3. Be aware of cultural nuance
As highlighted in the Ipsos MORI Thinks report Gen Z: Beyond Binary, whether your content will be distributed locally or globally, it’s essential to consider that different cultures and audiences within the same market may be sensitive to different topics and representations.
It is important to remember that within each culture there is a significant amount of nuance. For example, the ‘Black community’ do not all behave the same way, have the same views, interests, desires, beliefs and practices. This type of over simplification lacks depth, and at worst, can be perceived as ignorant. Other examples include the way food is prepared and eaten, family hierarchies, levels of strictness, and sexual orientation. These don’t always have to be manifested through the lead characters, but subtle references can go a long way to delight audiences while also educating and exposing newer audiences to cultural practices unfamiliar to them.
Cultural analysis with consumers can help discover and develop detail and nuance of character portrayals and authentic, culturally attuned behaviours that make a difference in relaying an accurate portrayal. HBO’s series Insecure is a brilliant example of a fresh, modern, layered and accurate portrayal of Black characters. The series tackles everything from race relations and the gender pay gap to the fetishisation of the Black body. The series has been successful in opening up Black, female-led stories to a much wider audience, with up to 61% of US viewers being non-Black. This demonstrates the power of representative content and the power it has to educate and inform.
By the nature of its work, the media industry has the ear of the nation, which is a very powerful place to be. It has the power and the responsibility to not perpetuate stereotypes but reflect the depth and multifaceted nature of real people.
Enthralling, emotive and timeless stories alongside thrilling entertainment is what makes content memorable, creates ‘talk-ability’ and ultimately keeps audiences coming back. It is essential that those stories are thought-provoking, knowledge enriching and move beyond stereotypes to truly represent society accurately. As we continue to live in such complex and fragmented times, it is clear the power of storytelling to inform, educate and unite audiences has never been more important.