Make The World More Inclusive Through Your Netflix Queue

Want to see more inclusive tv shows? Watch shows that are created by + star people who are different than you. When we watch shows like this, we're telling networks + advertisers to make more! #inclusivity #socialjustice #race
I would imagine that pretty much everyone reading this wants to make the world a better, kinder, more inclusive place.

And there are so many ways we can do that! We can support companies that use safe, fair workplace practices. We can contact our politicians and make our voices heard. We can make dietary choices that are better for the planet.

What’s one tiny step we can take to make our corner of the world more inclusive?  

We can watch tv shows by and about people whose life experiences are different than our own.

In the same way that we vote with our dollars, we vote with our eyeballs and our Netflix queues Click To Tweet

I’ll be watching tv anyway – I might as well tv shows that happen to expand my mind + heart + horizons.

A funny thing happens when you become emotionally invested in a tv show: in some small way, you learn more about a group of people and get more comfortable with them. Yes, I realize tv shows are works of fiction and, no, I don’t think watching Transparent makes me an expert on trans culture. But I do think that becoming emotionally invested in someone’s life – even if that person is a fictional television character – will make us (at least slightly) more empathetic in real life.

There are some funny, smart, gloriously accessible shows that are written by or prominently feature people who are very different than most of us reading this blog. We can watch a sitcom starring an Indian woman and eye guzzle a comedy/drama featuring a transgender sex worker and then queue up a drama with the first Black female lead in 40 years.

And while our viewing habits are no substitute for voting or protesting or writing our politicians, when we watch things we’re telling The Powers That Be “Hey! I like this! Do more of this!”

If you can’t see it, you can’t be it. So in a tiny way, when you watch Scandal, you’re driving up the ratings, making it more likely that networks will create more shows with strong, successful Black female leads, giving Black girls more women on tv to look up to.

When we watch these shows, we’re telling networks they’re making sound business decisions. We’re telling the companies that buy ads they’re making wise investments. When we tell our friends “Hey, are you watching Fresh Off The Boat?” we’re spreading the word and increasing viewership.

Here are some of my favorites:

The Mindy Project
A good ol’ fashioned rom-sitcom about a funny, stylish, self-absorbed lady OBGYN in NYC (who happens to be Indian-American). Also, there’s a nice dash of feminism thrown in and OH GOD CAN WE TALK ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED IN THE MIDSEASON FINALE.

A primetime soap featuring political intrigue and impeccably tailored white pants suits on the woman we all want to be: Olivia Pope. The show also tackles topics like abortion and rape and it’s the first network drama to have an African-American female lead in almost 40 years.

Fresh Off The Boat
This show is really, actually laugh out loud funny. It features Chinese immigrant parents + their three American-born kids (one who loves hip hop) … in Florida … in the 90s. The show is sweet, funny, and the character of Jessica is like no other tv mom I’ve ever seen. Jessica for President!

Let’s be real; this is a nighttime soap. There are medical misdiagnoses and murders and affairs AND IT IS SO GOOD. In addition to race, it touches on mental health, sexism, abortion, and incarceration. Honestly, I’ll just watch anything Taraji P. Henson is in.

Jane The Virgin
This nighttime soap/comedy cleverly borrows a page from Mexican telenovelas with voice overs and “in case you missed it” recaps. The Latino cast is talented and charming (Gina Rodriguez be my BFF, plz) and the plot covers things like undocumented immigration, class, and mental health. And evil twins, etc. Written and produced by a woman!

A beautifully acted, gorgeously filmed, painfully funny/real dramady about an L.A. family whose patriarch comes out as trans in his 60s. The characters are wonderful and annoying and you’ll want to call your friends after every episode to discuss what happened. (Were you as gutted as me when Ali screws it up with Syd?!)

Of course, changing the world requires more of us than changing our Netflix queue. But it’s a fun, easy place to start.

But I want to hear from you! Which tv shows (or movies or books) opened your mind and expanded your perspectives? 

P.S. 19 tiny things you can do to make the world a (slightly) better place  and Why you should read + watch + listen outside of your comfort zone

P.P.S. Let’s all watch Tangerine right now

photo credit: tracy thomas // cc

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  1. Laura

    These are awesome suggestions!!! I can’t wait to check them out. I’ve been watching lots of female standup lately and Anjelah Johnson has been my favorite so far. Netflix has three of her comedy specials!

    I (like everyone else) got obsessed with Beyonce’s “Formation” video and went down an Internet rabbit hole of black commentary and read about all the sources used in the video. I listened to Big Freedia, watched the documentary That B.E.A.T. about New Orleans bounce music, and two or three more about Katrina. It was all so, so eye opening! Now I’m reading Alice Walker’s Temple of My Familiar and committing to reading more outside my comfort zone. \

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Love it! I know Big Freedia but I’ll have to check out That B.E.A.T!

  2. Amy

    I love this idea! I really enjoy the range of diversity in Orange is the New Black – it’s not perfect, although is anything ever?, but there’s lots of different stories and perspectives, and I think they portray everyone with sensitivity, even if they aren’t the ‘hero’ of the story.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Yes! I just CANNOT get over Pennsatucky!

  3. lindsay

    this is great! i’ve been trying to do this with books for the past year or so. i realized i defaulted to novels by white american women like myself, so i’ve been trying to focus on choosing books by people with different identities. it’s led to me reading classics by toni morrison and james baldwin (neither of whom i was required to read during my 12 years of public education – ugh!), and recently popular authors like zadie smith, chimamanda ngozi adichie, and jhumpa lahiri. one favorite that was not quite so well-known was a memoir largely focused on food (a favorite genre of mine) called “the language of baklava”, by a jordanian-american author named diana abu-jaber, which i highly recommend! if anyone has suggestions of trans* authors – i’m all ears.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Ooooh! That sounds good!

  4. Kjlangford

    Well… It’s basically a teen soap opera so it’s not perfect but I am currently obsessed with switched at birth. Lots of diversity and inclusion (racially, ethnically, economically, family structure, sexuality, politically), and many main characters (and actors) are deaf or hard of hearing and use ASL. For this reason they tend to handle stories with differently abled people more often and very well. SAB can get a little ridiculous with dramatic story lines that sometimes seem improbable at best, but I think it handles teen sexuality so well… I don’t always agree with the viewpoints the show posits on teen sex (or even just sex in general) but it shows it in a realistic light, with consequences, but remains sex positive. And it shows young women really considering how they handle their sexuality and really talking about it, with friends, family, etc. I think it’s such a great example of how a show can address a lot of issues and experiences without feeling like an after school special (well… Most of the time!)

  5. Anna

    Love this idea! I would add to this list Master of None, Aziz Ansari’s show. It features (obviously) an Indian-American lead, two of whose best friends are a black gay woman and an Asian-American man who is also the son of immigrant parents. It explicitly takes on questions of race, gender, and immigration too.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Ooooh! I’ve heard such good things about that show!

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Yoouuu! <3 <3

  6. Andrea

    “Cristela” is on Netflix now. Only one season aired on tv, and it wasn’t aired on a regular day, so I feel like it never got a fair chance. I keep hoping if enough people watch it, someone will decide to tape a second season…

  7. Ashley

    I watched two great, very different female coming-of-age movies on Netflix recently. 1) We Are The Best! about a group of girls in Sweden who start their own punk band and 2) Girlhood about a French African girl who joins an all-girl gang and how the decisions she makes affect her family and her future. Highly recommend both!

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Those both sound AMAZING.

  8. Ailsa

    I like this idea. Simple, but good!
    I don’t really have any suggestions to add – will need to get on that!

  9. Savannah

    I personally enjoyed these two TV shows that are both made by and starring Aboriginal people in Canada:

    1) Blackstone – I believe this is on Hulu in the US (in Canada it’s on APTN, and I think also CBC). It’s a pretty dark drama that touches on a lot of issues (trigger warning for lots of stuff, but particularly sexual assault in one episode of the last season) faced by many First Nations communities (I’ve heard it compared to The Wire; I haven’t seen The Wire so I can’t say for sure).

    2) Mohawk Girls — I don’t think this airs in the US, but it airs on APTN and OMNI in Canada. I’ve heard it pitched as “Sex and the City on a reserve” (I’m not a SatC fan myself but I like this show). A comedy, that has its serious moments, about four Mohawk women in their twenties.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Ooooh! I’ve never even heard of those – I’ll have to check them out!

  10. Jack

    Glad you shed some light on this for us. Always thought it funny that people have been so averse to the thought of even thinking about what other people’s lives are like.

  11. Jess

    Great content, Sarah! Had heard people talking about OITNB before this, but I guess I’ll have to check it out now, lol.

  12. Bettie

    Can’t tell if Roseanne is actually talented as an actress, either way, still love here.

  13. Jess

    I recently watched and LOVED Mindy Kaling’s new series on Netflix, Never Have I Ever. Mindy is a genius, and somehow it was light-hearted and funny and extremely teenage, but also I cried my eyes out more than once?! Also would recommend Mindy’s books if you haven’t read them. Her writing is a delight, and if I remember correctly (I last read one when it was released a couple of years ago) she addresses pretty heavy issues like all the systems working against a non-white woman trying to make it in Hollywood (and the world in general) in a way which helps you to really feel her experiences, but is somehow also hilarious.

    And then, the assorted works of Trevor Noah. His commentary on The Daily Show recently (and always) has been SO GOOD; he just has a way of putting things into words that just goes straight to the heart of such complex issues. In particular, he’s had some really great Between the Scenes talks lately (available on YouTube). And his book Born a Crime, I would also highly recommend. It’s not about the Black experience in the US, but his experience growing up in Apartheid South Africa, where his literal existence was a crime (his mom is Black and his dad is white; their relationship and his resulting birth were illegal). Again, hugely enlightening and also of course delightfully written because he has such a way with words.

    And finally, I would recommend Blood and Water on Netflix if it’s available where you are. It’s not a great work of art or anything (more like a teenage drama), but it’s thoroughly enjoyable and about a Black South African girl in Cape Town. It’s loosely based on the true story of a girl who ended up at the same school as her kidnapped sister, and I think great to see different life perspectives. Plus the SA entertainment industry could really use the support! The whole country is suffering hugely under a draconian covid-19 lockdown.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Ohhh, thank you for the suggestions! I watched Never Have I Ever, too and it was a DELIGHT!

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