Representation: Why It's So Important to See Ourselves in the Media

On May 18th, LUPride hosted a lecture surrounding the topic of representation and mental health. Our guest lecturer was Marie-Diane Grouchka, a psychotherapist who recently completed her training and wrote her Master’s thesis on the effects of positively-percieved representation of queer women in the media on their mental health.

Marie-Diane explained the various models of identity development as pertaining to the LGBTQ community. She said she specifically wanted to focus on women for various reasons, the most important of which are that 1) queer women have to deal with both homo/bi/transphobia and misogyny overall; and 2) that though in the recent years the media has been more welcoming of female actors, the majority of speaking roles in major motion pictures remain unevenly skewed in the favor of cis men.

A large part of the lecture was dedicated to discussing minority stress and how it can be reduced using two important resources: social support (which, in some cases, is the local queer community like LUP) and a positive minority identity, wherein the person in question is at ease with being who they are and can withstand social and personal stressors. These are the things that can help combat the devastating statistics which describe the mental well-being of LGBTQ+ people all over the world: higher rates of depressive/anxiety disorders, higher rates of suicide, unemployment… the list goes on.

Marie-Diane explained her research and talked about the various ways in which the female or female-aligned participants of her study related and interacted with the representation they saw on-screen. The most important takeaway, she says, is that representation needs to be realistic enough to be emotionally engaging so that the person watching the show/movie is able to relate to the material and internalize the positive aspects of it. Of course, she says, we could also do with more happy endings, and with fewer tropes; and though the media has been increasingly more diverse and welcoming, there is still much work to be done. Using the example of Lexa from The 100, Marie-Diane explained the importance of positive showrunner/fandom interactions, and how queer women, in general, are quite sick and tired of the characters they relate to most getting killed off or not getting a happy ending.

In the end, all minorities deserve to be better and more accurately represented on-screen. The time has passed in which the Western world is able to pretend that White, cis, and straight is the only way to go. Letting queer people write and live their own stories is just as important, in order to build a healthier, more balanced society.

We thank everyone who came to our lecture and hope to see you soon at the next ones! To read more about Marie-Diane and her work, please click here.