Tens of thousands of people across the globe have been marching to protest the inauguration of Donald Trump, and the harmful racist, patriarchal and misogynistic systems he represents. People from all walks of life are walking to show resistance and to promote equality and change. Whilst I wholeheartedly support everyone who is out there marching, not all of us are able to join them, and have to find our own way of resisting.
Online activism is one of the most prominent ways that those unable to physically protest participate; whether through signing petitions, sharing accurate information and resources, educating themselves and others, supporting independent feminist media or ‘just’ by creating inclusive, affirmative online communities.
Another way that we can all show solidarity, and work towards the ultimate goal of an equal and diverse society is by choosing the media we consume and support. Every time we stream a TV show or buy a cinema ticket we are voting with our wallets (the only language a capitalist society recognises) to maintain the kind of storytelling we’re watching. This can be a powerful weapon for good or ill; do you want to perpetuate gross stereotyping and hegemonic (the dominant, usually heavily biased) narratives? Do you want stories that celebrate you, your friends, your children? Or do you want see yet another girlfriend killed to advance the plot of the men in her life? Another bisexual character shown to be a predatory cheater? More mentally ill folk vilified as dangerous, even less disabled characters seen on screen, an Oscars chock full of talented actors of colour confined to playing slaves and minor supporting roles?
I’ve talked before about the role of media in normalising and encouraging understanding, and as affirmation for those who otherwise rarely see themselves represented on screen, as well as the very real harm tropes can do (full article here). It is a radical act to create shows that challenge the norm, and normalise and celebrate the different. It is also radical to support this kind of media, so here is a very small selection for your education, enjoyment and to help you fight the power.
Film, in UK cinemas now
Based on real life, this tells the previously unheard stories of three genius mathematicians, Dorothy Vaughn, Mary Jackson, and Katherine Johnson were integral to NASA’s 60s space program. These African-American women overcame racial, gender and professional bias to help realise one of humanity’s greatest achievements; launching an astronaut into space, and guaranteeing his safe return.
Why It’s Radical:
I cannot wait to go and see this film.Starring three supremely talented women in Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monaé, it’s about time mainstream cinema caught up and let more black women actors shine in complex, exciting and empowering roles. It’s so so important that we recognise the astounding achievements of women, especially in fields dominated by men, especially women from marginalised groups. Only by seeing diverse and intersectional role models can we empower children to imagine themselves achieving their full potential, whatever their strengths and interests. Too long have these real historical figures been missing, or at best an afterthought, in the history of the space race. Take the children in your life to see this film, and maybe between this and Ghostbusters we’ll see a plethora of women revolutionising in STEM in the next decade.
Cartoon TV Series, Cartoon Network
In this cartoon, a magical half-human half-alien boy called Steven lives with his alien family of ‘moms’; Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl. Known as the Crystal Gems, together they defend Earth as Steven learns how to use his inherited powers, and teaches the Gems about life, death, love and birth and peace on the planet earth.
Why It’s Radical:
This colourful little animated show on Cartoon Network is hands-down my favourite thing on TV right now, perhaps ever. It’s relentless optimistic, yet never simplistic, honest but never cynical; it’s some of the most beautifully purely-intentioned media I’ve ever experienced. The creator and show-runner Rebecca Sugar is a queer woman, and there’s a fantastic, talented and diverse team behind the show and their genuine love and enthusiasm for it just radiates from it. The main cast are predominantly women of colour, including British singer Estelle (Garnet), Broadway star Deedee Magno Hall (Pearl), talented voice actor Michaela Dietz (Amethyst) and providing breakout roles for Jennifer Paz (Lapis Lazuli) and my main babe Shelby Rabara (Peridot). Even Nicki Minaj has a cameo as a giant purple space woman wielding a flail. The show tackles extremely complex and sensitive issues (including but not limited to; PTSD, abusive relationships, prejudice, homophobia and guilt) and despite its 10 minute per episode running time, handles these topics with tact compassion, and the character development better than most shows on TV. It encourages empathy and tolerance and understanding, and if those aren’t radical I don’t know what is. It’s also super fun, and has songs that will make you laugh and cry. If only more TV was made like this, I guarantee you the world would be a better place.
TV series, The CW
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a musical-comedy series currently airing its second season on the CW (available on Netflix). Rebecca Bunch was working hard in a New York job; she was making (metaphorical) dough but it made her blue. One day she was crying a lot, and so she decided to move to West Covina, California; brand new pals and new career! It happens to be where (her ex) Josh lives, but that’s not why she’s there…
Why It’s Radical:
There is an inordinate amount of stigma in our society surrounding mental illness, and even as it becomes more acknowledged and talking about, there is still something taboo about admitting (see! Even the language we associate with it is guilt-ridden!) you’re struggling with anxiety or depression, or any form of mental illness, certainly compared to society’s reactions to explaining you’re struggling with a (temporary) physical illness. Rachel Bloom, multi-skilled actress/writer/comedian/singer/performer/YouTube star is refreshingly open about explaining the influence of her experience with depression and anxiety the show she co-created and stars in. Despite the dubious title, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend finds comedy through situations and spot on observations that ring painfully and hilariously true, all the while taking mental illness (a major theme in the show) seriously. It takes tired tropes from romantic comedies, and examines how the motivations behind someone doing these things is likely due to them being deeply unhappy. It’s not for everyone, but for those who like their comedy a little dark, a little edgy and a lot musical theatre, you’ll find a lot that resonates. It’s also very casually radical, which is fantastic; women have genuine friendships with each other that have issues aside from jealousy; a mature male character comes out as bisexual and its acknowledged (with a song nonetheless) but never questioned, and he and his new boyfriend get sweet moments of character development; the curvy main character is an undoubtedly presented as a sexy woman but she’s also shown in unsexy situations (without make up, being ill, literally on the toilet) which normalises her but never suggests she’s undesirable. These little moments are such a breath of fresh air, and I hope this show continues to be this radical, as well as screamingly funny.
Words by Heidi Teague
The UK's first Career & Lifestyle Magazine for women in the Creative and Media industries.