Can texts ever truly be representative of groups? As with everything, there are many ways to look at this. For example – the British show The Crown is widely recognised to be a good representation of the monarchy during world war two. However, it is also limited in the sense that it doesn’t represent the current monarchy of England OR represent the whole of British culture. But that isn’t the point of the show. Similarly, the new Crazy Rich Asians movie has come under scrutiny and harsh critique because of its representation of the Singaporean and generalisation of Asians. Its focus is on a niche community – the wealthiest family in Asia. Therefore its very premise is limiting. I suppose the idea is that a text can never truly be representative of people because we are constantly evolving and people always interpret things differently. In fact, I suggest a text can only truly represent one person’s view. This is not a bad thing though – we can only base our understandings on our own experiences and beliefs.
Equally, just as identity shapes the texts we create, identity plays a big role in our understandings of texts. The most obvious example would be a report in Mandarin – with me, a native English speaker, and my friend who is fluent in Mandarin reading it. It would come as no surprise that my friend would have a much better and deeper understanding of the text than I would. However, this also applies to less obvious examples. An emotionally charged video clip, for example, of police brutality in the US (an extreme example but nevertheless relevant) might hold greater value to me than this same friend if I had a personal connection or if I was also a person of colour. When put in this way, again it seems obvious that identity and personal experiences will impact our view of the world.
The very idea of representation comes with its own problems. People expect a text to wholly represent a culture or identity and when it inevitably fails, disappointment and uproar can hinder more films coming out with a different lens on the same issue. Furthermore, the representation of certain demographics can begin to develop stereotypes – which is a dangerous thing, especially for youth who grow up surrounded by these misleading, inaccurate texts. Whereas we can’t ever be truly accurate or fully representative, we can do our best to create a society where eight-year-olds can watch actors who look like them on television and normalise this type of diversity. Despite all its issues, ultimately representation is a huge benefit. We can do our best.