Media representation should be supported, not criticized

Why we shouldn’t be so quick to use glamorization as an accusation

Julia Nicholson, page editor

Lately, critics and angsty Twitter users alike have been calling out a plethora of films and television programs for their portrayal of certain issues like drug abuse, suicide, sexual assault, obesity, and mental illness. It seems that they are finding any way possible to ignore the basis of reasoning behind why the people in charge of these projects displayed these issues on screen as they did, and instead label them as inaccurate or problematic.

First and foremost, this creates a massive potential problem in which filmmakers might stray away from addressing these issues at all, for fear of misrepresentation. Casting a shadow over controversial matters hinders the chance for people to be able to learn and debate about them. Often, these critiques come from consumers who complain that what the characters in the show or film are experiencing are not true with their own experience. While the problem behind this complaint may seem all too obvious, it’s actually used quite frequently when critics are constructing their reviews. This sort of thinking is ignorant in that assumes that only one story exists and is worthy of being told. In reality, these stories are vital to our society for opening viewers’ eyes and commanding their empathy.

Another increasingly common accusation against filmmakers is that of “glamorization” or the romanticizing of an issue or event. A Netflix series that was released last year, entitled “To The Bone,” garnered lots of attention before it had even been released on the streaming service for appearing as though it was making anorexia seem attractive. This stemmed from the belief that the film’s lead actress, Lily Collins, had too big of a reputation for being a Hollywood beauty icon that her portrayal might give teens the wrong idea and strive to be extremely underweight, as Collins appears in the film. This idea not only materializes the actress but also leads me to think that people instead wish to see someone less attractive on their screen for their own upliftment.

Another Netflix program that took a lot of heat upon release for the same reason was “Thirteen Reasons Why,” a series that centers around the self-proclaimed reasons as to why the main character committed suicide. This series tackles so many tough topics that it would almost be easier to discuss what it doesn’t cover. Nonetheless, the show garnered lots of controversy for how it displayed these issues in a manner that made them seem enticing. Suddenly, critics pictured young “impressionable” teenagers watching this show and seeing only the cool camera angles and pretty actors and imagined them feeling the urge to want to follow in the main character’s footsteps.

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Thus, where moviegoers seem to fall short is their inability to comprehend the entire message of a piece, or lack thereof. Needless to say, just because a piece centers around a suicidal teenager who calls out those that had a part in her misery doesn’t mean that its intention is to support that behavior. Rather, a viewer is supposed to come to their own conclusions and opinions on the characters and their actions considering their own beliefs and values. Believe it or not, the average filmmaker doesn’t strive to create propaganda. Instead, they want to show flawed societies, storylines, or characters on the screen, so that audiences are able to discuss them.

All in all, the increasing negativity towards the presence of controversial issues on the screen is harmful in that it discourages the representation and debate over them.