick to commit to taking steps to address the issues. It would seem that the trend may have the momentum to swing the balance in its favour.

What will be interesting to watch is to what extent the trend will influence real change in Hollywood. And, in response, to see what “diversity” looks like to one of the most influential purveyors of culture in the modern world.

Conscious: Hollywood – The Only Great Eight?

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Image @ The Hollywood Reporter

Published online yesterday were written excerpts for the annual Hollywood Reporter’s Actress Roundtable. Kate Winslet, Carey Mulligan, Charlotte Rampling, Helen Mirren, Brie Larson, Jennifer Lawrence, Jane Fonda and Cate Blanchett were invited to discuss their craft, the gender divide and their own role models.

Showcasing actresses of a wide age range, whose acting careers collectively span many decades, and who have received high praise in Film, TV and Theatre made for an interesting insight into some of today’s most celebrated talent.

However the obvious lack of black, latin or asian actresses making the line-up was something that didn’t go unnoticed. Debate amongst readers ranged from the lack of diversity amongst recipients of roles – and amongst those who write the scripts – to whether it was simply a result of the films that are coming up this year – which in itself is not particularly reassuring.

For what we are seeing here is the ever increasing divide between TV and Film. One commenter accurately argues that TV actresses such as Viola Davis (How To Get Away With Murder) and Taraji P. Henderson (Empire), for example, are extremely well proven, have large fan bases and are well respected. Yet, if we are looking at next year’s potential Oscar nominees, there is a distinct lack of representation of minorities – in an industry where there is no shortage of talent.

Rightly so, narrative surrounding race is every bit as pertinent as the narrative taking place around that table: women as directors, women playing male roles without the need to change the dialogue, women juggling careers with motherhood and the backlash for speaking out against the status quo.

Whilst The Hollywood Reporter should receive props for addressing the gender issue within such a male-centric industry, it shouldn’t be at the blatant exclusion of another equally important issue – that it is also a white-centric industry. It seems that mainstream media may be struggling to handle more than one discussion at one time but equality is a multi-faceted issue and the argument for handling more than one equality-based topic at a time is rapidly expanding.