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September 29, 2017 4:38 PM   Subscribe

Mediaversity: TV & Film Graded on Diversity “Mediaversity was launched this past April as a passion project by Li Lai, a New York-based visual designer, who originally posted her reviews to Tumblr in December 2016. The site’s contributors review popular film and TV around 80 percent of the time, and lesser-known indie shows around 20 percent of the time. Lai, whose family is from Taiwan, tells The Verge that her social awareness is a result of “simply being alive for 32 years in this world as a woman of color and growing up with LGBTQ friends.” The site’s grading is evidence-based but often subjective, just as film and TV reviews are. Contributors assign numerical scores on a 5-point scale to various categories like writing quality, gender, race, and LGBTQ representation. A 3 out of 5 score means that while underrepresented minorities were portrayed respectfully, they still had less screen time and complexity than their non-minority counterparts. Then, the numerical scores are averaged to give each series an overall letter score from A through F.” [via: The Verge]
posted by Fizz (16 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
I can't deal with art dissected in this way. There are absolutely societal issues of race and gender that need repair, but this is absurd.
posted by davebush at 5:44 PM on September 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

Ummmm... wow. This site is a parody of itself. From their review of Moonlight:
Race: 5/5
The majority of people in this film were people of color, but I never thought of Moonlight as a “black” story, just a human one. Given the circumstances that Chiron is in, his character could have been any ethnicity and still rang true.

LGBTQ: 5/5
I have to admit, I was not expecting any LGBTQ representation as I started watching but was pleasantly surprised. It is not the focal point, but it is addressed. (Sorry, don’t want to give too much away.)
They also knocked a point from The Big Sick because the female character was in a coma for part of the movie and gave Get Out a B because the Allison Williams character was not "sympathetic" enough. I don't have words to respond to their review of Spider-Man Homecoming. I prefer diverse media too, but this is cynical, "I had a weird thing for lunch"-level subjective, and (I think) not actually going to help anyone?
posted by acidic at 5:55 PM on September 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

I think there's room for a site like this. It's already got me ideas on what shows to try next. I'd love to see how they grade The Expanse. There are plenty of review sites that dissect on genres and fashion and all kinds of semi-trivial points. Diversity is not trivial.
posted by rikschell at 6:10 PM on September 29, 2017 [9 favorites]

On the one hand, it's pretty hard on some shows I really like, and I don't agree with everything I've read, (offhand, I disagree strongly with their take on Kim Wexler in Better Call Saul), but on the other hand... I think it's really worth asking 'couldn't this show have had more representation?' Like... 'couldn't you make something as good as Stranger Things and include some LGBTQA characters?'

The answer should generally be yes, and having someone going ahead and systematically pointing that out seems like a good thing in principle.
posted by mordax at 6:57 PM on September 29, 2017 [13 favorites]

I'm with mordax on this one. Whether or not this site is perfect, it needs to exist.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:45 PM on September 29, 2017 [4 favorites]

It needs more varying opinions on the content... what's that called? Oh, yeah, diversity.
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:05 PM on September 29, 2017

I think there's room for a site like this.

So do I. I don't think that it's the be all and end all of film criticism, but it isn't claiming to be. I see a similarity to the Bechtel Test, it's giving (admittedly subjective) information about representation/diversity in specific works. I enjoyed Westworld and look forward to the next season (looking forward to the slave revolt!) But a lot of the focus is straight/white/male/not really diverse and I see why they gave it an F. I'm still going to watch it, but they are also right. A show/movie's rating on this site wouldn't necessarily make me decide whether or not to see a movie, but I appreciate the information and would let it inform my decision.

But if people do decide to use this site to decide what media to watch, where is the problem? How many comments have there been on Metafilter about people deciding to only read books by women or POC authors for a year. How many questions or comments have there been about good science fiction written by women or good YA books dealing with trans issues. People decide what to read or watch for all kinds of different reasons. If somebody is looking a show that's good with LGBTQ representation and race this looks like it would be helpful. There are movie review sites that cater specifically to parents that focus on scary/violent/sex/swears because that is something their user base particularly wants to know about. How is this different? I don't think that this is going to vivisect art.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 8:15 PM on September 29, 2017 [11 favorites]

Hmm, an excellent idea, but not great follow through. I'd give the initial offering a B-.

The need for more awareness of diversity in representation is acute, there's no questioning that, so the premise of the site and the noting of cast and crew make up is, I think, a good step in addressing that issue. However, the subjective element here is really a let down and works against the stated aims of the site. If the reader can't trust the subjective element it makes the objective accounting seem less reliable or comparatively less important than it should be.

Take this note from Cleverman for an example:

Cleverman has a unique concept: a sci-fi superhero show that tackles racism, using “Hairypeople” as allegory for indigenous Australians. "I wanted to create an Aboriginal superhero that [my son] could connect with," says creator Ryan Griffen, who is a self-professed “light-skinned Aboriginal person.

Unfortunately, as commendable this premise is, execution simply falls short. The writing is plodding, more entranced with painstakingly crafting its universe than telling a narrative. The lead character Koen (Hunter Page-Lochard) is an angst-ridden boy who lacks the charm of a successful anti-hero, and the physical depiction of Hairypeople is distractingly kitschy with their tufty, all-body fur, lacking the polish and broader appeal of more familiar humanoids as seen in, say, Teen Wolf or True Blood.

After noting the creator of the show's aims and his heritage, the reviewer then offers a take on the show that has little to do with representation, caught up instead in viewer pleasure. This isn't accounting for representation but putting on the hat of the traditional reviewer centric take which necessarily revolves around the person providing it. This is far from a Bechtel like test and in ways that aren't inspiring.

Even when they may be adhering more to a representation based process for their appraisals, they seem to be running into issues revolving around so many TV shows now being ongoing stories, where the premise is introduced and may contain some elements that are purposefully regressive, only to have those forces overthrown in later seasons of the show and develop a more progressive standard. Judging a story part way through runs into the reviewer either not acknowledging the possible directions the show could take, deciding the show now is what it always will be, or indulging in speculation without necessarily being adept at sussing out implications, which is reviewer dependent and requires some expertise that the site isn't demonstrating in adequate consistency so far.

It's the quality element in their "How we rate" section that seems to be causing the biggest issues for the reviews, which isn't helped by their secondary reliance on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic to work against bias, as those sources have it built in as well. It isn't that they shouldn't have reviews, some of them are quite good and we need better representation among reviewers as well as in films, but they would do well, I think, to separate the more objective raw diversity scores and basic accountings of plot and character from the more purely subjective review elements to better serve their purpose overall.
posted by gusottertrout at 9:06 PM on September 29, 2017 [9 favorites]

I wish they wouldn't include the quality numbering in their overall grading. They could keep it in there as a separate number for people, but it shouldn't count for the diversity grading.

Like, I absolutely get their Cleverman quality grade (the acting is uneven - some of the actors are fantastic, but some are clunkers JORAH ARGH and the writing is def uneven) but the quality grading drags it down when it definitely deserves a higher diversity grade.

Still, it's a really useful site. I use commonsensemedia a LOT to decide what to watch with my kids and I will bookmark this because looking at media through diversity is something I try to do when deciding on what to choose for them. There is so much media out there, I want to get them as many POC, queer and female voices as possible to balance the torrent of mainstream media they get by default.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 9:20 PM on September 29, 2017 [7 favorites]

As others have noted up above, I agree that this could definitely work better if it was more refined. Maybe just the first part of the review:
Title: Neo Yokio
Episodes Reviewed: S01E01 - S01E03
Creator: Ezra Koenig 👨🏼🇺🇸🌈
Writers: Ezra Koenig 👨🏼🇺🇸🌈 (6 eps), Nick Weidenfeld 👨🏼🇺🇸 (2 eps), and Alexander Benaim 👨🏽🇺🇸 (1 ep)
Gender: 1.75/5
Does it pass the Bechdel Test: NO
Races Represented: 👩🏾👨🏾👩 👩🏻👨🏻
LGBTQ: 1/5
I just quickly cut and paste, so it'd take some trial and error but it would work great as a twitter/tumblr account. A short summary with the major points of diversity listed so you could see how it holds up when compared with others. You could also generate some interesting statistical models this way as well, for the long term.
posted by Fizz at 5:00 AM on September 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'd also like to see the site start accumulating their scores by network, streaming service, studio, and so on. So the reader can see how well, say FX or Amazon is doing in these areas as that can be both a further guide for the viewer and put some added pressure on the companies.
posted by gusottertrout at 5:13 AM on September 30, 2017 [5 favorites]

I liked it. They talk, for instance, about how Brooklyn 99 is great on so many axes, but despite having nearly equal casting of men and women have men talking 80% of the time, something I also noticed. It's not perfect, sure, but it's interesting and informative.
posted by jeather at 10:28 AM on September 30, 2017 [6 favorites]

I can't deal with art dissected in this way. There are absolutely societal issues of race and gender that need repair, but this is absurd.

Why is it absurd?
posted by mrmurbles at 6:35 PM on October 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

I don't agree here, but I think I understand the point of the complaint. If one takes the goal as a demand for movies and tv to have to follow certain set formulae to make a work or where any work must be limited or somehow fit within a certain predetermined perspective for it to be "good" then there can be some legitimate concern over the freedom of artistic creation and/or in the desire for a kind a reverse Hays code, where certain values have to be upheld for the work to gain credit.

There is a potential danger there, one which some on the left seem to actively be encouraging, but I see this as more of a needed adjustment, not a prescriptive demand. I too would be against an attempt to enforce values on artistic works, but I fully support calling attention to misrepresentation, marginalization, and out right ignoration of all that don't fit the conventions of the standard white male perspective since that is a valid criticism for the art and a needed one for the culture. The way it is talked about, however, can grate a bit since it can sound like other attempts to impose values on art that haven't been very helpful for anyone other than those in charge of deciding what gets to be made.
posted by gusottertrout at 11:54 PM on October 1, 2017

From my perspective, the mistake here, such as it is, is in seeing the current system as being one of free expression rather than having its own imposed set of values coming from systemic racism and corporate/capitalist control. Some artists may indeed have had something like a general freedom to make the movies or shows they wanted, but mostly because what they wanted aligned with the values of the system in terms of what is believed to obtain financial reward. Challenging that imposition of values is necessary to open up expression to more creators and try to bring something more representative of the whole to the screen.
posted by gusottertrout at 12:07 AM on October 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

If one takes the goal as a demand for movies and tv to have to follow certain set formulae to make a work or where any work must be limited or somehow fit within a certain predetermined perspective for it to be "good"

But this site explicitly doesnt do that. It says right up front: "The Mediaversity grade does NOT reflect the overall quality of a show or film. That’s what every other review site is for. Instead, the Mediaversity grade reflects how inclusive a show is and should be used as a tool to view media from a different perspective."
posted by mrmurbles at 7:13 PM on October 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

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