The Digital Mirror: How Minority-Focused Casts are Revolutionizing Representation in Television

Jeffrey Steele ’20
Faculty Advisor: Rafael Kelman
February 7, 2020

How do you see yourself in the mirror? Do you see that on screen? Currently there’s a trend of television shows focused on the experiences of a particular minority group, populated by casts of that identity. As more minorities enter the behind-the-scenes action of production, such as directing, producing, and casting, they unwittingly enlist themselves in battles to accurately represent the groups from which they come. Thus, as more and more shows cast racial and ethnic minorities in shows about their own identities, we must wonder: why is representation so important, and how effective it is at accurately representing the experiences of people of color?

In this presentation, Jeffrey Steele ’20 will explore what positive representation means and why it matters. Steele’s research explores how creating casts that are primarily comprised of people of color, including Asian, Black, and Latinx actors, can have positive effects in the television industry. At the same time, his work informs us about how to be more critical of our own viewing experiences, offering us a more nuanced understanding of representation. His presentation will analyze popular shows such as “Black-ish” and “Fresh Off the Boat” to speak on both how the television industry is making progress and where can we still strive to improve.

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