Needing Cultural Diversity in the Media
By Kristin Micheletti
Growing up in a small, mountain town in California meant learning to appreciate the environment while having endless adventures at my fingertips. My world was diverse in nature, but limited in diversity of people. What I understood of the world and its many cultures came through my increasingly media-saturated life. My content but partial bubble was bursted on my first trip to Peru, and it opened a complicated yet intriguing Pandora’s box.
When I first travelled to Peru, I found myself with very restricted perceptions of what or who I might encounter. My expectations were built solely upon a narrow bedrock of history textbook facts. Unlike some European cultures I had been exposed to through the media, I knew little about modern Peru.
Traveling around the capital, Lima, I found that a media representation of culture existed, and was in fact thriving, but it was a one-sided dialogue. Billboards flooded the freeways with smiling faces of celebrities selling the next American product. I was on a different continent, yet I was being told to go eat at McDonalds. Similarly, the advertising used models that represented the desired American stereotype of beauty. Peruvians were being a sold a picture of American culture that was like my perception of Peru: narrowing.
In contrast, I have never seen a Peruvian commercial telling me where to eat or what to purchase. The problem of this media underrepresentation is a sharing of culture that flows in one direction- north to south. This allows stereotypes, based on facts and ignorance alike, to flourish. Peruvians are told a single American story whose narrative preaches the ideals of consumer culture. Similarly, a majority of Americans know little more than the Incan history of Peru. All types of media have the potential for different cultures to join in a positive aspect of globalization. Media platforms should be used as an opportunity to learn, but with a careful awareness of what message is being delivered.
As frequent consumers of media, we have the power to choose what we intake and how we interpret these messages. This global age of media offers a chance to embrace other cultures, especially when traveling somewhere might be physically impossible. Inclusive and equal marketing and media representation offers the opportunity to understand other cultures, which ultimately creates the chance for the development of empathy across national boundaries.