Sunday night, we witnessed a pretty massive shift in the world of entertainment. Surprisingly, it happened on a Hollywood awards show. We’ve all witnessed these shifts before, but they tend to be more gradual — little nudges and slow evolutions. But for one of the first times, it became very clear that a change was happening in front of all of our eyes.
Shows like "Transparent" and "Jane the Virgin" received some of the top honors of the night — stories that really had gone unnoticed by mainstream media until very recently.
It’s an empowering moment for women, the LGBT community, and really, nearly every ethnicity. After years and generations of going unnoticed, finally a mainstream, American cultural institution took notice and acknowledged that different is now not just a quirky little anomaly, but a true reflection of our society.
If you are a Caucasian, heterosexual male reading this and are befuddled by how/why this is even talk worthy, you’ve obviously never felt what it’s like to grow up in a world where you’re told by the media that you will never even be close to an ideal. It’s not even that you’re not beautiful — you are not society’s definition of "normal."
"Different" is a weight placed upon your shoulders at birth. It’s a weight you bear for your childhood and adolescence. It’s a weight you begin to deal with more directly as a young adult through your relationships and identity development. A weight you have to fully challenge and confront as a force in the workplace.
In the advertising and entertainment industries, we make culture (or try really hard to!). We must represent the people and forces around, or even (gasp), outside our little bubbles. We have gotten to a point where we know what "tests well" for movie focus groups and advertising — in the four major metros, with 18-to-34 year olds. Clearly, that won’t get you as far today; the bar is changing. If the major networks and makers of content don’t accept it, there are younger, less risk-averse platforms that are more than happy to take the challenge on.
The only major network to win an award yesterday was the CW. ABC, NBC, Fox and CBS were all shut out. Simply put: Change or Die. Netflix, Amazon and some of the cable networks are pushing boundaries and trying things others who are bound by the regimented systems of the past. The future of storytelling is heading down a new, more faceted path. The storytellers are changing. Four of the five comedy series nominees were also created by women.
The privileged, white male driven hegemony is slowly (but surely) coming undone. They are no longer setting the course of American culture. The little timer in our cultural history going off. And it’s pretty exciting.