First Lady Michelle Obama graces the cover of the current issue of Variety Magazine. In the article inside she talks about her love for current pop culture and about the importance of diversity in movies and on TV.
“For so many people, television and movies may be the only way they understand people who aren’t like them,” she says. “And when I come across many little black girls who come up to me over the course of this 7½ years with tears in their eyes, and they say: ‘Thank you for being a role model for me. I don’t see educated black women on TV, and the fact that you’re first lady validates who I am….’”
She adds, “My mom says it all the time: ‘People are so enamored of Michelle and Barack Obama.’ And she says, ‘There are millions of Michelle and Barack Obamas.’ We’re not new. We’re not special. People who come from intact families who are educated, who have values, who care for their kids, who raise their kids — if you don’t see that on TV, and you don’t live in communities with people like me, you never know who we are, and you can make and be susceptible to all sorts of assumptions and stereotypes and biases, based on nothing but what you see and hear on TV. So it becomes very important for the world to see different images of each other, so that, again, we can develop empathy and understanding.”
She calls diversity in entertainment “critical,” because she sees the industry as being able to influence perceptions, in the way that viewers in the ’70s “developed a love for Archie Bunker and empathy for George Jefferson.”
“There are folks who now know black families — like the Johnsons on ‘Black-ish’ or the folks on ‘Modern Family.’ They become part of who you are. You share their pains. You understand their fears. They make you laugh, and they change how you see the world. And that is particularly true in a country where there are still millions of people who live in communities where they can live their whole lives not having contact or exposure with people who aren’t like them, whether that is race or religion or simply lifestyle. The only way that millions of people get to know other folks and the way they live … is through the power of television and movies.”