Diversity

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Should diverse characters by portrayed as a means of social justice?

We see people refer to the need for more diverse characters, and of course it is important to hear from a broad range of people, who all have different backgrounds and opinions, but is it important that these characters are always linked to social justice? Every time we have an action story with a female lead like Mad Max: Fury Road, Atomic Blonde, Star Wars: The Force Awakens etc, it turns into a tirade about how this character is monumental and never been done before, and young women everywhere should look up to this characters because there aren’t any other female action stars (despite everybody else saying the same thing).

This topic is not intended to question the validity of diverse character, but rather investigate the effects of social justice on these characters. Is this layer of social justice harmful to these characters? If we introduce these characters without strong political and moral lectures, will audiences be more likely to embrace these differences?

An example that could work as a starting point could be The Simpsons: The character of Smithers is homosexual, but he isn’t a protected species like social justice would dictate. All facets of his character, including his sexuality, are made light of. A few years ago, The Simpsons was listed as the most influential show for homosexual representation and the breaking down of homosexual stigma. Is it possible that social justice is standing in the way of diversity? I think it would be very interesting to look at the effects of social justice on the advancement on diversity and how we should move forward with more diverse characters.

  • Thank you for this topic; I think there's a lot of mileage to be gotten out of it. You raise a valid point, and one I agree with. As a personal example, I have a physical disability. Therefore, I would like to see more people with disabilities represented in the media. But I *hate* it when characters with disabilities only exist to be "inspirations," or to promote social justice. In my view, we all exist to grow into ourselves, to find our purposes, and to be decent people. We're not meant to use each other just so one group can feel better about itself. – Stephanie M. 3 months ago
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  • I long for the day when characters are portrayed simply as people, regardless of whatever 'differences' they might have. A great idea for a topic. – Amyus 3 months ago
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  • You and me both, Amyus. – Stephanie M. 3 months ago
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  • Ideally a role should include both individuality and the person's interaction with society. To have a character without examining the individual's place in society would be an odd omission. Remember the show Remington Steele. It had a mystery to solve in each episode and a feminist arc back over each season back in the 80s. The show Campbell's today is a funny sitcom that shows interactions across race/gender/generations in a hilarious way today. I think the best characters on a show are a combination of the two aspects of a person, not to mention how a person is in one's family. Another example would be Big Bang Theory. Smart, successful people but struggling in love, life and legacies from their families. – Munjeera 3 months ago
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  • This is something I've always felt but never put into words. By over-emphasizing on social justice, we take away from the identity of a character. This is especially true whenever a lead is not a heterosexual white male. It's as if the character by itself is not interesting or strong enough to stand without the stigma to be PC. – superdilettante 3 months ago
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  • Master of None is a great combination of a person's life with some commentary on racism thrown in as would normally happen to a person of color. Bring It On is another movie that touches on a social justice theme but concludes in a surprising direction. Snowpiercer and Hell or High Water are two movies that portray the males leads in unusual ways. CSI had a coroner who had prosthetic limbs and he was portrayed without social justice themes throughout his tenure. There are successful movies and TV shows that do have diverse characters without social justice themes.The question here can be likened to if someone takes an example of a single character on TV who is not married, they are usually portrayed as searching for a partner. Can a single person ever be portrayed without the search for a significant other? The dating lives of single characters form the basis of so many characters on TV. Why can't single characters be portrayed as happily single and not dating? Because dating is a normal part of single life ad makes for fun TV viewing.Racism is a normal interaction in daily life and often forms the basis for a POC's life trajectory. Sobering but true. Also true is that it does make for interesting viewing. Whether that interest translates into actual action and effectively leads to change is another story. – Munjeera 3 months ago
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  • I completely agree Munjeera that racism and other forms of bigotry are part of daily life for some, and obviously that is a topic that is worth exploring; but I think it should be about maintaining balance. If you only show all members of a minority as victims, it sends a message to those people that they will forever be victims. It is like the handling of gay characters in Glee. Every gay character was a victim. They were always defined by their minority status and how society oppressed them. It then instills the notion in young (in this instance gay) people that they will never achieve anything because everyone is out to get them. – AGMacdonald 3 months ago
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  • Hi AGMacdonald, Absolutely agree 100% that portrayals of diversity are trite with the idea that social change is not directed by individuals and their respective communities. But I don't think we should overestimate the influence of the media, rather we influence media. Media feeds our appetites not the other way around. Audiences are comfortable with the idea of diverse characters as victims or comedic targets rather than heroes or characters that have contributions to make.As for instilling in people, young and old, that these stereotypes are acceptable, people need to take responsibility for their viewing habits. I personally have made the decision to crtically examine entertainment for myself and my children and speak out against victimization roles. I do seek out forms of entertainments, plays and movies, that do offer nuanced and critical portrayals with complex characters. The more we support these types of high quality entertainment in its various forms, the more our responsible choices will have an impact on the entertainment industry.We need to stop enabling and blaming the media for their immature portrayals and start being mature and responsible in how we respond. Media will offer diverse characters with depth and nuance when we start demanding it. – Munjeera 3 months ago
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  • Absolutely agree. It's such a complicated issue, which is why it will make for a great article. – AGMacdonald 3 months ago
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Why do we celebrate diversity in books, but are left with whitewashed movie versions?

It’s always a monumental feat when a novel, especially in YA, gets recognized for having a diverse cast of characters, and even more impressive, if it has a diverse lead, and a diverse author writing it. So, what’s the middle man, per se, in getting us from being readers going through page-turners about characters of all types, only to end up with their more cliché, whitewashed, able-bodied counterparts?

  • The way you're using the word "diverse" is problematic. Human beings are not diverse. Populations are.To answer your suggestion, it's important for whoever wants to write this article to realize that films and novels function differently as artistic media. We can read both as narratives, but the audiovisual nature of film is really important towards the ways that directors envision a work. The reasons why movies continue to feature whitewashed casts is because most readers have a tendency to ignore these "diverse" descriptions when they read. The basic template for a human being in the American imagination is a white person, and therefore descriptions which deviate from this are easily ignored or taken with a grain of salt. It tends to be people of color who are disgruntled with whitewashing because it contributes to their historical erasure and because they are the most sensitive to these issues. – X 1 year ago
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  • The largest problem with this topic, as mentioned, is that both forms of media have different purposes. Novels have the simple job of entertaining an engaged reader, while film has the complex job of making money. If this topic is explored, the researcher would need to include this as one of the major reasons for the "whitewashing." Since producers and directors mostly care about making money instead of diversifying and representing the correct culture and racial groups, the topic would be unfortunately straightforward, I would think. – Steven Gonzales 1 year ago
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  • Like previous commenters have said, money is a big reason, but on the other hand it's audience's reactions to diverse content.In a lot of fandoms if you write a fanfic with a poc character, many fans will say that they can't "imagine" that character being a minority. For instance even though there are plenty of stories featuring your typical white, straight character, if you create one story featuring a minority character, some people will react by saying that you're taking stories away from white characters. – seouljustice 12 months ago
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  • To expand on what seouljustice said, I think that diversity is easy to ignore in a good book. Looks are not as important as values and motivations in books, but are much more important in more visual media, including films. Engaging with characters and projecting yourself onto them means finding similarities between yourself and them, while being able to ignore differences. Target audiences for most popular movies have large percentages of white viewers who would then have trouble empathizing with characters of different backgrounds, including (but not limited to) race and sexuality. – C8lin 12 months ago
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Race and Film

Analysis of films as they relate centrally to race as a primary lens.

  • Examples? – Darcy Griffin 1 year ago
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  • Hmmm...what comes to mind is actually Disney's recent film, Zootopia. Totally hilarious, classic Disney fare. But also a pretty clear race allegory, as many reviewers have noticed. Gets to the heart of racialized discourse: are people of certain races (or in Zootopia's case, bunnies) inherently passive, while others (see wolves in the film) are aggressive and still others (see foxes) sneaky and conniving? Of course not, but these are the assumptions we inherit and perpetuate, even on the subtlest levels. Ruminating on these topics in animated form is, I think, rather ingenious. – alissac 1 year ago
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  • There are a ton of different ways this could go. Some specification is probably needed: films from a certain era? Country or region? About certain race(s)? Different genres? There are a lot of different factors that will affect the role race plays in a movie. – chrischan 1 year ago
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  • Qu'Allah bénisse la France (2014) a French film, shot in black & white that takes a look at the racism, France's well-known unemployment issue as well as heavy drug use and how these factors affect the youngsters in a devastating manner. The film is based on a true story. – oksly 1 year ago
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Diversity? in Comics

Thor is a woman, Spider-man is black, and the Hulk is Korean-American. These popular characters were once all white males, but Marvel Comics has undergone some re-branding and decided to branch out with character diversity. Are these changes to be praised and the new line-up celebrated? Can this truly be called diversity when these female and minority characters are launched from the platform of popular, established, white male characters?

This article will argue whether or not this kind of "diversity" is valid.

  • I always thought about why didn't they just create new characters as opposed to changing the old? I like that they are trying to be progressive and gain a more diverse audience and appeal to the masses, however, I feel as if it's kind of a half-hearted move. Sounds like they said to themselves, "Oh hey, it's 2015, we need to have more diverse characters. Oh, let's just change Thor into a woman and make Spider-man black." Upon hearing these changes, I didn't feel moved. I think for this topic, it would be important to see how their readers have reacted and what their thoughts are, and if this made an impact on Marvel's comic-book sales. – Jmarie 2 years ago
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  • While I am incredibly glad to see that more female characters are being added, I am hesitant to praise the way in which it is happening. Representation is everything; it's what pulls people in and keeps them buying, volume after volume. People of all colors, creeds, identities, religions, and orientations deserve to be explored and promoted - correctly. Having Thor be a woman is an interesting change, but I think it was a cop out. Jane Foster could have been so incredible on her own. She didn't need Mjolnir and the power of Thor to be "super," but that's the angle they chose. The Spiderverse is taking a slightly better approach to it. This opens the path for there to be multiple personalities with the same powers. That sort of open-ended story telling could do so much good for representation. What could all of these different people, all from different backgrounds, do with the same set of powers? While all of this is all well and good, I want to see original characters that aren't being slapped with the merits of their "previous" versions. Jane is going to have to break away from readers who have the white, male, Norse "god" mindset. They could have easily taken a bit from the movies - why was Jane Foster, a normal woman, able to absorb an Infinity Stone? There is so much potential there! Let's have new characters that are black, latina/o, trans*, gay, asexual - but let them be themselves. No recycling of names to get attention. Let the characters speak for themselves. – crypticlyric 2 years ago
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  • I worry about this change in comics. I absolutely think that creators need to be creating more diverse comic universes, however some of these changes seem half thought out and sloppy. I'd much rather see new characters of different races than old characters redefined. No matter what the main stream public is probably going to remember the white character, thus taking something away from both versions of the character. I also worry that these changes are temporary grabs for publicity and lacking in real substance. – SomeOtherAmazon 2 years ago
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  • Who writes comics and for whom? – Munjeera 2 years ago
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Diversity in Comics

Comics have been done a better job with representation than most other mediums; however even though we see more sexualities, genders, and races, many of them are still being produced by cis caucasian writers. Do people who are not affected by the oppressive manners of a nation able to tell an honest story or are we taking opportunity away from the writers who can?

(ex. Strange Fruit is a comic made by a white creative team on the topic of racism in the American south for instance, so it’s more a question of authority and credibility. Can people who do not have a glass ceiling over their heads have the ability to write about people who do without bias interfering?)

  • For the first sentence, the comma after the word "mediums" should be changed to a semi-colon. Then, the word "and" between "story" and "we" in the second sentence should be rewritten as "or" instead. – dsoumilas 2 years ago
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  • I believe they can but they'd have to be really, really careful about how they approach their subject matter, and if you side with me, then it'd be great to bring up specific examples. For example, "Saga" is written by a cis white male writer, and it's a fantastic and very diverse comic. On the other hand (for something more realistic), "Incognegro" is written by a mix-race male, and I don't think that type of comic could have been written correctly by a cis white male author.So yeah, fun stuff. – CaptainSwift 2 years ago
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  • I think that people are able to accurately tell a story from a perspective of a cultural group other than their own, but that it requires research and more thought than when writing through your own personal culture. No matter who writes, there will be bias and stereotypes, even about your own culture, that you include. – nsnow 2 years ago
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  • I worry lately that some of the diversity they're adding is sloppily done for PR purposes. This is an interesting topic. – SomeOtherAmazon 2 years ago
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Breaking Away From the Video Game Protag Mold

So many video games seem to have the same type of protagonist – or at least as the "default" protagonist design. White, straight, cisgendered male in his thirties with dark hair, a "rugged" feature, and questionable character. We see it again and again in some of the most popular titles. The Last of Us, Bioshock Infinite, Mad Max, The Order, even Mass Effect when it comes to their default version of Male!Commander Shepard. I know diversity is a bit of a hot-button issue in many different fields right now, but how could the video game industry change the standard? It’s not like every single game can have a create-a-character sytem.

  • That's certainly one component that the industry glosses over at times, although I feel as though most popular titles grow within their own molds, to say. You can easily examine Call of Duty and other mainstream games, there's clearly a lack of diversity in every concept of an original game, including the protagonist physique. Honestly, it's usually up to the independent (Indie) developers of the gaming community to rectify that, as most of those companies crank products in mere interest of reaping treasures. There are a great many small titles that grind against the grain, and are amazing in their own right. But for the big names, unless a widespread consumer whiplash shakes those groups, they will stick with their typical formula, almost every time. – N.D. Storlid 2 years ago
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  • Even beyond the topic of diversity, when games have the same protagonist mold over and over again, it becomes an issue of creativity and lazy writing. For example, the rugged middle-aged white male is a popular protagonist choice in the survival horror genre because it fits into the 'gritty' atmosphere. It's almost too easy to create that protagonist for that environment, and it would be interesting to see how writers could fit a completely different character archetype in.Ellie was a much loved character in The Last of Us (probably a lot more than the protagonist) because she was younger and more upbeat, and the writers worked to fit her into the environment. It takes a lot more effort to include a character that breaks the mold, but they are generally appreciated far more. – Grace Maich 2 years ago
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