Opinion: The Importance of Inclusivity in Children’s Film and Television
By: Jillian H., Ella R., and Brooke S.
The new Power Rangers movie was released Friday, March 24, a film that received mixed reviews but was praised for its diverse characters. Along with including people of color, the film also included an LGBT+ character and a character on the Autism spectrum.
While breaking tradition of typical kids’ movies, Power Rangers brings an important topic to the forefront; inclusivity. Superheroes in the past have typically been white, straight, and without a disability, and it is not only superheroes either. But diversity of children’s characters is important because it is essential that all children feel represented regardless of their race, sexual orientation, gender identity, or ability. Furthermore, it is important for children that are not exposed to diversity in real life to learn how to relate and interact with people that are different than they are.
Characters on the Autism spectrum (Ella)
According to the organization Autism Speaks, it is estimated that 1 in 45 children (ages 3 through 17) live with Autism. So why is it so rare that someone with Autism is in a movie or TV show? The blue Power Ranger, Billy Cranston (played by RJ Cyler), has in the past been played by a white actor and has not been portrayed as someone on the Autism spectrum however in the new movie he is a person of color and he is on the Autism spectrum. In the movie, the fact that the character is on the spectrum is not made a big deal and the other rangers do not treat him differently for it.
Not long ago the nearly 50 year old TV show Sesame Street introduced a new muppet named Julia. Like the new Billy, Julia is on the Autism Spectrum. It is so important for children that are on the Autism spectrum to see themselves represented and treated normally by other characters because it helps show that they are valued and worthy in our society. It is rare to see representation of people on the Autism spectrum in either movies or television, especially programs targeted towards children so the fact that Power Rangers took that direction is truly impressive but it is a bit surprising that it has taken this long.
New LGBT+ Power Ranger (Jillian)
In the same movie, the yellow Power Ranger Trini Kwan (Becky G) is gay. The movie does not capitalize on Trini’s coming out, rather, the rangers simply listen to her when she explains that she struggles with her identity. The scene is simple, honest, and powerful. It is important for audience members, especially children, to see this kind of character moment on screen and understand that LGBT+ people not only exist in film, but in real life. Being gay doesn’t have to define a character and this movie proves that.
In Russia, Power Rangers requires all moviegoers to be at least 18 years old. Though the Russian distributor for the movie did not specify what prompted this age restriction, many believe that it is related to Russian officials who criticized the movie for its gay character. This decision has been hotly debated and condemned, and for good reason. Heterosexuality is the norm in Hollywood, and this film breaks the rules in a very realistic, natural way. True equality can never be achieved if certain parts of human life are censored; it is crucial that all children see not only representations of themselves on screen, but representations of every kind of person.
Lefou from Beauty and the Beast (Brooke)
On Friday, March 17 the new Beauty and the Beast movie came out. This movie was a new version with a few twists from the original 1991 film.
With this new twist, the movie featured the first “exclusively gay” moment in a Disney film. This scene was revealed to the public a few days before the movie was released. Director Bill Condon said, “LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston.” Controversy arose as a result of these details. A theater in Alabama actually banned the screening of the movie due to this scene.
It is 2017, and I am personally astonished that scenes like this one in Beauty and the Beast weren’t introduced years ago. Some parents’ arguments against the character say they don’t want to go see the movie with their young children and then go home and have to explain to them what was going on. If I were a parent, I would know that homosexuality is normal and should be accepted all over the world, and I would make sure that my child was aware of it at a young age anyways. I would want them to be educated about it and feel comfortable enough to come to me with questions if they had any.
I don’t believe parents should shelter their children for something that has been around for decades. Kids should know that people can love anyone they want.
Inclusivity in Television (Ella)
As emphasized by all three of us, representation matters. Kids deserve to see characters that they relate to on multiple levels because they should believe that who they are is worthy of respect and recognition. These characters mentioned above have shown miniscule progress, but it is nonetheless progress being made in the right direction.
Below is the trailer for the new Power Rangers movie