Strictly Come Diversity!
Updated: Nov 18, 2020
Positive Representation on Strictly Come Dancing
By Amy Richmond
Credit to BBC One: Strictly Come Dancing
2020 has dumped a lot of terrible things on our plate, leaving a lot of us feeling low, but it’s nearing the end of the year and the show that always cheers me up is back. I’ve loved Strictly Come Dancing since its very first series back in 2004. The glitter, the dances, the energy, the sheer campness of it all: there’s nothing I don’t love about Strictly. It helped foster my love of dance as a child and has kept my dancing spark alive, even now in University. I’ve been dancing since I was 3 years old and I’m now teaching the Beginner Tap class with the Dance Society*, and I definitely would not still be dancing if it wasn’t for Strictly.
But there’s something else I have always loved about Strictly. I’m bisexual and the show was one of the first shows I watched with gay representation. It definitely only presented viewers with the stereotypes of flamboyant camp gay men in the earlier years, but as the years have progressed, Strictly’s representation of minorities has improved tenfold. The last few years have seen the inclusion of more black professional dancers, disabled contestants, and a black female judge. And this year is without a doubt their most diverse yet, from the first female/female pairing with boxer Nicola Adams to Invictus Games medallist JJ Chalmers. This representation is so important to its audience.
Anyone who has grown up as part of a minority group will tell you how disheartening it is to never see anyone like you in the shows and films you watch. Growing up different from the social norms can take a major toll on children and teenagers’ mental health. It is so vital to ending the stigma around being different to have this representation on such influential shows such as Strictly Come Dancing.
However, I think Strictly’s representation of the diversity goes above and beyond the basic ‘minimum diversity quota’ you see in so many popular shows and films. I was discussing this with my Mum and I think she hit the nail on the head as to why Strictly’s diversity is so important: at the end of the day, “once you are watching, none of the differences are important. It’s all about the dancing.”
It’s not about our differences. It’s not about being the token minority of the bunch. It is positive representation proving that we aren’t that different and we all can learn to dance.
Strictly’s audience is a combination of young families and older folk which are two groups I think need to see positive representation like this. Once the couples are out there dancing, it doesn’t matter what race they are, what gender they are, what sexuality they are, or anything else. What matters is the joy that learning to dance brings people.
Representation like this can show older people who might have some deep-set prejudices that people who gay or black aren’t actually all that different from them, encouraging them to put aside their prejudices. Positive representation can show young children struggling with being the only disabled kid in their class that their disability does not mean they can’t follow their dreams.
Diversity in TV and film is so important to go beyond your token minority characters. We need to see the stories of those who have been overlooked, and we need more shows like Strictly that break barriers and show differences in a positive light.
*Classes are every Wednesday at 5pm on Microsoft Teams for anyone interested. Check out the Aberdeen University Dance Society Facebook page for more information on my class and all the others.