Every time we have a movie that takes place in the future with one person of colour I’m like, “Really? We made it through all that but we couldn’t quite make it to space?” Or you’re watching a fantasy movie that didn’t have room for people of colour – I’d like to ride a damn dragon! You know what I mean?
I’m not particularly proud of the arguments my teenage self made to try and support what I firmly believe now was an erroneous belief….Four in particular stand out. Four arguments that I was guilty of using thanks largely to how frequently others around me said the same thing. The one thing all of these arguments have in common is that, on the surface, they seem generally positive and fair and in no way designed to personally offend or attack those asking for better representation and diversity in media.
I would learn in time that they were anything but fair and were incredibly offensive.
Brian at Tosche Station blogs about how he used to invalidate other fans’ arguments and advocacy for diversity, and what he’s learned since. Really interesting read. Here are some snippets but also check out the full article!
… I’d created an unconscious false equivalency in my head that if I wasn’t having a problem identifying with characters, other minorities shouldn’t have an issue either.
“Well, I like reading about/watching characters that aren’t like me”… Here’s what you’re really saying with all of the unfortunate subtext thrown in: “Because I can tolerate characters that aren’t like me sometimes, you should do it almost all the time. And if these characters that have nothing in common with you don’t resonate with you, you’re the one with the problem.”
It’s rather unfair when you look at it that way. Was that my intention when I would make this argument? No, it wasn’t. But that was the message I was relaying.
Argument Four: ”The only thing that matters are good characters and stories.”
What does this even mean? …Of all the arguments I made when I was younger to try and deflect whatever insecurities I had about underrepresented groups trying to be more represented in Star Wars or whatever fandom, this was the worst. This argument was the biggest load of bullshit, the most destructive, the most unfair, and most insidious one I used. It’s the one that I feel worst about ever using.
Look at how utterly loaded that argument is. It sets up God knows how many false equivalencies, straw men, appeals to [insert fallacy here]. Here’s some awful ways this argument can be interpreted:
Good characters and diverse characters are mutually exclusive.
If you want more diverse character representation, you’re not interested in good characters and stories.
Diverse representation and your need for it are unimportant and counter productive to creating good stories.
A study of tweens found that television raises the self esteem of white boys—but lowers the self esteem of girls and children of color. The authors use cultivation theory and social identity theory to explain why. Full coverage at Racebending.com’s blog!
OMG thats exactly why I LOVE BRYKE, they give us kick ass women in ATLA and then in LOK they have a dark skinned female as the main character. It makes me feel so good about myself and my dark skin. I come from India and the movies they make there always have 1-D and fair looking female characters. The female actresses and models never look like the way I do.