White-washing in Quebec entertainment
Last week, the trailer for Squad 99, an adaptation of the famous Brooklyn 99 show, has been called-out for its white-washing. In a highly controversial decision, the show’s producers decided to change the roles of Amy Santiago and Rosa Diaz, two prominent Brooklyn 99 characters, to roles of Quebec women. This is not the first time that the Quebec media sphere has been accused for its lack of diversity. With current social movements, such as Black Lives Matter, the Quebec population is more aware of the injustices that BIPOCs (black, Indigenous and people of colour) encounter during their life and the lack of media representation is one of them.
The importance of representation
According to Carlos Cortes, a historian and author of “The Children Are Watching: How the Media Teach About Diversity“, the media educates the public about minorities and ethnic groups. In addition, the media not only influence how members of minorities are perceived, but also how they perceive themselves. Media representation is therefore essential. Mélanie Riel (artists’ agent) also deplores the fact that Quebec entertainment does not adequately represent urban areas and focuses more on rural populations.
A multicultural province not represented
In Quebec, we are fortunate to be a multicultural province where more than 15% of the population comes from visible minorities. On the Island of Montreal, this percentage rises to 25%. Yet this reality is very weak (even absent) within our entertainment. Several scandals on this subject have emerged in recent years. A few months ago, the nominations for the Gala Artis created strong reactions for their lack of their diversity. . The SLAV theatrical production was canceled after numerous complaints that the production steeped in African-American slave traditions but was carried out by a white cast.
In Escouade 99’s case, it is possible to understand that the two Latinas roles did not represent the Quebec population as well as that of Brooklyn. Despite the fact that Quebec City has a small Hispanic population, these roles could have been adapted as characters from another significant visible minority in Quebec, as underlined by Melissa Fumero, the actress that plays Amy Santiago in Brooklyn 99.
This lack of representation is nothing new, but the release of Escouade 99’s trailer once again illustrates the lack of fair representation of Quebec society.