Who is Grace? From a stranger’s perspective, I may only be a white female with blonde hair and a loud voice. I know, of course, that there are so many more components that together make me Grace Summers Bain. I know that I was born on August 17, 1999, in Atlanta, Georgia to Susan and PJ Bain. I know that I was raised Christian. I know that my father’s hard work pulled our family from a middle-class position to an upper one. I know that I am a straight female that lacks any handicaps (although, I also know that I have a weaker heart and athletic ability than the majority of my peers, as years of physical education in primary school taught me and will forever leave me haunted). These components include those from the “wheel of identities.”
While I do think these facets are incredibly important in understanding who someone is, they do not tell much about personality or how a person actually acts. One thing I have learned in my 19 years on this earth is that experiences are what truly shape a person. When I look back on my life and think about who I am today, I think about how I am a journalism major at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. I think about how I was a spring admit to USC and studied abroad my first semester in Rome. I think about the different jobs I had in high school, the sports I tried out for, the service opportunities I’ve participated in, my ten years of piano lessons, and the time I started Friends Club in high school, where students would gather around to eat Chick-Fil-A and watch Friends. There are so many different aspects that make someone who they are. We can try to create a “wheel of identities” to better organize and understand one another’s identities, but for me, understanding another person is more about understanding their experiences and story. Nevertheless, we can use the components from the “wheel of identities” to comprehend how parts of one’s identity may play in a role in shaping parts of their story.
In regards to media representation, it should be no surprise that I feel plenty related-to as a white, straight, American female. As a little girl, I felt a strong tie to the Disney princesses, especially Cinderella (since we shared the same hair color). Cinderella probably receives the most attention out of the princesses and is always stationed in the center when the princesses are displayed together. Thanks to this representation, I thought I was so special because I could relate to this character, even if only through skin and hair color.
The Disney Princesses
As I grew older and consumed more media, though, I started to see my personality reflected through different television and movie characters, as well. My family used to gather every Wednesday night to watch Modern Family. I related heaviest to the two teenage girls in the family, obviously. My family actually often held discussions concerning how I was a good mix between Alex and Haley Dunphy. Like Alex, I worked hard at school and took care of my responsibilities. Like Haley, however, I could sometimes be rebellious towards my parents and prioritize having fun over everything else.
Haley and Alex Dunphy from Modern Family
Playing these types of games were fun and made me feel less alone in the world. There are other people out there like me! I understand I am quite privileged to feel this way, as not everyone may get to. On the other hand, sometimes portrayals of other teenage girls within the media hold a more negative connotation. They may seem moody, dumb, or completely irresponsible. Take Jackie from That ‘70s Show, for example. She was incredibly annoying! Talk about a bad rep for teenage girls… In addition, sometimes I feel too related-to, making me feel more “basic” or “mainstream” and less unique or extraordinary. Overall, there are certainly both pros and cons in regards to representation in the media. Sometimes I feel heard and understood, while other times I feel stereotyped or devalued. For the sake of progress and advancement, I believe there should be more media representation that makes members of minority groups feel heard and understood, while there should be a move away from degrading groups of people.