Lit Beating a Dead Eopie: The Diversity Thread (various spoilers)

Discussion in 'Literature' started by CooperTFN, Aug 20, 2009.

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  1. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    Most main characters don't appear in the DP's anymore, anyways.

    Also, for the Abyss DP, it could be boiled down to this:
    -the Skywalker clan (which, of course, is all human)
    -the Lost Tribe clan (which, as we've read, is mostly all human and actually a little prejudiced against the Keshiri)
  2. JediFreac Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 7, 2002
    star 4
    Coop, I'm glad you brought this topic up. Once upon a time, we had plotlines on xenophobia, interspecies relationships and awkward weasel sex anecdotes (thank you, Stackpole.)

    Now we've got a plot that is handling the sensitive topic of mental illness with very little aplomb.

    Growing up as an Asian American woman, I always wanted to see more characters who looked like me in Star Wars (Bultar Swan, and that one pilot in ROTJ I guess) but I remember bringing it up once or twice on the boards and people always said:

    "There's no Asia in Star Wars, it's a fantasy world!"

    ...without ever wondering why, in a fantasy world, anglo saxon Caucasian features are supposed to be the overwhelming majority and the lead protagonist detault.

    While it is awkward to write race into prose--I don't want a paragraph where Luke Skywalker mulls over the fact that this new token character "skin the color of hot chocolate" or "almond shaped eyes"--a lot of this could also be easily telegraphed in the cover art or in the Essnetial Guides! Of course, we usually only get cover art of the Big 3, anyway.

    I'll dare to throw out there that the majority of the Star Wars authors are white men, too.

    Real world ethnic minorities and women who aren't redheads tend to get the short stick in Star Wars. Don't get me started on the gay-married mandos (oh noes!)

    - jedifreac
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  3. Armchair_Admiral Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 31, 2005
    star 4
    I have a theory as to why there's so many white people in Star Wars. Coruscant, where SW humans came from, is a somewhat cold place without orbital mirrors, which means that the humans there would have started out with white skin (while Earth's humans were black at first due to their African origins). For whatever reasons, white-skin remained dominant, or something. :confused:
  4. CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus

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    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1999
    star 6
    That was my understanding. It still doesn't seem right to me when you factor in all the high-birth-rate species and the other spacefarers like the Duros, but I can at least tolerate it.

    Probably. Doesn't mean I'm letting them off the hook for it. God knows people here have extended more energy than this on far less worthy crusades.

    I don't think that's proven - especially not among sci-fi fans.

    That was my problem with Denning back during Dark Nest, but at least then there were alien main characters.

    That would be interesting, but even if the books are filled with minor alien characters, then you're just talking about tokenism, or at best, the implication that the galaxy is filled with aliens, but important things only ever happen to humans.

    A good point - if they're only being used to remind us who Luke Skywalker is and what Han Solo is the captain of, are they really helping? They should either be a lot more thorough, or not bothered with at all. I think a lot of this is me longing for the days of the X-wing DPs. Those were thorough, diverse, and helpful. You're got to give Traviss that at least - she has nice, elaborate (also mostly human) DPs.

    What's crazy about it is that this argument is really saying "I can't put a description of someone's race into prose without it being awkward...therefore, everyone's white." There have been all kinds of characters that didn't have their skin color specifically mentioned who could have been made nonwhite when finally getting drawn, but no one's even imagining nonwhite characters in the first place. There's nothing I can remember in the entire X-wing series that precluded Corran Horn from being black, or Kyp from being hispanic, or Cal Omas from being middle eastern, but it never occurs to anyone, author or artist, that they could be.
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  5. JediFreac Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 7, 2002
    star 4
    I almost forgot to mention...Star Wars's depiction of race has always been a little problematic. Remember the kerfluffle about Jar Jar and the Nemodians being awful racial caricatures? It's like the salt in the Episode I wound. And you're right that although Star Wars is heavily influenced by Japanese film and culture, the people from that culture are pretty nonexistent. (You see this in Firefly, too.)

    I know! It's a total double bind. But it seems like WHEN characters are not white in Star Wars, the author has to find a good place to drop in a line about the new character's "tawny skin" or some other Earthly stereotypical racial marker, and I think that's even worse. It's like when comic books create an Asian character but give the character extremely slanty eyes and really yellow skin. There has to be a subtler, happier medium when it comes to inclusion.

    I always wondered about Jan Ors. To me, Jan Ors is Asian (well, "space Asian.") She's modeled after an Asian American actress/model, anyway. But she could have just as easily been white. So who got the idea to make Jan Ors Asian looking, rather than your typical redheaded/caucasian Star Wars heroine, in the Dark Forces/Jedi Knight games? How did it come about? Why doesn't this happen more often?

    But it is awkward and almost scary that "white features" is the Star Wars default. Obviously if Lucasbooks has some sort of agenda where they designate specific characters as a real-world ethnic minority, it would reek of tokenism. But when the artists and editors all default characters to white--even if it's unconsciously--and it's on a systemic level, then we've got issues. Like when almost every character in those "Who is who in the ____" spreads are white, or all the characters illustrated in an Essential Guide are the same ethnicity. Were most of the Sith Lords on that one page in the Encyclopedia human, male, and white?


    I've also noticed that although the KOTOR games give you the option of playing male or female and also several different "head choices" and "skin tones" to pick from, in the default marketing, the character they used was still the white dude--the default. Remember how freaked out and angry some fanboys got, and how lame their reasons were, when they were told that the Exile was a woman?
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  6. Armchair_Admiral Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 31, 2005
    star 4
    Thing is, that's a problem inherent in all fiction. Authors and readers from Western backgrounds (and no doubt the same thing applies to other cultures) will usually be naturally inclined to think a character is white-skinned unless there's a specific description that someone has black skin or slanty eyes, simply because white skinned people are the majority in Western society, and have been through their entire lives. It's the same reason why most people in conversations constantly mention that Barrack Obama's black, while not bothering on a regular basis to point out that George W. Bush or Bill Clinton is white, simply because most of society treats "white" as a default color. It's the harsh truth, and it won't change unless racial demographics change.

    There probably was no thought into what race Jan Ors would be. Angela Harry simply got the part in Jedi Knight, and Jan's appearence since then has been based on Angela's appearence. However in the first Dark Forces game, Jan was depicted as a standard white woman.
  7. DarthIktomi Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 11, 2009
    star 4
    Yeah, but your hypothesis falls apart if we assume the human homeworld is Coruscant or Corellia. Coruscant's only slightly farther out, and Corellia's actually closer to the sun than Earth.

    Also, the only reason light skin evolved on Earth at all is because of agriculture.
  8. Armchair_Admiral Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 31, 2005
    star 4
    The Essential Atlas makes no attempt to speculate that Corellia is a possible homeworld for humanity, and Coruscant is more or less as far away from its star as Mars is to our sun. Mars is a colder place than Earth since it doesn't get as much sunlight, so it is only reasonable to assume that pre-ecumenopolis Coruscant is just as cold. It can still support life, but that life would have evolved to handle such temperatures.

    More specifically, the lack of vitamin D intake in agricultural societies (some of it coming from the sun itself) is theorized to have led to the development of light skin so that humans skin could take more of it in. Remember that Coruscant is colder than Earth, so the pre-ecumenopolis Zhell/Humans would have needed more clothing to keep themselves warm, thus their skins would have to be light in order to make up for the vitamin D they don't get thanks to said clothing.
  9. DarthIktomi Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 11, 2009
    star 4
    We actually don't know the human homeworld. Coruscant and Corellia are the most common speculations though. But Coruscant isn't that much farther away, if we look at the definitions of second, light-year, and parsec as provided by materials available. Remember that a Coruscanti year is less than three days more than our year.
  10. xx_Anakin_xx Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 9, 2008
    star 4
    I could go for more ethnicity, a colorful cast is always cool, especially since the colors don't have to be limited to shades falling between black/white/brown. Humans in green, mauve and pink don't make one blink an eye.

    Humans are a different subject to me though. I think humans are the main focus, because the Skywalkers/Solos are human - although there is no way to make a convincing argument that other species are not a big part of Star Wars. So much so, that when a new character is introduced, you will find yourself quickly deluded if you automatically imagine they are human everytime, so there is that diversity, but you'll never have it with the 'stars' unless they intermix. But in as far as the DP goes, it can be very unenlightening and misleading, I generally skim them as they rarely capture the book properly.
  11. Armchair_Admiral Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 31, 2005
    star 4
    The Atlas outright states that "The human species is believed to have originated on Coruscant, known as Notron in the millennia prior to the erection of its sparkling ecumenopolis." If we go way back to the Marvel series, a planet named Notron was one of the candidates for the human homeworld (out of at least six). Since the Atlas retcons Coruscant and Notron as being one and the same for the purposes of the backstory of SW humanity, it's say to say that the EU will no longer try to say that any planet other than Coruscant is a contender for the title of humanity's homeworld.

    Distance between Earth and its star: ~147,000,000 km to ~152,000,000 km
    Distance between Mars and its star: ~207,000,000 km to ~249,000,000 km
    Distance between Coruscant and its star: ~207,000,000 km to ~251,000,000 km

    The EU has consistantly claimed that without those orbital mirrors, Coruscant would be a much cooler planet. Look at Mars, where surface temperatures don't go above 20 °C while the hottest recorded measurement for Earth is 57.7 °C. This is a very big difference, which means that the humans that evolved on Coruscant would have had to adapt to more cooler temperatures than us back on Earth. So yes, this would mean that Coruscanti humans would be more likely to start out light skinned.

    That doesn't change the fact that Coruscant according to canon is far away enough from its star that it can never get hot like it does at Earth, and that this assertion has basis in reality.
  12. DarthIktomi Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 11, 2009
    star 4
    So in short, what we have is contradictory evidence: Seconds that are the same (with a 60 second minute, 60 minute hour, 24 hour day, and 368 day year) and parsecs and light-years that are only slightly longer versus the Atlas.

    This is the fun of Saxtonism.
  13. JediFreac Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 7, 2002
    star 4
    Even if the theory that Coruscant spawned pale skin humans is a good way to wank it, it still doesn't explain why humans of other ethnic appearance have not gained all that much prominence over time to be a part of the FotJ dramatis personae. There's a disproportionate amount of characters described as having ethnically African features from Socorro (Lando, Qu Rahn, Deke Holman), two queens of Naboo were South Asian and Maori respectively.

    I don't see any harm in pointing this out to DR and Lucas Publishing, it's just more for them to chew on as they create characters in the future.
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  14. Dawud786 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 28, 2006
    star 4
    For what it's worth, I prefer the Asian male selections for Revan.

    The thing that's hard is the demographics reading and creating in the Star Wars universe and how they imagine. Even then, it could be a non-white person imagining characters as white just because basically anyone in the US has been cultured to think like that. In the case of white readers, however, it's usually a case of putting yourself in the characters' shoes... so you're going to be imagining those characters as a sort of extension of yourself. That said, despite the cover art... I imagined Jax Pavan Middle Eastern. And I'm a white dude, I just desire more diversity... so I deliberately imagine other than the stock white male placeholder.
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  15. BROWNHORNET Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Dec 9, 2007
    star 1
    I don't think there is nothing wrong with pointing out a lack of diversity in Star Wars. It's real issue. White males aren't the only people who read these books, and/or want to immerse themselves in SW and feel a part of it. However, white males are perhaps the most represented/focused on group in SW.

    I think the prequel films did a better job, not perfect, but a much better job of displaying a wider array of human and alien diversity on the Jedi Council, among the Jedi, and across the galaxy in general than the NJO/LOTF/FOTJ, etc. have done. The Legacy comic has done a better job too than the novels.

    In times past I would just reimagine certain characters to be more diverse. Cal Omas was Dennis Haysbert in my mind for example. I also picture Darth Bane as a black male. I don't think there's going to be much change, since the majority of SW novelist are white males and I think there is a tendency to think of your own group as the default, universal. But I still hope one day to see more diverse human Jedi actually being the heroes, on the covers of books, comics, video games, etc. And after that, perhaps more alien Jedi. Also, I would like to see more diversity among the Sith. The only non-white human Sith that comes to mind is Dician, and she's a minor character.
  16. ChildOfWinds Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 7, 2001
    star 5
    While I agree that we can use more diverse humans in the GFFA, I guess I'm in the minority on the alien issue. I think the authors HAVE given us plenty of alien characters. While I can't mention specifics about Abyss due to the spoiler policy, there are many characters in that book that *are* aliens. True, they're not the main cast. But when I read, I like to relate to the characters. It's simply easier for me to do that when the characters are human.
  17. Jedi_Hall Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 30, 2007
    star 1
    Can't there be anything in this world that doesn't come down to an issue of race?

    And for reference, there is no black, white, asian, or latino races. There is only the Human race. We all be one, people.
  18. MercenaryAce Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 10, 2005
    star 5
    What's crazy about it is that this argument is really saying "I can't put a description of someone's race into prose without it being awkward...therefore, everyone's white."
    No offense, but isn't that what you are saying? That anyway not specifically described as a certain race must automatically be white?

    Anyway, Essential Atlas was pretty good about this. Not only were several important aliens in galactic history described, but several human characters were non-white. Like that early Republic philosopher who looked Asian...not to mention the entire founding jedi order. Well, I thin so anyway, I am not very good at identifying race.
  19. JediFreac Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 7, 2002
    star 4
    No one is saying we're not all one people. We are all one people. Only in Star Wars, there's a disproportionate amount of one kind of people overshadowing all the others, so it's clear we are not being treated like we are all one people. If Star Wars really treated humans as all one people, then these problems of under-representation would not be happening.
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  20. IllogicalRogue2 Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2003
    star 2
    Yeah and K'ruhk should be on the council at this point too. BRING HIM ON I say :D
  21. IllogicalRogue2 Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2003
    star 2

    No one is saying we're not all one people. We are all one people. Only in Star Wars, there's a disproportionate amount of one kind of people overshadowing all the others, so it's clear we are not being treated like we are all one people. If Star Wars really treated humans as all one people, then these problems of under-representation would not be happening.


    As a "white male" I hate that they use the term "white" I am a mutt- I am so many more things then just "white" I have Swiss, Cherokee, Sioux, Welsh, Irish, Gaelic, German, Native Hawaiian. And beyond that my family has roots to darn near every culture traced either forward or backwards.

    I guess while I feel your pain and agree- I see the term "white" could be compared to the multitude of different versions of "Sith" Or "Sith War" or "Hyperspace war" but shades of people are hard to convey sometimes. I agree they should change it up a bit- even when describing already established characters like Han and Luke and such- not everyone is the same shade of a color.

  22. Armchair_Admiral Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 31, 2005
    star 4
    Continuity buffs don't need to be given more headaches, you know. :p
  23. IllogicalRogue2 Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2003
    star 2

    Continuity buffs don't need to be given more headaches, you know.


    I'm just saying Luke either a little pastier then normal or Han with a slight tan. Both can be described as "white" but can also readily use other words to convey they are more then one color.
  24. patchworkz7 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2004
    star 4
    Agreed. I really dislike that dodge of the issue, as well as the dodge of "it's just entertainment", but the point is that entertainment has a lot of power. Listen to Nichelle Nichols talk about how many African-Americans come up to her to tell how much it meant to see a black woman on the bridge of a star ship. To borrow from the Wiki article on Nichelle:

    It's not about whether we're one people or one race but about the fact that people can see their culture and people who look like them on the screen or read about them in books, even in books set in a GFFA.

    Whether it's characters with Asian features, black features, Middle Eastern features, punk rock looks, Gothy looks, or even things like homosexual characters; people like to know that they are represented. It's about a feeling of inclusion and respect, and knowing that they're not simply forgotten about.

    Strong characters who represent those racial characteristics or who might be homosexual or who might have a disability (I've seen people praise MASS EFFECT for having a pilot who has brittle bone syndrome and can't walk but can pilot the best star ship in the fleet, and it's because there's someone who might otherwise be confined to a wheelchair piloting a space ship and people who have various disabilities can see themselves in that person).

    It's not being PC, but it is about honouring the spectrum of human beings.

    I kind of half joke, but I do want to see characters with piercings and tats and dyed pink or plum hair because that's part of what people look like in the real world, and I think SW is more than large enough to hold the whole width of human physical types and even to a degree cultural types.

    I don't want "Very Special Episodes" of SW, but I do want to see variations and the glory that is humanity being a race that is varied in their looks and backgrounds, and sometimes (in the case of piercings and the like) it's something they do to themselves ;)

    Because when people read or watch something it is exciting to see someone who looks and/or talks like them, because it not only makes an emotional connection, but it adds richness to the universe.

    And, Coop, I should add that I'm GLAD you keep bringing this up, and I respect the fact that you've not fallen to cynicism, because it helps keep me from falling to cynicism about it and lets me know that other readers care about the same thing too.
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  25. Dawud786 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 28, 2006
    star 4
    Talk to the powers that be about that one man. It was a wealthy English elite in North America that initially decided to define people as "white" and "the rest" when lower class non-English and English indentured servants started uniting with black slaves and American Indians in rebellion against their status quo. Then they were all "hey, we're all white and we're better than those others who in fact are less than human." And that's been the narrative ever since.
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