More recent offerings like Hulu’s Ramy, Netflix’s Always Be My Maybe and Cartoon Network’s Victor and Valentino are continuing the trend of diverse long-form storytelling. Ramy highlights the Millennial and cultural angst of the title character negotiating life as a Muslim American. Dating, a flashback episode to 9/11 and the tribulations of an intergenerational family living under one roof are all navigated at a rare depth. Always Be My Maybe is a romantic comedy centered on the friendship and eventual relationship of two Asian characters in San Francisco. Challenging the “model minority” myth and confronting San Francisco gentrification and displacement makes the familiar rom-com formula feel fresh. Finally, Victor and Valentino focus on the animated adventures of two Latino brothers on vacation in a surreal town layered in Meso-American/indigenous traditions.
The revolutionary nature of these shows is in the commitment to give audiences both uniquely cultural perspectives and universal human truths. The bubbles that we live in are pierced when new stories and worldviews are introduced. Networks are increasingly practicing this and leaving behind marketers who haven’t gotten the memo. Talking about the merits of storytelling while failing to build teams that can authentically craft them is a huge misstep when audiences have shown diverse stories are what they are hungry for.
Skeptics would say that debating the merit of content and whether it is diverse or not is a moot point. They will raise questions as to whether or not it matters or moves the dial in terms of perception. In response, it has been proven that increased exposure to new people and communities can build empathy. Empathy is crucial toward creating the type of meaningful relationships that marketers crave. The release of controversial and racist film Birth of a Nation reinforced the racist thinking of the day and led to a resurgence of the terrorist organization, the KKK, and racial violence. If you pretend the stories we tell and the content we consume don’t matter, then it’s choosing to be willfully naïve. Marketers have an opportunity to make their work matter and making room at the table for diverse voices is a significant step in the right direction.
By Philip McKenzie
Appered first in Media Village