Aziz Ansari once joked that white people must be excited about movies all the time. When Slumdog Millionaire came out, he said he was excited, even though “it’s just some people that kinda look like me.” He assumed white people must feel that way about every single movie that comes out. “Every fucking movie but Slumdog Millionaire and Boyz in the Hoodis us!”
When you’re not used to seeing people who look like you or act like you on screen, finding a character who speaks to you is a revelatory moment. To capture that feeling, Netflix started #FirstTimeISawMe, a hashtag and video series about representation in entertainment. They sat down different actors to speak about the characters that inspired them.
Online people have been posting about the first time they felt seen by media, and sometimes about how media still has a long way to go before they could feel represented. Many also pointed out that even if their demographic was represented, the characters were often written as sloppy stereotypes, and didn’t do much to help them feel accepted.
— Lipstick Tomboy (@MelaninMomma88) August 1, 2017
— Ari LaBeija (@LeaveItUp2Mel) August 1, 2017
— 아이고 (@noahjussi) August 4, 2017
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
“Images are important,” Spike Lee said in his video for the project. “You want to see yourself reflected truthfully as a child. The problem is, it’s other people telling the world who we are and not ourselves.” There needs to be diversity not just in front of the screen, but behind it, and as we know American media is doing a bad job at both of those things.
This article originally appeared on elle.com