The importance of representation

What’s missing from this picture?  If you said an Icelander, you’d be right (but possibly biased against Uruguayans).

I was shopping for diapers for my baby but couldn’t find any for my baby — all the diaper packages had pictures of babies who did not look like my baby.  So where are the diapers for my baby?  

Something similar happened when I went to buy toothpaste at the pharmacy just down the street.  Scanning the dental hygiene aisle, I was searching for a package that had someone with my hair color: auburn.  There was nothing.  I cannot adequately convey within a written context the disappointment that I was made to feel at that moment.  I felt invisible.  Thoroughly unrepresented.  

The trip I made to the sporting goods store for a new pair of work boots didn’t fare much better.  As a one-legged veteran who only needs one boot for his left foot and gives the right-legged boot to his inversely injured cousin whose foot size is comparable, I had a hell of a time finding a pair that was marketed to people like me.  I finally did, but only after inquiring to the able-bodied manager.  

The point I’m trying to make, in case it wasn’t already obvious, is that representation is important.  It’s important to everyone, especially to people who don’t have it.  The less representation you have, the greater its importance.  Therefore, comatose deep sea divers with one arm, purple skin, and webbed feet find representation very, very important.  Is this beginning to make sense?  

Let me give you another example.  A child is watching a movie about superheroes, mythical heroes, and everyday heroes teaming up to fight injustice, right wrongs, and make the world a better place.  And yet, the child’s unique demographic identity is not faithfully reflected in this work of fiction.  Skin tones are off, voice timbres diverge, and the general attitudes and outlooks of the characters just don’t match up with the child’s.  It’s a lot like when I watch Baywatch.

So, in conclusion, it’s important to realize the importance of representation in representations of reality like cinema and product packaging.  It’s really important.  If I don’t see someone who looks like me in an ad for neckties, I’m basically being told how worthless I am for not being the necktie-wearing type.  And that hurts.  This inequality has got to stop.  I really should be on Baywatch