Racial inclusion on streaming services

Popular platforms strive to provide content with diverse representation

Photo Courtesy of Netflix

Photo Courtesy of Netflix

The deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor have ushered an increased demand for racial sensitivity and inclusivity, not only in workplaces, advertising, and politics, but on the silver screen. In response, widely used streaming services like Netflix and HBO Max have spoken out with their support of diverse representation and began promoting content produced by and/or featuring people of color. A recent survey conducted for Netflix found that more than half of viewers in the US between ages 14-24 believe that their favorite shows and movies have changed their perspective on understanding people from ethnic backgrounds different from their own. Film and television can be impactful to both the ways in which the younger audience views minorities and also how they view themselves. 

 

Netflix, the second most popular streaming service, has curated new content categories, the “Representation Matters” and “Black Lives Matter” collections, highlighting shows and movies that showcase the talent of people of color. In addition to the promotion of these collections, Netflix made an official statement regarding their support for increased black representation in film/television, tweeting, “Black storytelling matters. With an understanding that our commitment to change will take time, we’re starting by highlighting powerful and complex narratives about the Black experience.” The service also added seven Black-led sitcoms like Sister Sister and Moesha to their library, the two making the service’s top ten in the U.S. list.

 

Subscription service, HBO Max, is among the streaming services championing the case for increased on-screen representation as well. Sandra Dewey, president of productions for WarnerMedia Entertainment, who owns HBO Max, spoke about the company’s efforts to rectify issues of representation in entertainment. A keynote speaker for the Cannes Film Market, she revealed that over 60% of shows HBO Max completed production on were written or created by people of color or women, stating that, “Representation is very much a mandate for the company and we think it will make our storytelling richer and more interesting for the people who are watching it on our platform.” Dewey additionally showed optimism for the service’s international films and shows as US viewers increasingly take more interest in watching them.

 

Many Battlefield Bobcats are avid users of streaming services, and Black Student Union sponsor Mr. Street believes that the promotion of content created by and featuring people of color on such platforms sends a strong message throughout the entertainment industry to create diverse programming and opportunities. He said that, “Many of the messages or characters that young people see in movies and television are misguided or sensationalized and do not portray their culture in a positive light forming an inaccurate perception that labels minorities unfairly.” He further stated that, “Our society needs a more balanced variety of minorities on-screen to express the strong, positive and diverse characteristics that we contribute to society and influence the younger generation the right way.” A supporter of diverse TV and film representation, Mr. Street feels that these services are making a step in the right direction.

Entertainment media remains to be an influential medium, especially for younger viewers, and teens are finding that TV series and movies often reflect their daily life. These streaming platforms have amassed far-reaching audiences, placing emphasis on inclusive representation. As the heightened success of content subscriptions progresses, the case for increased diversity on-screen continues to be one of current relevance.