While film and television have come a long way in their representation of the LGBTQI community, fat characters are still noticeably absent. In this teaser from KYD issue 27, Rebecca Shaw explores the privilege of representation.
I don’t know if this is an ‘everyone thing’, or some kind of ‘only me thing’, but I often get sudden impulses to do weird things as I go about my daily life.
For example, I sometimes have the burning desire to sweep everything off a shelf at a supermarket and see it all crash to the ground. Or, alternately, every single time someone goes speeding past me on a skateboard, I yearn to stick out my foot and see them go flying.
I never wish to actually destroy or hurt anything or anyone; it just happens. Fortunately, I have managed to control these impulses for thirty-three years and am yet to destroy a supermarket or the body of a young skateboarder (for which I absolutely believe I deserve a medal or some kind of parade, or possibly both). There is, however, another impulse I have that is becoming increasingly harder to control.
When I meet a person – especially a man – who is white, cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied and middle-to-upper class, I have the urge to congratulate them with a handshake that is firm and warm. I feel the need to verbally congratulate them: ‘Well done. You have won the jackpot by virtue of being born. You have never had to wonder about your place in the world or where you fit in. I could not be more pleased for you.’
You can’t know everyone’s struggles, so this is definitely a case of #notallwhitecisgenderheterosexualablebodiedmiddletoupperclassmen, but I nonetheless feel comfortable claiming that many of these people were set on the best and easiest path through the world the second they came into it, all slimy and disgusting and crying (coincidentally, the same way many of them act on the internet later in life).
After all, nowhere is the luck and dominance of this group more demonstrable than in films and music and almost all other pop culture.
Almost every time a white, cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied and middle-to-upper class person turns on the television or goes to a film, they will see themselves reflected back. Not only have pop culture products consistently been made for them, but also about them. They have countless choices about what situations, plots, adventures, and romances they get to watch characters very much like themselves be involved in.
The idea that there has been so much created about these people, that there are millions of different stories about this one specific type of human – so much so that they would never be able to watch them all – is grotesque in its privilege.
Pop culture’s outrageous bias towards these people is keenly felt when you are looking at it all from outside the parameters of the majority; when you are other. You feel that you don’t matter enough to talk about.
When I meet a person – especially a man – who is white, cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied and middle-to-upper class, I have the urge to congratulate them with a handshake.
Growing up queer, especially in the days before the internet, I was desperate to access stories about people like me. I don’t use that word lightly: it was sheer desperation. It was vitally important for me to see queerness reflected in narratives, as they tethered me to the wider world. They helped me realise that my life had options, that it could be rich and complicated, and that people would love and want me. As a closeted and terrified girl in rural Queensland, queer representation in pop culture proved to me that a fulfilling queer life was possible, something I wouldn’t have been able to envision otherwise.
The terrible historical treatment of the LGBTQI community by television and movie creators has been chronicled. The poor representation of trans characters, queer people of colour, and queer people living with disabilities continues to offend.
Want to read the rest? Issue 27 is released Tuesday 4 October! Be the first to read it by becoming a KYD member from just $14.95.