Flippin’ the power script means we’re out with the old, and in with the new and improved! It’s sprinkling some pizazz on the norm to make it the “new” norm. It’s like seeing a whole bunch of people doing one thing, while you decide to do something completely wild, free, and different — because that’s who you are and that’s your destiny. People all over the world recognize this as what’s possible with the American Dream.
Wikipedia defines the American Dream as a national ethos of the United States — the set of ideals that includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, as well as an upward social mobility that is achieved through hard work in a society with few barriers. Sounds fair and open enough, right? Even James Truslow Adams, the historian thought to have invented the term “American Dream” in 1931, said it was “that dream of a land which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement.”
Is that really what’s reflected in our society? Let’s go one step further — is that what is reflected consistently in our media as the American Dream? I think not. For every man, woman, and child who desires to be a doctor, lawyer, scientist, actor, astronaut, business owner, (or successful enough in whatever they do to provide a good life for themselves and their family)…there should be more images that support those possibilities.
We are a visual society, learning through the images we take in daily. Have you ever noticed that when you see images of the American Dream, they rarely depict how we as Americans have evolved and how our unique desires have changed? I see this opportunity still missed in media all too often in the roles cast by what is referred to as “mainstream media” displaying stereotypical characterizations of people with different skin colors, accents, appearances, abilities, or genders, all of which are more type-cast than expansive and reflective of our real-life landscape and possibilities. So what is the new definition of the American Dream?
As the new America reflects more people of diverse backgrounds, cultures, origins, and positions of success, so should images on screen — and our access to these images and lifestyles should have few barriers. Put simply: your new American Dream should be whatever you dream it to be. Technology has influenced what we see, know, and deem as attainable now right in the palm of our hand and over an internet connection. So does it stand to reason that as America’s landscape of people, experiences, exposures and access change, so must our American Dream? Then why do we not see that new dream reflected equally in our media lens and on screen?
I think in many cases we are afraid to depict it or to dream beyond the outdated narratives of the American Dream we’ve always seen. And moreover, when we do dream into the unknown or unchartered; we are do not act on our dreams. Dare I come from my female point of view: we are more than mothers, daughters, caregivers, wives, girlfriends, or someone’s better half. And though we have evolved and are making strides daily in our efforts to flip the script and show our prowess, it feels like we should never have had to. As Denzel Washington says, “Ease is a greater hindrance to progress than hardship.” The progress we have seen has not come easily, and definitely not quickly. We must be willing to work for what we want and build what we desire to be reflected back to us.
Part of my American Dream is one where as a named media mogul, l have many others to look up to, emulate, and confer with — and more females in this space would be nice! Oprah says, “When you change a girl’s life they change the lives of their communities and their homes.” That’s because women have been and always will be the great influencers. In order to be and achieve this, we need to see images that reflect strength, courage, and ability back to us in our society as the norm for women. Otherwise we reflect that which we see, even when we know it doesn’t feel quite right. We are the starting point for every life, and therefore we set the example for what is possible (and men should be our greatest supporters).
What about you? What would it look like for you to create your own American Dream? Would it be a white picket fence, or a high rise in the sky? Would you have 2.5 kids, a job that makes you smile, lots of material things, and a mate who brings you flowers every day? For women, would it be a change in more male-dominated roles of power (like the presidency, judgeships, mayoral positions, directors, producers, or CEOs, for example) becoming more female-led with equal pay, reverence, and presence? It could! We would see more women walking in their power in any role they choose as bold, audacious, inspiring models — as the masters of their homes or boardrooms without restrictions from cultural norms, media depictions, government, men, or labels.
Creating Your Own
I have been creating my own rules all my life (I believe we all should). I’ve secretly and silently pushed against things I was told I had to do by a certain age, or things I was supposed to do because of skin color, gender, upbringing, and more. I call it my own bit of civil disobedience. Inside, I felt that someone else’s idea wasn’t always a fit for what I desired, and I was ok with that (even when they weren’t). Many people tried to put their own wishes, dreams, desires, and traditions on me; it just never took. I like to march to the beat of my own drum, which creates all kinds of different sounds that weave an inspiration into my life to move this way or sway that way; fast or slow the tempo is mine.
Denzel also said that “Dreams without goals are just dreams and they ultimately fuel disappointment. Goals cannot be achieved without discipline and consistency.” When the dream doesn’t feel right to you, then it’s likely NOT your dream and you won’t give your all to achieve it. It isn’t healthy to live your life by a standard that someone else is creating, so it can’t be good to live someone else’s dream. In fact, it’s downright dangerous to let other people’s ideas, thoughts, or actions shape who you will be, how you will live, or what you believe is possible for you. When the dream feels good, real and fits just right you must forge forward and stay the course until the goal is reached. Go with your gut — that tugging deep inside always leads you to the right place.
I’ve been told that my independent streak means I’m a bit of a risk-taker. In reality, it’s just that the norms don’t sit well with me. I always think, “There just has to be a way — or another way, or a different way that will work for me.” My life has been in constant service of that dream; my American Dream. In this dream, I do what I love every day so I can be healthy and whole for the family I build. It’s where I have a business, travel the world with my family, speak different languages, build relationships with different people, have experiences that grow me and those around me, and have access to the resources I need to make this all a reality. I can see, touch, and feel this dream and know that I will bring all this to fruition with my actions and words. I want to thrive — this is my challenge to everyone in this life!
And note: my American Dream is only “American” because I live in America. Aren’t these dreams that anyone can desire, no matter where in the world they live? Instead of focusing on the stereotypical American Dream…it’s time to flip the script and pursue YOUR dream.
I have a friend who calls the strides we make in life “being fancy.” Well, there are a whole lot of fancy women out there doing amazing things, creating a new dream that’s bigger and bolder than anything we’ve seen yet; especially in media! Are you one of them, or do you know someone who is? It’s Women’s History Month, so let’s celebrate the dream-builders this day, this month, and this lifetime!
This has been a Media Moment written by: Centrell Reed,
Founder and Co-CEO of CReed Global Media & Production.