REPRESENTATION MATTERS

It’s been just over a week since FIRST DAY premiered on ABC ME on Wednesday 11 October and was simultaneously released on ABC iView. While it’s too early for official aggregated ratings, there was a great deal of buzz leading into the release and the feedback we’ve received has been overwhelmingly positive.

While there were inevitably some who argued that a show about a transgender girl was inappropriate programming for the ABC (and I’m putting that nicely given the majority of the negative comments didn’t even make logical sense and were clearly made by people who hadn’t watched the show), there was an incredible amount of support from the transgender and LGBTQIA+ community and the wider community as a whole. Here are some of the comments from those who watched FIRST DAY:

Just watched 'First Day' and was so overjoyed to see such a positive representation of what a day in the life of a transgender young person could look like! Will be watching it again with my children tomorrow, please please turn this into a series.

Watched First Day, a small 20min film on ABC Me/iView. Fantastic, thank you. Not enough words. ❤ This was the most amazing viewing. Thank you for broadcasting such wonderful content. Will this be picked up as a series? How can we get this to be an ongoing series?!? This is the kind of fabulous content our world needs right now. Xx.

I've just watched this short film and I cannot recommend it highly enough. It's a masterpiece in empathy and how you can use a piece of art to help people think differently about someone or something.

I think it's an incredibly powerful story and I'm so grateful for this opportunity to spend a moment seeing life through Hannah's eyes.

As a Trans woman myself this beautiful bright young actress is absolutely the most remarkable young person I've heard in years ❤ My heart is warm and my soul is alive seeing this.

What a brilliant concept! Not a single show like it around. 100% needs to be made into a regular series. Thanks ABCme. This is going to be such a positive important show.

More please! Well made, interesting and inclusive - so good to see broader representation of our kids. Make this a series asap!!

Thankyou abc! This made me almost cry. I have a 9 yr old m to f trans daughter and the idea of going to high school scares us both. I loved so much how this was done!

Absolutely loved this! Would be amazing to see this made as a series so that other children just like this character are able to see a representation of others like them which we currently don't have in Australia. Well done Evie and well done abcme.

It feels indulgent to include these comments here and it’s not something I would normally do, but as I was reading them I was reminded of the importance of representation on screen and why representation matters now more than ever.

When we don’t see ourselves and people like us reflected in the media it affects the way we feel about ourselves and the way we see the world. The message is that we’re invisible, that we don’t count, or worse still, there’s something wrong with us. We begin to wonder about our place in society and if we’re valued as a person.

Stories shape the way we see the world and the way we see ourselves. The Geena Davis Institute has conducted extensive research into the representation of women and girls on screen in the belief that “if she can see it, she can be it”. But the importance of representation goes beyond that for members of the LGBTQIA+ community, people of colour, and those of varied abilities. For many it is a lifeline. It helps our world to open up and reminds us we’re not alone. For LGBTQIA+ people in particular, seeing someone like them represented on screen can help make sense of how they’re feeling. It can give them the vocabulary and the impetus they need to start the conversation they’ve been too afraid to have.

Of course, the type of representation matters. If a character is merely defined by their ‘otherness’ and is used solely as a plot device, it can be more damaging than helpful. We need representation of complex characters who are three-dimensional human beings and being transgender, lesbian, gay, bisexual, a person of colour, someone of varied ability, or god forbid, a woman, is only one aspect of the character and not their defining feature. This not only benefits those finally seeing themselves represented, but also creates empathy within the wider audience.

There is also an unequivocal demand for more varied content and greater diversity of stories and characters on screen. This is why more people are accessing content online where traditional gatekeepers have been abolished and a wider variety of stories are being told. In an industry that has always been more show business than art, it makes sense financially to tell more diverse stories. The industry is changing, but the change is slow and a void remains waiting to be filled.

Stories are powerful and have the potential to create change - now more than ever.

In the lead up to the release of FIRST DAY and in the time that followed, a number of people commented on how much it meant to them to see a show like this on the ABC, our national broadcaster. While current technology means we can scour the internet and happen across someone like us, the fact remains that we shouldn’t have to. Yes, things are changing, but this change needs to happen more quickly. Representation matters and it matters across all forms of media. We all deserve to see ourselves reflected back at us, and at others, in mainstream as well as online content. The power of representation and the potential it offers for change means it’s too important to be left to chance.

By Julie Kalceff

 

 PHOTO CREDIT: NICK PROKOP PHOTOGRAPHY

PHOTO CREDIT: NICK PROKOP PHOTOGRAPHY