STORYTELLING WITH MEANINGFUL REPRESENTATION, PART VIII: HIRING AND SUPPORTING DIVERSE CREATORS

 

 

While diverse characters are a great step toward inclusivity, diverse creators are vital for meaningful representation. Creators from marginalized communities can tell organic, authentic stories based on their lived experiences. They can capture the nuances as well as the obvious. They can invite outsiders into their worlds and share the unique aspects of their communities as well as the one we all have in common: the human condition.

 

If you are in a position to hire diverse creators whose work resonates with you, please do so. The possibilities are endless: if you run art galleries, literary magazines, photography exhibits, tv shows … if you produce music or podcasts, publish book reviews or anthologies … if you need a mural for your restaurant, if you want a sculpture in your office, if you are looking for a singer for your party … 

 

And, whenever you can uplift the voices of diverse creators whose work resonates with you, please do so! You can do this by purchasing their work, promoting the artists/art on your platform, and following them on social media.

 

Let’s work together to normalize and celebrate diversity! After all, as Rohit Bhargava said, Every culture’s history is essential. Everyone deserves to have their lives elevated through the beauty of truthful representation.  

Case Study: Ryan O’Connell, Special [SPOILERS]

 

Special is a semi-autobiographical tv series by creator Ryan O’Connell. It follows the journey of a gay man with cerebral palsy who’s seeking connections with others and acceptance of himself. Special explores the themes of identity, romance, friendship, and work with humor and honesty. 

 

The main character, Ryan (played by O’Connell) is relatable and flawed. As this review points out:

 

Special avoids the pitfalls of most representations of disability – of unflawed, bland cardboard-cutouts for characters. Ryan’s insensitive, he’s forgetful, he’s selfish, and plain obnoxious at times. He’s a real human being who happens to have a disability.

 

The other characters on the show are equally well represented. We follow Ryan’s single-parent mother, Kate Hayes, as she learns in her fifties to finally prioritize herself and we examine the life complexities of Indian-American, social media influencer Kim Laghari (Ryan’s best friend).

 

These characters are not caricatures. They make mistakes, they learn, they avoid, they dream and hope. We cry when they lose, cheer when they succeed, and want them to be fulfilled and happy. As Variety stated in its reviewSpecial is a show about … love and joy, heartbreak and pain, fun and laughter that all just has to do with living a life. 

 

And if that isn’t the hallmark of an authentic, meaningful story, I don’t know what is. 

 

 

 

It is one thing to strive for perfection and another to expect it. When we expect perfection, we don’t give ourselves the space to learn and grow from our mistakes – to acknowledge, to listen, to do better next time … to go on this very human journey.

~ Kalpita Pathak

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