Uncovering Implicit Bias
Leaving your blind spots in the dark negatively influences your work and your viewers, but there are ways to infuse more authenticity and humanity into your characters.
You're biased & so am I.
It is not easy to identify and face your own biases, especially while clinging to the belief that you don’t have them. However, you have them and so do I. We learn to categorize at an early age which saves us time and energy, but it also leads to biases against people based on arbitrary attributes. Studies show most implicit biases are beliefs and ideas that go against our personal values and morals making them more difficult to recognize. It’s okay and it’s not our fault, but it is our responsibility to relinquish ourselves from the systems and structures that have deeply embedded biases into our subconscious.
Most of us know when our conscious-biased thoughts and feelings about people are “wrong” or “politically incorrect”, so we don’t say them or act on them. But what about feelings that influence our behavior and our work that are implicit/unconscious?
It often takes someone outside of us and our daily circle of friends and associates to illuminate our blind spots. Studies show most implicit biases are beliefs and ideas that go against our personal values and morals. This makes them even more difficult to spot. However, once light is shed on those blind spots, we can move forward deliberately and with consideration.
For creators, this does not always mean removing something from your work. Purposefully including ideas and viewpoints in a strategic and meaningful manner rather than having unconsciously written in stereotypes based on implicit biases will elevate your work. .
For production companies, biases within the team can surface and be exacerbated by issues brought up in the show coupled with high pressure, long hours on set. Assessing the team to pinpoint potential issues before they become problematic during the next phase of production is key. Additionally, guiding everyone down a path of more empathy, understanding, and clarity surrounding diversity in the script and within the team can help expand perspectives.
For producers and networks, bringing biases out in the open and addressing them means some hard, continual, and cumulative work to ensure standards, practices, and the structure within the institution are inclusive and equitable. Those who hold the most power and agency should be encouraged to do necessary deep, internal work aimed at uncovering instances where being part of the dominant/privileged group personally and/or at work has created unconscious inequities. This standard of doing business can keep networks locked into a way of operating that leaves out people with a variety of backgrounds through biased hiring practices, lack of information and power sharing, and creating a culture in which only those who assimilate are truly accepted.
The media is a quick and effective educator.
Television and film can reach massive amounts of people in the blink of an eye. It has the ability to educate and inspire on a mass scale, but it can also reinforce unconscious biases. It's important that creators and writers humanize and empower diverse characters in their scripts and that production teams and networks identify issues and adjust their strategies as leaving these issues unaddressed can affect the end product.
Representations we see on television influence how we see ourselves in the world and how we view each other. There’s a lot of power in that. In what ways have we let our biases influence our story and effect our viewers without even knowing it?