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There’s still a long way to go to get full representation in the entertainment industry

Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan in Marvel Studios' MS. MARVEL. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan in Marvel Studios' MS. MARVEL. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

Published Jun 12, 2022

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Representation has been an important topic in the entertainment industry. Everyone wants to see someone who looks like them on screen.

Whether it's race, gender, sexuality or the shade of skin, it has been proven that we are most likely to consume that continent if we feel represented.

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From #OscarsSoWhite to #DiversityAndInclusion, the issue of representation has been one that has been key in Hollywood and the entertainment industry for almost a decade.

One of the major reasons Disney’s “Encanto” was such a success (beyond “We Don’t Talk About Bruno”), was because little children saw characters that looked like them, had the same hair or skin colour as them.

The same can be said about the new “Ms Marvel”, which sees Iman Vellani cast as the first Muslim superhero, which wouldn’t have happened a few years ago.

After all these movements, including #TimesUp, #BlackLivesMatter and #OpenUpTheIndustry, is the entertainment industry any closer to getting it right?

Giuliana Dias, Paramount Africa's research director

Insider spoke to Giuliana Dias, Paramount Africa's research director about the issues around representations and the findings from their global research about representation.

This was to explore how people feel about representation on screen through the consideration of numerous features and spectrums of diversity, encompassing ethnicity, gender identity, sexuality, disability, and more.

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How well is the entertainment industry adapting to the needs of the audience, especially when it comes to representation?

There is still quite a bit of work that needs to be done. The media and entertainment industry is starting to understand why it is important for these industries to get it right. After the great reckoning of 2020, more companies and the industry started listening and realising that there's work that needs to be done.

At Paramount, we set up a global diversity task team to drive representation even when it comes to where and how we commission work, which was important as a major player in the industry.

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That is what inspired this study – to understand how people really feel and to see where the gaps are and how we can plug them.

But how can the industry get it right? Sometimes it's like a box being ticked and not organic as it should be. So what are the ways that the industry can make sure we get representation right?

The key is to look around us and at the world we live in. There are diverse people and stories that need to be told and all we have to do is to look and find that inspiration. Most importantly, it can't just be lip service. It has to be authentic storytelling.

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Producers need to really listen to people's stories and choose those that are accurate to the demographic it purports to be about. Because we know that accuracy has real impact

MICHAEL B Jordan and Ryan Coogler. l ALBERTO E RODRIGUEZ/REUTERS

Hollywood stars, like Michael B Jordan, have talked about adding inclusion riders in their contracts. Is this the right way of approaching things?

Absolutely. The more diverse the cast and the crew, the more chances of getting it right. Audiences want authentic storytelling and this is one way of getting it right.

At Paramount, we have also changed the way we work and the people we work with, and it’s starting to reflects in our content. Soon we will see more productions telling more organic stories that reflect the people we see in society.

Are we getting it right in the African continent?

I think we are on the right track, but we are not there yet. When we look at the numbers of our research, 89% of people believe that more can be done. So that's how we have to start the journey; get the stories right.

It’s important for the industry to admit that is it hard and complex, but we do need to keep striving to be authentic. While there is a marked improvement in some pockets, there is still more that needs to be done.

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