The “world of possibility” is a beautiful place, home to our visions of the future, and absent of doubts, insecurities, and obstacles. Last week I visited the world of possibility with LeaderShape, a retreat offered with BC that focused on value-based leadership.
A “vision,” as defined by LeaderShape, is a reality that you wish to see in the world. To create a vision you must, for a brief time, live in the world of possibility. LeaderShape’s vision is “a just, caring, and thriving world where all lead with integrity, and a healthy disregard for the impossible.” This goal may seem lofty, impractical, and therefore naive to some. But LeaderShape wishes that someday this vision will not seem lofty, impractical, or naive, but possible, and that eventually this vision will not seem to be anything, but just be.
The vision I created at LeaderShape was equal visibility and representation in mainstream visual media. For a moment I let go of the doubts, insecurities, and obstacles—resources, discrimination, uncertain success in the creative fields—that would prevent this vision from becoming reality. For a moment I dreamed of a world where mainstream visual media accurately and appropriately represented people on the spectrums of gender identity and expression, race, ethnicity, physical ability, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic class, and size, and told the human stories. For a moment I dreamed that the creators of mainstream visual media—writers, directors, and producers—represented a similarly diverse group of people. For a moment I dreamed that people would be able to look at their screens and see a bit of themselves reflected back.
Representation in the media is vital. Stuart Hall, a cultural theorist, sociologist, and professor, and whom many called the “Godfather of multiculturalism,” defined representation as “the way in which meaning is somehow given to the things which are depicted.” Hall argued that because representation is crucial to the existence and constructed meaning of an event, those in power seek to control it. This often leads to the propagation of certain characteristics, which then can lead to stereotyping.
“The struggle to open up stereotypes is often a struggle to increase … the possibilities of identities which people have not seen represented before,” Hall said. This requires “one to go into the power of the stereotype itself and begin to … subvert, open, and expose it from the inside.” The breaking up of stereotypes and the increase of positive representation requires actions from those with the ability to create and shape the media.
Despite the recent progress towards more equitable representation, my vision will not happen tomorrow. But at the Golden Globes on Sunday night, I saw its beginnings.
I saw it in Gina Rodriguez, winner of Best Actress for Jane the Virgin, who said, “[This award] … represents a culture that wants to see themselves as heroes.”
I saw it in Jeffrey Tambor, winner of Best Actor for Transparent, as he said, “And finally, if I may, I would like to dedicate my performance and this award to the transgender community. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you for your courage, thank you for your inspiration, thank you for your patience, and thank you for letting us be a part of the change.”
I saw it in John Legend and Common, winner of Best Original Song for “Glory” in Selma, who said, “…I realize I am the hopeful black woman who was denied her right to vote—I am the caring white supporter killed on the front lines of freedom; I am the unarmed black kid who maybe needed a hand but instead was given a bullet; I am the two fallen police officers murdered in the line of duty … We look to the future and we want to create a better world, now is our time. Selma is now.”
I saw it in Joanne Froggatt winner of Best Supporting Actress for Downton Abbey, as she said, “After this storyline aired I received a small number of letters from survivors of rape, and one woman summed up the thoughts of many by saying she wasn’t sure why she’d written, but she just felt in some way that she wanted to be heard. And I’d just like to say I heard you and I hope that saying this so publicly means that in some way you feel the world hears you.”
My vision will not happen tomorrow. But it is only with people like Rodriguez, Tambor, Legend, Common, and Froggatt—people with the ability to create and shape mainstream visual media and who are actively working to break up stereotypes and increase positive representation—that my vision can even come close to becoming reality.
Featured Image by AP Press