Subconcious Impact of Representation


From a young age, I never paid much attention to what most of my idols and heroes looked like or where they were from. Superman soared across the sky and Spider-Man swung across New York buildings and their alter-egos just looked like what the child version of myself believed the average person looked like. Part of growing up for me was realizing that I looked different from what I and many of my peers had been conditioned to consider the average. Most average looking pop culture figures did not share that many physical attributes with the little Latino kid that was looking up to them; it did not bother me at a young age since it was just the established norm. This established norm is eroding more and more every year though media continues to take significant strides in representation.

               The first time I began to notice such representation was in 2015 with two newly debuted Disney properties: Star vs The Forces of Evil and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In Star vs The Forces of Evil, the protagonist Star Butterfly is an alien-princess, and her new roommate Marco Diaz is Latino-American. Marco’s culture and family were both deeply relatable in a way that was new to my young self, but I ended up not giving it too much thought until similar feelings were conjured by that year’s biggest film. Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a major film upon its release as it was the first new Star Wars film in over a decade as well as the first time I felt truly represented by a protagonist in a major blockbuster. While Poe Dameon is from the Yavin 4, Oscar Isaac is half Guatemalan and half Cuban. His appearance was one I found myself gravitating towards and found some familiarity in within the new protagonist trio. I met Marco and Poe with a strange subconscious appreciation for something that I never felt for any character before, that something was representation.

               Greater strides for representation in media are becoming more and more prevalent with each year that passes and whenever it is at the center of a conversation, there are always some in the loud minority of viewers that want to complain about it. Some of the common complaints are that such inclusivity is rampant to the extent of ruining stories and ultimately pointless in the long run. While it is true that representation is becoming more prevalent every year, it is far from rampant and there is still a long way to go; a recent study by the nonprofit Latino Donor Collaborative found that Latinos were leads in only up 5.7% of television and film with that percentage having dropped over the last three years.

Furthermore, even if Latino inclusion was as rampant as it was made out to appear, it is a massive leap to suggest that such inclusions ruin stories. The human experience is made up of so many different cultures and viewing a story through different cultural lenses has a greater potential for enriching the story than it does for ruining it. More importantly however, representation is far from pointless in the long run. In the years since I first adventured with Marco Diaz and Poe Dameron, I have gained a greater appreciation and love for my culture and everything that comes with it. I know I am not the only one with such experiences and I know I will not be the last, there is a subconscious appreciation for representation that feeds that innate desire to be seen and acknowledged. In an ideal future where progress continues in media representation, every person will feel seen and acknowledged just like I was with Marco and Poe.

Writer: Luis Garcia

Artist: Solymar Estrella