The mantra “stay in your lane” can render diversity as a tricky subject in pop culture and television.Yes. People have become more tolerant in the 21st century. However, marginalized characters can still appear as sidekicks and not get much screen time. One instance that comes to mind is Teddy Montgomery on the former CW show 90210. He didn’t get a lot of screen time after his character came out as gay. Sure, Teddy’s friends accepted him, but he was also delegated to the peripheral in Season 4 (the season after his coming out). Television shows need to portray that anyone of a marginalized background is still human and certainly more than a label. Someone’s marginalized background is only one snippet, just the beginning of the story.
On the other hand, the Netflix show Sense8 (which comes back on May 5 for the remaining episodes of season 2) gets diversity right. There’s an Asian character, African character, Indian character, American character, German character, transgender character, gay character, and Icelandic character. Sense8 is a great example of diversity as a result of being inclusive of all backgrounds. What’s even more important is that the characters that I just mentioned are all main characters that share the screen equally and are well-developed. That’s an important concept to realize because people need to learn to coexist and accept each other’s multifaceted identities.
Different backgrounds don’t have to be in competition with each other. The concept is especially important when one considers LGBTQ+ issues. For instance, the lesbian, gay, and bisexual parts of LGBTQ+ community don’t have to be in competition with transgender people and vice versa. Both coming out stories matter. Viewers see that in Sense8, the gay character Lito and the transgender character Nomi both get screen time with coming to terms with their identities. And that’s necessary because a show, book, or movie, would be lucky to tackle one of those issues. But that’s not an issue with Sense8: all are welcome. In a day and age where it feels like some people don’t understand how diversity conversations need to happen, that’s refreshing. Diversity isn’t some weird thing. It’s always been a part of life.