The Power and Importance of Representation in Media

This past week, I can't tell you the number of times people have called, texted, or mentioned to me, Special on Netflix.

"Have you Seen it? What do you think of it? You should be on it!"

It has been such a fascinating experience. My favorite interaction to date was when I had Starbucks delivered by a Postmate. He handed me my coffee, lingered at my door for a few seconds, looked me dead in the eye, and said,

"Have you seen that show Special on Netflix? YOU SHOULD BE ON THAT SHOW!"

To which I responded,

"Wow. I never imagined the general population would be so willing to see someone who resembles a parking pass on their TV."

If you have been living under a rock, and you haven't seen nor heard of the show; the series is based on the memoir, “I’m Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves” by Ryan O'Connell, who is a (fabulous) gay man, living with Cerebral Palsy. -- He also stars in, and is an executive producer, alongside Jim Parsons, and a handful of others.

The show itself is funny, real, and it is ground-breaking. It is the first time a disabled person has had the lead role in a written series. Ryan has spoken about the pressure he felt when making the show because of the responsibility of representation he felt, as one of the first disabled characters on TV.  -- The reality is, for many, Special may have very well been the first time the general population has seen someone who is gay or disabled in media, much less both.

After watching the show, and being able to identify as strongly as I did (as someone with Cerebral Palsy myself), it got me thinking on a deeper level.

Hollywood often is the place where people see things they don't otherwise see in their own lives. The entertainment industry has a reputation for being an ultra-progressive, liberal bubble which is not representative of the majority of the country or the world at large; but that's not as true as you might think. 

It was just five or so years ago when women were fighting for equality in the industry in terms of the pay-wage gap between their male counterparts. 

History shows that Hollywood is notoriously slow to show anything other than the stereotypical "pretty" white Barbie and Ken Beverly Hills type, or the exact opposite of that, to introduce an antagonist. 

But the people of the world are not Barbie and Ken who live in 90210; the people of the world are Jewish, Muslim, straight, gay, bisexual, transgender, disabled, fat, skinny, tall, short, rich and poor, or some combination of, all at once. 

That is the world. That is who we are. Knowing that Hollywood is a place of first exposure for many, there is an inherent responsibility to continue to show the world, and the people who live in it, as we are. 

I hope that the trend of accurate representation in Hollywood continues in 2019 and beyond, and I commend Ryan, his credible cast and crew, and Netflix for moving the needle.