As a child, I remember watching Michael Keaton’s Batman, Christopher Reeve’s Superman and the 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles directed by Steve Barron. I remember causing mayhem in my parents living room jumping from sofa to sofa as The Man of Steel. Creeping up on my brother in the dark as The Caped Crusader. At school, me and a couple of friends would squabble over which Ninja Turtle we would be in the playground.
The wild imagination of a child can go far and beyond, but the difference in representation can be noticed even by a child. I used to love collecting Conan The Barbarian comics because they reminded me of my father. One day at school amongst other children in the playground I was told 'you can’t be Conan, you’re brown'. As silly as it may sound, it felt true to me as a child. How could I be someone that doesn’t look like me in any way shape or form; not even by his skin complexion? I remember coming home that night and flipping through my comics trying to find a brown side-kick of Conan’s. I wanted to feel included, but luck had it Conan is more of a one-man army; this devastated me.
I loved movies growing up, so my father would take me to the local video shop and he would let me buy one video. On a Sunday evening we would watch movies such as; Home Alone, The Goonies, Ghostbusters and Rocky. They are all great movies and a huge part of my childhood, but it still left me wondering. Why are people who look like me not in these iconic movies? Let’s be honest, the number of arguments you would have with your friends about who was which Ghostbuster. ‘No one wants to be Winston, man.’ (Stranger Things Two – Lucas).
As a child or adolescent growing up you look for role models and people you wish to be like. It becomes part of your identity and naturally, a lot of children steer towards heroes. Fighting bad guys and saving the world is pretty much the coolest thing one can do. Ultimately regardless of skin colour, faith or even gender. Children of all backgrounds should be able to feel included and be allowed to let their imagination expand as far and wide as it possibly can.
Luckily as the world is changing and entertainment is becoming more diverse, we are seeing more BAME characters, we can choose to be and imagine. From the likes of Black Panther, The King of Wakanda and Miles Morales the Ultimate Spider-Man a half-Hispanic, half-African American student, to the son of Apollo Creed, Adonis Creed in the spin-off of Rocky, they have all given us a new underdog to love, believe in and become.