On this edition of Parallax Views, Marcus Ryder, a media a UK-based representation/diversity expert and Head of External Consultancies for the Sir Lenny Henry Centre, recently gained a bit of notoriety or his critique of Disney’s live-action remake of The Little Mermaid. In a tweet and blog Ryder critiqued the movie for taking place in the 18th century Carribean, but ignoring the existence of slavery in that period. At the same time he said that he found the film’s normalization of black beauty standards, vis-a-vis it’s star Halle Berry as the titular character Ariel, and praised the film in other regards. Despite the positive sentiments Ryder expressed in addition to his criticism, the tweet/blog was met with backlash from both people who thought that in critiquing the movie he was downplaying it’s importance in regards media representation as well as a multitude of “anti-SJW” voices on social media who saw Ryder’s tweet/blog as another chance to push their culture war viewpoints. I’m editorializing a bit here, but I felt that the backlash obscured what Ryder’s actual thoughts were and the nature of his criticism. As such I invited him on my show to discuss this as well as his work on media representation, what media representation/media diversity is about, his thoughts about the attacks on media diversity/representation work by some political elements, and more.
Much of the conversation centers around what Ryder’s work entails and what we mean by media representation/diversity actually means. However, another issue we discuss in great depth is the issue of AI, with a focus on ChatGPT, and how it can actually reproduce or amplify dominant cultural biases and perspectives at the expense of perspectives and way of thinking. The final portion of the conversation deals largely with The Little Mermaid. We also touch upon how class and socioeconomic status should, in Ryder’s view, be part of media representation/diversity and how media representation/diversity should aim to be inclusive for all (ie: one type of diversity/representation doesn’t have to trump another; taking a holistic approach).