Preview: Inclusivity Now – Beyond The Quota: Authentic Inclusivity
Akin Akinsiku, co-creator, director and writer on BAFTA nominated and Broadcast Award winning CBeebies pre-school drama ‘Apple Tree House’, writes about the efforts, sacrifices and commitments he’d like to see from broadcasters and content creators to ensure real change and authentic diversity.
The Children’s Media Conference Facebook Group Chat – Inclusivity Now offers the opportunity for delegates to comment, ask questions and discuss the content of all the Inclusivity Now strand at CMC.
We are in a position where we can affect generational changes. When I was a kid, I loved superheroes and comic books. My favourite characters were Superman, Batman, Hulk and Spiderman. I used to draw them…all the time. In art college, I realised I could draw men’s anatomy very well, but I couldn’t draw women at all. On deeper reflection, I realised why. The only female superheroes I liked as a kid were female versions of my favourite heroes (Spider Woman, She Hulk, Super Girl). So, by inference, female heroic archetypes only existed within the context of the male originals. Like my comic books, childhood entertainment are modern days myths. We might assert that they are fiction, but they are more than ‘real’. They are ‘hyper-real’. These modern day ‘myths’ tell us about the way we think as a society. They also help shape then next generation. The female anatomy situation was for me a moment of clarity. I had stumbled upon what we now call ‘unconscious bias’. Decades later in 2020, we might have more representation, but most female heroes in children’s television solve problems using magic, while male counterparts use science or technology. No surprise most of the people in STEM occupations happen to be male. Is this nature or nurture? Well, the most we can do is offer the possibility that a woman can master science and technology as well as any man.
This hard-wiring happens at a very young age. I can do the same breakdown across race and class.
The effects of under representation are real and the more broadcasters take this issue seriously, the quicker show makers will respond. The make-up of creatives or content creators will affect how deep these changes go. The changes should be more deep-seated, as opposed to surface level, and behind-the-scenes representation will help drive this. Children’s media is moving in the right direction to become inclusive, but still has a long way to go, especially with pre-school material.
To increase the impact of diversity, if there was just one thing I would love people to do is to make some sacrifices! Broadcasters should be willing to sacrifice time and effort. Content creators should invest time and effort. They should see the importance of representation and the creative possibilities it opens up.
Akin Akinsiku and Shabnam Rezaei will be available online in the CMC Facebook Group – Inclusivity Now on Wednesday 8 July at 5pm BST, to give their advice on creating authentic inclusivity in children’s TV (after Cressida Cowell’s Creative Keynote)