How Entertainment Is Becoming A Creative Form Of Activism
The Good Trade connected with leaders at the Social Innovation Summit 2019 to talk about how today’s organizations are shifting towards greater social impact. Here’s what we learned from some of the most influential leaders in the social impact space.
Entertainment & Culture
Are Inextricably Linked
We’re consuming—and sometimes even creating—entertainment every day in one form or another. And despite the oversaturation of streaming services and options available, it’s increasingly difficult for creative media to ignore today’s most pressing issues.
And the beauty of the evolving media landscape is that not all activism is explicit: we’re experiencing a subtle, creative shift that’s making an impact on the world beyond the screen.
While there are the well-known documentaries like The True Cost and An Inconvenient Truth that wear their activism proudly on their sleeves, others are more subtle. If you kick back for a casual superhero movie night, you may not immediately realize the momentum films like Black Panther or Spiderman: Into The Spiderverse are building. Because the way in which we tell stories—who we cast, how we portray them, and the promotion films like these get—is an important step in shifting the culture at large.
Entertainment builds empathy
“The entertainment industry is in a particularly powerful position to discuss social issues as they are highly skilled in narrative and storytelling,” says Jeffrey Burrell, Head of Social Impact at Riot Games. “From music, to video games, to art, and TV—all of these mediums help create rich experiences that can help create a deeper sense of empathy and connection to people we may have never met or come across in our day to day lives.”
This form of activism meets people where they’re at in their leisure time—whether that’s on a gaming platform, at a record-breaking movie premiere, or on a streaming platform in their home. Casual, entertaining media is a perfect way to expose audiences to ideas or storylines they might not seek out in the news, on social media, or in their own real-life communities.
Focusing on the storytellers
It’s not just about the stories we’re telling: it’s about who has the mic to tell the story. Rich stories that come from diverse perspectives are essential to changing the tide of social discourse. They connect us with realities that look different than our own, and give greater amplification to the communities that have long been silenced.
Free The Bid, a global movement, is an initiative aimed at increasing the number of female directors in TV and film. And in a push to include more women directors in their advertising, HP has stepped up as a partner with the organization.
“Partnerships that empower the voices of women and girls help us create lasting change,” says Joanna Popper, Global Head of Virtual Reality for Location Based Entertainment at HP, “and since joining forces with Free The Bid in 2016, the industry has increased its hiring and bidding of female directors by 400%.”
But there’s still work to do. There is still a push for truly balanced representation for actors of color and LGBTQIA actors in the film and television industry, rather than relying on tokenism or bare-minimum “diversity.” There’s conversations around films that do and do not pass the Bechdel test for women’s inclusion, and what that means about gender inequality in the industry.
Next time you sit down to start a new show, ask yourself what messages—good and bad—these shows are perpetuating. With so many enriching entertainment options available now, it’s important we view our media consumption with a critical eye. And it’s essential that we challenge our favorite creators to push for equality and inclusion in the media they create. Above all, we must continue to support storytellers from marginalized communities so that entertainment can, truly, be for everyone.
Emily Torres is the Managing Editor at The Good Trade. She’s a Los Angeles transplant who was born and raised in Indiana, where she studied Creative Writing and Business at Indiana University. You can usually find her reading or writing, caring for her rabbits, or practicing at the yoga studio. Say hi on Instagram!