Not All Media is Made For Everyone

Alice in Wonderland book cover
Alice in Wonderland was written for children. Many adults enjoy it, but we’re not who the book was written for.

Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why was written for atheists. Some religious believers may find it informative and useful, it may help them understand and support the atheists in their life, but they’re not who the book was written for.

The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability was written for disabled people who have sex or intend to. It says so, in the description: “The first complete sex guide for people who live with disabilities, pain, illness, or chronic conditions.” Other people might find it informative, but it’s not written for us.

Playboy is published for men. It says “Entertainment For Men” right on the cover. Some women might enjoy it, but we’re not who it’s made for.

Sesame Street is made for children. Adults might enjoy it — stoners have a long tradition of enjoying TV made for kids — but it’s not made for us.

The AARP magazine is written for people over 50. What To Expect When You’re Expecting is written for pregnant people and their partners. The Advocate is written for TBLG people. Remodelista was written for homeowners, architects, and designers. The 700 Club is made for Christians. 501 English Verbs was written for people who are learning English.

And of course, there are all sorts of examples I can’t think of — because they weren’t made for me, and I’m not familiar with them. There’s music made for people who dance at nightclubs. There are video games made for kids with ADHD. There are technical videos on how to repair your Jaguar.

A huge amount of media is made for specific audiences. In fact, a case could be made that just about all media is made for specific audiences — the people who will get the cultural references, who have the money to pay for it, who have the technology needed to access it (digital music isn’t made for Kalahari Bushmen), who speak the language.

So why do people flip their shit when they hear that Beyoncé’s Lemonade, or other media, is made for black people?

White people are used to everything being made for us. The overwhelming majority of media is made with predominantly white faces, white characters, white bodies. White people are depicted with variety and nuance, while people of color are largely depicted in a handful of stereotypes. We’re used to being treated as the default: being treated as the default is the air we breathe, so omnipresent we don’t even have to think about it. We often assume that media made for white people is made for all people.

And it’s uncomfortable as shit to hear about this. Lots of white people don’t like thinking about the realities of race and racism. Once you recognize this reality, you’re morally obligated to do something about it. And when you accept that some media is made for people who aren’t white, you have to recognize this reality. You have to accept that black-oriented media is reasonable because most media is made for specific audiences, and most of those audiences are white.

That’s hard to accept. It’s easier to keep pretending that all media is made for everyone, and that making any media for non-white people is racist.

That’s why I keep talking about this, why lots of us keep talking about this. If it’s irritating, that’s by design. We have to make it harder to deny reality than it is to recognize it.

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Not All Media is Made For Everyone
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One thought on “Not All Media is Made For Everyone

  1. 1

    I largely agree with your analysis, but I think it’s a complicated things when not talking about niche products like home owner magazines or travel guides but popular culture mass production items.
    Beyoncé’s impact relies on her popularity among mixed audiences world wide. If she weren’t people wouldn’t even care about the statement that “Lemonade” was only for Afro Americans.

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