Something special happens when you’re a kid and you find someone in media—be it on TV or in the movies—who you feel truly represents you. It’s comforting at the least, and empowering at the greatest, to watch someone who you feel you could grow up to be some day, even if it’s a cartoon character in a middle school sitcom.
But for those of us who don’t fall into the categories of populations most often depicted in media (straight, white, able-bodied cismen, and less often, ciswomen), the lack of representation can do the complete opposite—make you feel isolated and lonely, left to navigate your own reality without the assistance of a fictional character.
Yes, that’s a pretty dramatic depiction of how underrepresentation can affect young girls, but I know that to be my own reality in looking for mixed families on TV, and I’m not alone.
In a collaboration with Netflix, Black Girl Nerds, an online community for “nerdy” black women, had a chance to recount some of their own memories of media representation. Using the hashtag #FirstTimeISawMe, they encouraged other women to share the first time they recall seeing themselves in media.
While Joi, Connie, and Kay-B, women from Black Girl Nerds, saw themselves in black female characters from the Marvel universe and Dear White People, Twitter users threw it back to their own childhoods in which Brandy brought Cinderella to life, and Susie Carmichael from Rugrats showed how important leadership was in the face of scheming Angelica Pickles.
In addition to black women, other women of color and women of underrepresented religions joined the conversation, showcasing just who else media has underserved over the years.
Of course, some women pointed to the reality that they still have yet to see one character that represents them at all.
As long as Hollywood uses non-disabled actors in disabled roles & whitewash POC characters, it'll be a while b4 I can say #FirstTimeISawMe— Alice Wong (@SFdirewolf) August 1, 2017
At least Black Girl Nerds is continuing the conversation—one that can’t afford to lose steam anytime soon.