The young people have spoken — and it’s good news. A recent survey conducted on behalf of Netflix found that young American viewers are seeing their lives and identities reflected more and more in TV and film. Earlier on Tuesday, Mindy Kaling (Executive Producer, Never Have I Ever), Jonathan Entwistle (Co-Creator / Director / Executive Producer, I Am Not Okay With This), Robia Rashid (Creator/Showrunner/Executive Producer, Atypical) and Jessica Marie Garcia (On My Block) discussed the impact of these findings at an intimate lunch alongside Brian Wright, Netflix’s Vice President of YA/Family Original Series and Bela Bajaria, Netflix’s Vice President of Local Language Originals.
According to the study, 63% of young people felt that TV series and movies more accurately reflect daily life. They also believe that the portrayals of diverse characters are on the rise compared to a few years ago. On top of that, the study found that the hashtag #RepresentationMatters rings very true as 53% of those surveyed said that their favorite TV series and movies have changed their perspective on self-acceptance and self-esteem.
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“More people deserve to see their lives represented on screen, including young people,” said Wright. “Coming of age happens to all of us no matter who you are or what your background is, and we’ve tried to reflect that in our series for young audiences, including On My Block, Atypical, and the upcoming shows I Am Not Okay With This and Never Have I Ever, among others.”
The study comes from the consumer research software platform Suzy, which conducted the study from February 18 to 21 of this year and is based on over 1100 responses from a pool of evenly split young men and women between the ages of 14-24. The pool consisted of people from various ethnic backgrounds and was representative of all four regions in the United States. All respondents were required to have internet access and to have watched a TV show or movie at home on any platform in the last month.
In addition, the youth of America sees the importance of a story’s universal appeal rather than where it comes from. The study found that 56% of young consumers don’t think it’s important that the characters they watch on screen are from their own country. Inclusive storytelling of diverse lifestyles continues to speak to the importance of representation as 53% believe that their favorite TV shows and movies have changed their perspective when it comes to understanding people from backgrounds different from their own.
“These numbers are encouraging and reflect what we see on Netflix, which is our members’ willingness to explore other cultures by sampling shows in languages other than their own,” Bajaria points out. “Netflix connects teens all over the world because some rites of passage are universal, such as self-discovery, identity, first
relationships, and testing limits — but the stories need to be specific, authentic and local.”
The new survey comes after an array of cautiously optimistic reports and studies about diversity and inclusion in Hollywood were released. At the top of 2020, Dr. Stacy L. Smith and the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative released a research brief that revealed 10.6% of the directors of 2019’s top movies were women, marking the highest percentage of female directors in the top films in 13 years — but it still could be higher. USC also teamed with Time’s Up for another study titled “Inclusion at Film Festivals” which was released during Sundance. Despite an uptick of diverse films at the Park City fest, the study found that there is still a common pattern of a lack of women and people of color in film festivals around the world. Most recently,
UCLA released its Hollywood Diversity Report which found a glaring absence of women and people of color in top studio positions amidst a boost of representation in front of the camera. This new study from Netflix hits a brighter note and, in fact, shows that perhaps we should look to young America when it comes to proper representation and inclusion on TV and film.