This is old - nearly 10 years old! - but I’m not sure I’ve seen a lot of research that backs up the hunch that fictional representations of minorities have a positive effect on political positions. This is probably why I should broadly support Glee, even though I find it unwatchable. (In a supportive anecdote, my friend recently said that her tween daughter was discussing with her friend whether any of the members of One Direction were gay, but that this was totally No Big Deal - and this contrasted with her own memories of how her and her friends didn’t want to even consider if members of NKOTB (we’re old) were possibly gay. I have a feeling that shows like Glee have probably had an impact on her daughter’s opinions - or maybe I and my friends have!)
But I also suppose it broadly supports the idea that consuming some (which? who knows!) fiction (both on TV in other forms) can, as practitioners have often suggested, often stand in for the actual experience of interacting with other people. And the benefit of interacting with other people.* While various groups may be socially isolated from one another, whether by economic class or geography or whatever, fiction (once again, broadly speaking to include as many arts as possible - and possibly even our fictional lives on the Internet) allows us a free place to imagine being “other” people or having “other” people in our lives without risking the social disruption actually encountering those other worlds can entail - ie, socially conservative housewives can talk about Glee because of the songs and the fun, and consequently talk about homosexuality, without directly talking about homosexuality and risking the social risk that this would entail in their community.
Of course, it’s a pretty limited political conscience that would stay stuck with fictional forms. Our lives should be socially disrupted, and our politics should, too. So, we can’t stop at the fiction. But having the fiction in our lives is probably doing us good, so we should keep pushing ourselves to have more different other fictions in our life - fictions that include characters who are not us. (The fictions we should be consuming is different from the fiction we should be creating.) This may be obv, but it’s not something I’m always remembering.
*Hence, the consternation - if I’ve read it all correctly - about Girls. For some people of colour, Girls gets so close to their lives but just misses representing it by a sliver - and it’s imagining that other world, that world where Girls blows people’s minds open about these un-represented, amazing lives, that makes Girls sting even as it works. (Just as I wish Glee could be so much more than it is. But maybe this is something I/we will always feel? I dunno.)
(H/T to Langer for the original link, I think.)