‘Well, there was no 33 year old blond left-handed short dyslexic person in this story, so I had no one to identify with.’
For children, representation is the most beautiful thing we can do. To them, Obama’s Obama, not the first African-American President. They’ll notice he’s black, but to them it won’t be as dramatic as it was for us. To them, the Ghostbusters are the Ghostbusters, and they’re all female. They may have a vague notion of the previous one, but the all-female remake will still be the one they are more likely to watch.
Children are curiously misinformed, as we all are. Despite how much information they’re given through history, they’re still going to perceive the world in a different way. Which is why representation is important, as their values and opinions and ethics are going to be formed by what they read and what they watch.
And we’re not just letting them see themselves. We’re letting them see their best friend. Their teacher. The postman. Everyone’s race, and everyone’s profession, and each representation is colorful and different and unique, bringing them into an environment where people are people, and not just defined by their race or gender.
And that’s why it’s also important that we stop the token female character. When you add a single female character to a story, it begins to say a lot about the entire gender. If she’s got only female characteristics, is the author implying that male characteristics in a female are bad? If she hasn’t, the character’s conforming to the same personality as the rest of the males in the book. Pepper your story with girls, because we’re 50% of the population, and stop the media and its definition of the female demographic as a single entity. A lot of people- not just children need to find that equality and identification, and what better way to do that than to fill your story, or movie, or book, or TV show with diversity?