Are We Doing Enough To Embrace And Value Diversity In Animation?

diversity in animation

21st Jul 2016

Are We Doing Enough To Embrace And Value Diversity In Animation?

It’s been a while since I posted something.

Usually, my process around posting is quite straightforward, I get an email off Mary our marketing manager reminding me to post something and on the day I have to post I rush to get something down as quickly and decently as possible then send it on to Mary who corrects all my dyslexic mistakes (thanks, Mary). Mary’s strategy with me is simple, keep at me until I am posting consistently on my own without her having to remind me.

But this post is different….it's not the straightforward blog post. I haven't been avoiding it, I have been scratching my head on how to write it without offending anyone, sounding condescending or devaluing myself. This post is about diversity so now I am a white man and I am now going to attempt to write about diversity so automatically no matter what, this post is going to be condescending to some. This is not my intention.

To put myself in context I am from the northside of Dublin Ireland, that alone for some is a reason to judge. I am from a decent family where all my life both parents worked hard all their lives to give me a good one. If you ever meet me, you will quickly realise that I have the thickest Dublin accent ever, making me almost impossible to understand. I have difficulty reading and spelling, I love being creative, entrepreneurship and I am not sporty at all. In school, I was called stupid and I was never the biggest, most handsome or funniest. I am also now the Managing Director of Treehouse Republic.

What has this got to do with diversity you might ask? Well, I wanted to establish where I used to come from in my thinking.

I had challenges and I overcame them so it used to be my belief that the diversity issue was that no one ever saw the challenges I had to overcome. I have had people say to me ‘it is ok for you, you’re a man’, I would think what has that got to with anything? But that is not the diversity issue, that is just a symptom of it. The real problem is that diversity is not a normality. We speak about diversity truly because we have to. It's not about one gender, belief, pigmentation or heritage etc. over another, it's about creating normality of the belief that these descriptors of individuality are simply a reference to who someone is, not what they can do.

A few weeks ago I attended the Children’s Media Conference in Sheffield. The keynote speaker was a poet (yes a poet) called Lemn Sissay. Lemn’s speech was powerful.(You can read this summary on the CMC site). I don’t know how he used his words in a way that made me see things differently. His childhood story was tragic but the result was someone unique and different who could communicate from the outside looking in. You can watch his Ted talk on his childhood to get an idea of what his life has been like and how powerful a speaker he is.

 

Towards the end of the speech he spoke of Floella Benjamin, how she was the only black face on TV when he was a kid and what that meant to him as the only black child in a white village in England. It meant he wasn't alone, it meant that there were possibilities, and normality is what you make it.

Floella Benjamin, Playschool

Just as Mary pushes me every week to write a blog post until I am doing it consistently the diversity has to be pushed until it has become a normality. Are any of us there yet? It's hard to tell but it's not about perfection, it’s about progress and the consistent little steps we make towards it. We already have Kavaleer doing some great work telling empowering stories on disability and gender. As well as the success of Punky from Geronimo. But there is a long way to go. Ultimately diversity is one of the drivers of creativity, bringing great ideas from different places requires the collaborative mindsets of people in different places. The content we produce can only benefit from a drive to embrace diversity in our content and in our creative teams. As content creators, we have the ability to create powerful and positive role models empowering the generations to come. But this ability comes down to the choice to first and foremost decide that as creators we should make this happen.

Next week

Something a little bit lighter.

Stephen