It is with interest that I read the recent news concerning the debate about whether the new Spider-Man could be black. For anyone who is not up to date with it; the story is concerning a deal between Sony Pictures and Walt Disney which means that Spiderman may feature in a new Avengers movie. The current comic version of Spiderman (Miles Morales) has a Hispanic and black background. Morales became the new Spiderman when Peter Parker died. (Source: BBC News Online).
This got me thinking more widely about the representation of cultural diversity in its widest sense on TV. I remember back to my childhood and most of the children’s characters were white, but also importantly spoke Received Pronunciation (R.P.). As a white, Scottish young person, this representation had very little in common with me. It didn’t stop my enjoyment of them but I believe I may have had even greater enjoyment and fulfilment had the people I saw on TV reflected my cultural background more.
This has come into stark focus for me recently as my 10 month old daughter has become more interested in TV. This invariably means that I have to sit through and endure various programmes including: Waybuloo and Balamory.
It has been quite an eye-opener for me as I often see people represented from across the whole spectrum of our culturally diverse society. They even have a Makaton and British Sign Language programme aimed at very young children.
I think this is great news for the future as our young people grow up knowing about difference and begin to appreciate social diversity, cultural diversity and probably most importantly the benefits of diversity.
I must admit to not really paying much heed to children’s TV the last few years, so was unaware that this significant change had taken place. In that respect we have to applaud the programme makers and acknowledge what a great job they have done. As an equality and diversity practitioner that is really all I can ask for.
Returning to Spider-Man, I think that this is a great move if it comes off and hopefully will pave the way for greater cultural diversity represented in future Walt Disney productions. I believe for many years Walt Disney has taken the easy option of only representing white people in their films with very few exceptions.
In relation to Walt Disney productions, they havea huge impact on children (you only have to look in any toy shop). And they can have both a positive or negative effect. I hope that they take the decision to show many different faces to young people.
Some fans have although branded this move as ‘political correctness’ and have demonstrated their anger. I don’t believe it is suchand agree with Don Slott, the current writer of the ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ comic books. On twitter he tweeted “A non-white child is playing with a Spidey action figure, would YOU go up to him & say: ‘You can’t be Spider-Man.’”
The reality is that by showing greater cultural diversity then it promotes positive images of all sections of society and in turn helps us to appreciate each of our differences but also the many similarities that we share.