“Every day, through the movies and TV shows and ads you all create, you have the power to shape our understanding of the world around us,” said Mrs. Obama. “You challenge our most strongly held beliefs. You influence our opinions on current events.”
“So the fact is, in many ways, you all are in a unique position to help us address some of the most challenging issues that we face as a nation,” she said. “Just take an issue like gay rights. It wasn’t all that long ago that this was a third-rail kind of issue, not just in politics, but in entertainment as well. It was considered sensitive, even controversial.
“But in the early ‘90s, that started to change,” said Mrs. Obama. “Tom Hanks won an Oscar for his portrayal of a gay character in ‘Philadelphia.’ ‘The Real World’ included an openly gay cast member. And over the years, there was ‘Ellen’ and ‘Will and Grace,’ ‘Milk’ and ‘Brokeback Mountain.’
“And today, ‘The Imitation Game’ is up for Best Picture at the Oscars, and Cam and Mitchell--two of my favorites--are raising their daughter on ‘Modern Family,’ one of the top-rated shows on TV,” said Mrs. Obama.
“And at the same time, we’ve seen gay rights advance in real life as well,” she said. “As my husband said, we’ve seen gay marriage go from a wedge issue into a civil right in states all across this country.And that’s just one issue.”
The Cameron and Mitchell characters on “Modern Family” are a same-sex married couple with an adopted child.
The event at which Mrs. Obama was speaking was hosted by Got Your Six, a group that seeks to ensure positive portrayals of veterans in the popular culture.
“Through entertainment industry partners, Got Your 6 works to normalize the depictions of veterans on film and television to dispel common myths about the veteran population,” the organization says at it website. “Through nonprofit and government partners, Got Your 6 ensures successful veteran reintegration and empowers veterans to lead here at home. Together, Got Your 6 and its partners are shifting public perceptions so that veterans’ leadership and skills are recognized and utilized at home to strengthen communities.”
Speaking at the Friday event in Washington, Mrs. Obama also praised the hit movie “American Sniper,” and called on the screenwriters to present more veterans in their work.
She said she had watched “American Sniper” on Air Force One flying back from the president’s trip to India and Saudi Arabia this week.
“See, there’s another great untold story in this country right now, one that is crying out for our attention--and that is the story of our troops, veterans, and their families,” she said.
“So today, I’m calling on all of you and folks across the entertainment industry to change the conversation about our veterans and military families. Give us the full story,” she said.
“Just look at the latest box office numbers,” she said. “The number-one movie in America right now is a complex, emotional depiction of a veteran and his family. And I had a chance to see 'American Sniper' this week on that long flight we took--and while I know there have been critics, I felt that, more often than not, this film touches on many of the emotions and experiences that I’ve heard firsthand from military families over these past few years.
"Now, I’m not going to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen it, but this movie reflects those wrenching stories that I’ve heard--the complex journeys that our men and women in uniform endure," said Mrs. Obama. "The complicated moral decisions they are tasked with every day. The stresses of balancing love of family with a love of country. And the challenges of transitioning back home to their next mission in life.
“And here’s why a movie like this is important: See, the vast majority of Americans will never see these stories. They will never grasp these issues on an emotional level without portrayals like this,” she said.
“But for all those folks in America who don’t have these kinds of opportunities, films and TV are often the best way we have to share those stories,” she said.