I just watched an episode of How to Get Away with Murder. It featured a romantic scene at the end. Two black couples, a white couple and a gay couple were getting jiggy with it. I couldn’t help thinking this is why I love Netflix. Not for the raunchy sex scenes… Get your mind out of the gutter… But for the diversity they are showing on screen. I rarely see that on Australian TV.
It’s not just the content that they are choosing to put up but also for the Netflix originals that they are churning out like Riverdale, Master of None, Orange is the New Black, 13 Reasons Why, Chewing Gum, Luke Cage, Sense8, Dear White People, The Get Down and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (the role of Titus as a gay Black man is really worth mentioning).
Everyone Deserves to Feel Seen
I cannot explain how excited I was to watch a particular event in Riverdale [Warning: Mild spoiler alert] The teen heart-throb Archie didn’t get with Blonde Betty but dated a woman of colour with naturally curly hair. What I would have given to see that as a teenager…. That moment right there is momentous and if you don’t understand that then you probably won’t get this article. If I’d have seen stuff like that growing up I can guarantee it would have made a difference for my self esteem.
Even now seeing diversity in the media is a positive thing for me and I think it will be as my daughter grows. I want her to see people that look like her mum and people that come from families with different ethnicities, culture and appearances.
Australian TV is noticeably white. And the ones that do show diversity in any kind it is often a gimmick (Here Come the Habibs) or that is their only identity or purpose in the show. It doesn’t matter who you are, YOU need to feel seen. This also goes for older Australians, Indigenous Australians, disabled Australians and LGBTQI Australians too.
The Seeing Ourselves: Reflections on Diversity in TV Drama study from Screen Australia analysed all 199 dramas (fiction excluding animation) that aired between 2011 and 2015 inclusive and found that 18% of main characters in the period were from non-Anglo Celtic backgrounds, compared to 32% of the population.
Not to mention all the popular reality TV shows like House Rules, The Block and Married at First sight. I’ve yet to see a truly diverse range of contestants on these shows.
No Hate for Australian TV
I watched all the seasons of Offspring available on Netflix whilst I was pregnant and bawled like a baby at nearly every episode. I also binged watched Please Like Me in the weeks when Amelia was a newborn and used to sing the title song at her in those precious hours she was awake.
I love being able to see where I live on TV and I relish all the subtle nuances that make Australia the country I love. Honestly, I’m just enjoying being able to access TV shows and movies with a wider pool of diversity from different racial and cultural backgrounds to my own.
It also helps that there’s no adverts on Netflix too!!
What Can We Do to Improve Diversity on Australian TV?
Earlier this year, the not-for-profit organisation Media Diversity Australia was set up to “promote balanced representation in Australian media that reflects the community it serves.” But what can we do as individuals? Ashamedly… I’m not sure. I’m probably not a good example as I just don’t watch Australian TV at all. To be honest that probably isn’t the ideal solution since there needs to be people like me around to celebrate shows that include diverse characters.
I am going to contact Media Diversity Australia to ask them what the every day person can do to do make a difference. Watch this space, hopefully they answer this insignificant blogger. Haha.
So at the moment, the TVs in our house aren’t even connected to the antenna and it will stay this way until Australian TV gives me a reason to tune in.
Do you like Australian TV? Do you feel like television represents Australia now? Have you noticed the diversity of Netflix?