Monday with Ms. Marvel: representation


Morgan Kong

In her weekly column, Monday with Ms. Marvel, Wingspan’s Trisha Dasgupta reviews different political issues and relatable topics in everyday life.

Trisha Dasgupta, Staff Reporter

The rise of streaming services and social media has inexplicably changed entertainment, and Hollywood has seen its fair share of changes. One of the more prominent changes in the last few years has been the newfound emphasis on representation, with more and more studios green lighting scripts written by and for minority audiences. 

Movies like Love, Simon and shows like Never Have I Ever are perfect examples of fresh stories starring minorities being wildly successful. However despite their success, some say that these movies and shows are just forced diversity, and many question the need for them. 

The thing is, it’s hard to understand why these stories are so important if you’ve always seen people who look like you and whose stories you can relate to on the screen, so I want to try and explain why representation is needed. 

As an Indian-American teenage girl, I’ve grown up with tv shows and movies that rarely have characters who look like me. Whenever there was an Indian-American character, which was hardly ever, they would have thick accents, and their culture would constantly be joked about. 

Do you know what that’s like? When someone grows up watching their culture being mocked, it doesn’t exactly help them to embrace it. Which is exactly what happened to me. 

For years and years, I pretended to resent my Indian heritage just to fit in. I joked along with my American friends, I mocked my parent’s accents, I made fun of stereotypes. And after a while, I wasn’t pretending anymore. I actually started believing in the things I was initially just joking about, and it wasn’t until recently that I realized what had happened. Instead of embracing my two cultures and my ethnicity, I had done everything I could to fit in at the expense of my heritage. 

It took a long time for me to back out of those habits of self-hatred towards my culture, and I often think about how different my life would have been like if I had seen kids on screen who looked like me being portrayed in a positive light. 

Earlier last week, I started watching Mindy Kaling’s new show, Never Have I Ever, which stars an Indian-American teenager in a pretty basic coming-of-age story. The show follows a teen named Devi and her two best friends, and shows her deal with the grief of losing her father, stress that comes from being at a competitive high school, and her struggle with balancing the values of both of her cultures. 

Watching Devi go through some of the same things I go through every day, and seeing her cherish her culture and not trash it, was really eye-opening. 

In one particular scene, she makes fun of some of her cousins, who are dancing in a traditional Indian style. She makes a comment about how cringy it is that they’re so into it, which if I’m being completely honest, I’ve done before too. I have been that kid at the back of the annual cultural festival making fun of the other girls dancing and singing, and you know, embracing their culture. I’ve called that lame, and yes, cringy. 

However, after Devi makes those comments, one of her older friends checks her and his character says something that I’ll never forget. He tells her that it takes more energy to resent your culture than it does to embrace it, and asks if she really wants to waste all that energy just to appease her American friends. 

That hit me like a ton of bricks, and it made me realise how wrong I’ve been to hate my culture this whole time. 

Storytelling is about teaching lessons and themes of humanity by way of a narrative, and different audiences have different things to learn. I get that while for me Never Have I Ever was an eye-opening story about cultural heritage, a peer who has a different background will just enjoy the love story and plot. 

But that’s the thing that’s so great about representation; when different stories are told audiences get exposed to different cultures and they learn about new types of people and their unique experiences. Diversity isn’t just good for the minorities who finally get to see their stories being told, it’s good because it breeds empathy and compassion in all those who get to see new struggles that they themselves don’t have to go through. 

Our country is a diverse one, filled with all types of people who have all types of experiences. It’s incredible that we are finally getting to see these new stories, and I hope we keep getting fresh movies and TV shows with fresh faces.