By Shabnam Rezaei 28-02-2017
On November 9, 2016, I received a private message on Facebook. “Hi my friend, I just want to send you love. I don’t want to make alarmist comments when I am sure you are already scared and angry enough, just please make a solid and well-thought-out plan for an exit that can be carried out quickly.”
This message of love came from an old friend from high school. A friend I had not seen in years. It wasn’t the only message I got. Texts, emails and tweets had come in. They were messages of kindness and love and they were in response to my initial reaction that if Trump wins, I would make like Usain and bolt.
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t naturally cower. I was born in Iran, raised in Austria, am Canadian by marriage and at my core a New Yorker. Unlike most, I had options. So after the election, I had no personal fears of Trump but rather I feared that he would quickly create a culture that sets us all back. Normalising racism, legitimising hate and destroying our core principles as a people. Globally.
There was no ignoring or escaping that. You take a moment to reflect and then you decide that all you can do is fight. Which is what I must do and which is what every producer and educator must do as well.
So today, as a community of content makers, we remind ourselves why we are here, what our core values are and why we got into this in the first place.
To my fellow parents, educators and caregivers, I say raise decent, good children that have empathy and above all kindness. Children are resilient. It is up to us to support them.
To broadcasters, programmers and decision-makers, I say consider your audience and know that you are shaping the future with the messages you allow through your gates. You are literally a superhero.
When you programme, look for diversity in shows, diversity of thought, physical appearance and storylines. I am so tired of seeing shows where the first two characters are boys, then the third is a girl, dressed in pink (or purple) and is a ‘fashion maven.’
Is it so hard to imagine a girl who codes, or plays soccer, or solves mysteries? Why are we still stereotyping like it’s 1984? Why are all animal lead characters male?
Let kids be kids – genderless, imaginative and kind. When working with producers, encourage them to be mindful. Make sure 50% of your background characters are female. Consider starting programmes that develop and foster talent from communities whose voices have not been heard before. Make a checklist and actively look for these things in your everyday. I have made a list and have made my entire team, from pre to post, aware of these new rules and we deliberately check through them every day.
To my fellow producers, I say your work is more important than ever. As creators, you touch the lives of children every day. You give them the ability to be someone else every day, and you have the ability to make them feel different feelings every day. That is magical.
It is also a big responsibility. Take your jobs seriously and know that you too are a superhero. You have the ability to evoke compassion, empathy and kindness. When you write stories and create worlds, write with intention. Be gender-balanced, be fair, ask questions, re-evaluate your standards, teach good lessons, be mindful and, above all, teach kindness.
Trump has made us all take a look at ourselves and question everything we stand for. When I do that analysis, I can only smile because he has reaffirmed my reason for starting Big Bad Boo.
More than ever, I am excited to be the one making content that normalises being Iranian, or Chinese, or disabled, or a strong woman or gay. I am excited to write stories about good citizenship and kindness. I hope you will join me, too.