Representation matters. Period. I don’t think that most people who have the privilege to be part of groups that aren’t marginalized–white, thin, straight, well off, etc–truly understand how depressing it is to never see yourself in the media. Oh, and to finally see yourself, only to be reduced to a token, a sex object or a stereotype? It’s disheartening. Sure, networks are getting better at making sure that there are more diverse perspectives shown on TV because, surprise surprise, thin straight white able-bodied people aren’t the only people in the world with stories to tell! But it’s a slow process, and we’re all getting impatient, for good reason. Like, why is Glee the show with the most diverse ensemble cast? Ugh.
But while we wait for the slow but hopefully sure progress to reach a level of normality, check out these 10 TV shows that actually do a pretty good job at that whole diverse narratives thing. Some will be familiar, others not so much, but all are worth checking out!
Jane The VirginCan we talk about the fact that a show about a Latina woman, her life, her family and her comedic drama (she was accidentally impregnated at a clinic, y'all) is a hit on TV right now. It's so good that its star Gina Rodriguez won a Golden Globe for best actress in a TV comedy series. So many women of color--especially Latinas--were inspired by the win and went to Twitter to celebrate the fact that they're finally seeing themselves on screen in a nuanced way.
My Mad Fat DiaryMy Mad Fat Diary is the best show you're not watching. It's set in the '90s and tells the story of a 16-year-old boy-crazy, music obsessed girl who just got out of a three month stay at a mental institution. Oh, and she's fat. No other show has handled mental health, body image and typical teen weirdness so well.
Faking ItSup, queer representation? While Faking It was initially viewed with skepticism among many folks in the LGBTQ community, its approach to the weirdness and complex nature of sexuality and coming out has won some hearts.
Some GirlsFun fact, but in some major metropolitan areas it's quite common to see a racially diverse group of friends. Hell, that was the case with me and I'm speaking as a black chick who went to school with mostly white people. This is why Some Girls is such a great show: It shows a multicultural group of teen girls being silly and weird. Teen shenanigans ain't just for white girls, okay?
Orange Is The New BlackIf you haven't heard of Orange Is The New Black then you must be chillin' under a rock because this Netflix show has been on everyone's must watch list for nearly two years now. Also, it's getting nominations and awards left and right--all of that with a super diverse cast. Hmm, interesting how a show that includes queer relationships, transgender representation, and racial diversity...is set in a women's prison. If we can get more of that outside of a prison setting that would be cool, too.
The Mindy ProjectAre there any other shows right now other than The Mindy Project that stars a South Asian woman? Nope, there isn't, which is pretty pathetic. But Mindy is holding her own at the moment and hopefully paving the way for some girl out there who dreams of starring in a TV show despite not "looking the part" (AKA being a white size two).
Fresh Off The BoatThis is the first show about an Asian-American family in 20 years. I repeat, this is the only show about an Asian-American family that has graced our TV screens since 1995. How effed up is that? You'd think that there were only five Asian people in the universe if you based your perceptions on American television. This comedy is such a refreshing approach to comedy and that was made clear by the reaction from hundreds of Asian-Americans' Tweets during the show's premiere.
South Of NowhereThis show was a huge breath of fresh air when it first aired back in 2005. A show that dealt with sexuality, race and gender in a way that didn't feel like an After School Special? Say what? Also, it's worth noting that this cult classic was the first TV show that had non-hetero teens as the stars. How awesome is that? In many ways this show paved the way for a lot of the more diverse teen programing we see today. There probably couldn't be a Glee without a South Of Nowhere
DegrassiDegrassi is a great show to pick on because it can often be melodramatic and hokey. But listen, this show is still a billion times more diverse than most other teen oriented dramas out there. Seriously, it has had cast members who are plus size, LGBTQ storylines and a fair amount of racially diverse characters as well. So yeah, make fun of the cheesy nature of the show, but you'll be hard pressed to find any other teen TV shows that feature a transgender teen character.
A Different WorldOkay, let's rewind a little bit to the '90s, shall we? The comedy A Different World followed the lives of students at a historically black college. It was ahead of its time in a few ways. It addressed issues of race among young adults in a serious way, not as a tacky punchline. It also addressed gender inequality, date rape and was one of the first American TV shows to discuss HIV/AIDS. Seriously, if you catch a rerun of this show while you're channel surfing, watch it! You'll be hard pressed to see a show about college students like this again for a while.
What other shows tell diverse narratives? Which shows have diverse casts but have awful representation? Tell us in the comments!