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

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

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  1. CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus

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    I'm wrapping up DB: Rule of Two at the moment (yes, I'm very behind) and I thought this was worthy of a quick bump to point out that Karpyshyn has been doing a very good job with nonwhite humans - not only including a fair amount of them, but making their colors known in a non-obnoxious way, Yeah, it involves phrases like "so-and-so's olive skin", but it's always in a context where their skin color is relevant to something that's happening or a broader descriptive point, rather than excessively attentive details that seem to scream out "Looky, looky! Black guy!" I'm holding out hope that Zannah takes an alien apprentice in the next one, but DoE doesn't come out in paperback for a while yet...
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  2. Arawn_Fenn Chosen One

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    I admire your unspoiledness.

    (Or is that called freshness?8-})
  3. CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus

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    You admire me for being cheap, and having no free time? :confused:
  4. The2ndQuest Tri-Mod With a Mouth

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  5. CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus

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    Came across a blog post that reminded me of this thread, and I wanted to share:

    Suspending your disbelief for a movie in which only white guys are interesting

    It's important to me that this discussion doesn't die off, so I've decided I'm going to start using it to keep tabs on how the novel DPs break down in what I think are the key problem areas. So with that in mind...

    [image=http://www.starwars.com/vault/books/news20100208/vortex_img.jpg]

    Dramatis Personae Characters (excluding droids): 17

    Humans: 13 (76%)

    White humans: 12 (92% of human characters, 71% of total)

    White male humans: : 6 (46% of human characters, 35% of total)
  6. Todd the Jedi Mod and Sitcom Dad of SWTV

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    Someone in the Vortex discussion thread mentioned how the DPs are really pointless since some characters in them barely appear in the novel proper while unlisted characters appear more. There definitely were some non-human characters who could've replaced some of the humans in this DP. But points go to this DP for listing what I think is the first ever "entity" in a SW book, since The Crystal Star didn't have a DP, iirc.
  7. Karohalva Jedi Grand Master

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    Lando was a very dark-skinned white man!

    But seriously, the human bias is because, excluding E.T., all Star Wars fans are humans. Fictive characters need readers to identify with them. Thus what "alien" protagonists we do have are, for the most part, if not human, then humanoid. I don't know about you all, but I just don't get that connective vibe from the tragic tale of a Killik teenager fighting a losing battle for individuality in conformist world that replaces independence with communal dependence. As for male protagonists, that's because Star Wars uses mythological archetypes. Sorry to use such a cliched answer, but it's the truth. We may be sick of it, but Mr. Lucas and his cohorts are insistent it remains.
  8. CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus

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    See: Avatar.

    But really, though, I just do not get this premise. I read Star Wars because the universe interests me; I'm looking for something complex and fantastical, not something I can insert myself into as easily as possible.
  9. CaptainPeabody Force Ghost

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    It's not a matter of 'inserting oneself' into a book or movie; it's a matter of being able to relate to someone. To relate to someone or something other than yourself, you must be like them in some way, have something in common with them to serve as the basis of further communication; even for differences to be established, there must be a core of similarity to show these differences.
    Watching a bunch of aliens who are totally unrelatable to people doing totally alien things which are totally unrelatable to the things people do while talking in an alien dialect which is incomprehensible would not be a particularly interesting story.

    Of course, one does not normally or ideally relate to a fictional character as yourself or a non-specific stand-in meant to be replaced in your mind by yourself, but as another human person with his own characteristics, thoughts, beliefs, etc. Thus, with aliens in Star Wars being for the most part simply human beings in furry costumes or with bizarre cultures, one can relate to the human core of the alien while being interested by the ways these aliens differ from us (even if that differing is fairly shallow and one-note). But the basic human core of personhood is necessary for this to be interesting or relatable; otherwise, one is simply talking about zoology, which while it is interesting, does not make for very good stories. Watching a movie about cows is difficult if one is not a cow; and watching a movie about rocks is almost impossible even for a rock.
    And even there, alien flora and fauna must be in some way relatable to our own experiences of things we see around us; otherwise, whatever fantastic differences there are are left untouched.

    The reason why human characters are more popular in general is that humanity is real, exists in real life, and so are simply infinitely more complex, varied, and interesting than the alien species we create can ever be. Most alien species in things like Star Trek and Star Wars are simply tiny fragments or characteristics of the varied human race taken and made into the defining and often only characteristic of an entire species; or else they are just humans combined with our imaginations of what animals are like (which usually just comes from humanity as well). So Reptilian species, cat species, etc.

    Now, that's no reason not to have alien characters, and indeed I really wish we could have more, just because they're often the only way to fit any actual human difference in beliefs or cultures or attitudes into the Star Wars setting (where humans are very homogenous culturally and otherwise). In addition, alien characters are visually impressive and interesting. Frankly, it's simply fun to have them around.

    The magic of the 'Cantina Scene' comes in the vast array of different lifeforms of all sizes and shapes, things out of mythology or our nightmares, all gathered together in a bar doing recognizable human things like eating, drinking, and talking; in its own way, it's just a GFFA version of an Earth port with people of all nationalities, dressed in different ways, from different backgrounds and different walks of life, all mingling together in simple human ways. The Star Wars vision of aliens is thus ultimately a visual representation of the endless variety of human life; each human being or culture is unique, yet with a basic core of sameness and similarity, and these differences are represented to the eye by these alien creatures and cultures. So there is no reason why an alien character can't be every bit as three-dimensional as a human character; after all, he is human, whatever 'race' he belongs to.

    But the fact remains that all of these alien species are ultimately just fragments of the true complexity, diversity, and variety of human life, which actually exists wh
  10. DarthIktomi Jedi Master

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    That's actually an interesting point. The protagonist in the new "Indians are good" Westerns, which Avatar essentially is, is still always white, and very Gary Stuish. The closest exception is the character of Lewis Moon in At Play in the Fields of the Lord, who is only half white; and in the film version, he was played by Tom Berenger.

    Of course, I can't help but think of all the Indians in children's series. Indians are on the low end of the token scale; the Burger King Kids' Club didn't include one, but did include a guy in a wheelchair. But Indians often play the role of The Lancer, Sixth Ranger, The Obi Wan (and are guaranteed to survive more than if they're any other trope, and more than The Obi Wan in any other ethnic background), or sometimes even The Hero. Never The Chick, since 98% of Indians in fiction are male.
  11. CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus

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    Yeah, Avatar isn't really an ideal example - which is why I followed it up with a little more clarification. There's no reason to really get into its merits as a film, but I do disagree with you, Peabody, in that I think it's at least a step in the right direction. The characters are simplistic and hollow, but the aliens no more so than the humans. I don't mean to argue that SW should be more like Avatar, only to offer it as an example of people being fully capable of relating to nonhumans when the narrative can be bothered to ask it of them.

    Basically my point (with regard to aliens specifically; keep in mind that this thread is about human diversity as well) is exactly what you said about alien characters largely being humans with fur or horns or whatever. Certainly crazy-ass aliens like Waru or Kud'ar Mub'at aren't there to be identified with, but if a Woostoid is as capable of playing the role of a scoundrel, or a leader, or a healer, or a junkie, as a human is - we should make an effort to not err quite so strongly in the direction of humans, if only for sheer suspension-of-disbelief reasons.

    And that's not to say aliens have to or should be utterly indistinguishable from humans, either - there have been many examples of compelling, relatable nonhuman characters in the EU (Aayla Secura, Ooryl Qrygg, I-5YQ) that still have perspectives or characteristics you wouldn't find in a human. Which, as you said, should be largely the point of having aliens in fiction to begin with.
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  12. CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus

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    Currently reading:

    [image=http://www.starwars.com/img/vault/books/news02262009/new_death_troopers.jpg]

    Dramatis Personae Characters (excluding droids): 5

    Humans: 4 (80%)

    White humans: Unknown, potentially 4

    White male humans: Unknown, potentially 3

    With so few DP characters, and none with existing images, this is a tough one - though the nonhuman ratio is disappointing at the very least. Anyone remember offhand if any of the humans are described at having a particular skin tone? I'll have to revisit this once I've finished it.
  13. Havac Former Moderator

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    Galaxies and the Galaxies TCG art have, unfortunately, established Trig Longo (and presumably Kale), and, it looks like, Zahara Cody as white. Though Cody could be a litte mixed-raceish, just going by her Wookieepedia portrait. So, stupidly disappointing.

    So, artists: When you portray Jareth Sartoris: DON'T MAKE HIM WHITE.

    In any case, it's not unexpected that the two Imperial characters were human, but it's rather disappointing that the kids weren't of some different species. An all-human cast, which is really what this was, is mightily boring in a sci-fi setting.
  14. SuperWatto Manager Emeritus

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    ITT, blanket statements reign supreme.

    That depends on the story and how it's written.
    Zahn's Conquerors' Heritage is told from the perspective of way-out-there aliens and I thought it was quite good and interesting.

    That depends on the story and how it's written.
    Niven's Destiny's Road or Building Harlequin's Moon feature only humans and I thought they were quite good and interesting.
  15. Havac Former Moderator

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    An all-human cast, which is really what this is, is mightily boring in a sci-fi setting that has aliens.
  16. CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus

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    Having taken a carefully-unspoiled glance at Zahara's wook page - yeah, I'd be willing to call that nonwhite.

    Watto - any group of characters in any setting could potentially make for a good story - all white in Schindler's List, all black in Roots, and so on - so the only point to really be made here is that you can't say conclusively that fewer WMHs would be a bad thing in terms of quality. Which is a blanket statement, so I assume you'd agree. :)
  17. SuperWatto Manager Emeritus

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    You know, when I read the X-Wing comics, I thought it was weird that there were so many non-humans in Rogue Squadron. With weird adapted helmets. Only then did I realize that the original Rogue Squadron was really human-only. The whole ANH rebellion was human-only. As was the ANH Empire.

    ANH... is nearly an all-human cast in a sci-fi setting that has aliens. As is TESB.

    I guess it's explained enough when you say that the rebellion started on human worlds, and when it got big other folks like the Mon Calamari and the Sullustians joined. And the Empire, I guess, was just fascist.

    But that doesn't explain why the Chancellors of the Republic we see in the films happen to be human. As well as most of the smarter senators.

    It almost seems as if humans get the better chances in life. The GFFA's humans are Earth's white people. So why, then, have we never seen non-humans rise up against humans?
  18. Rouge77 Jedi Grand Master

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    We have, in early NJO the resentment towards humans played a role and in the juvenile Solo kids stories there was the plot by the alien Diversity Alliance or whatever it was.

    The thing is the, the alien resentment tends to be portrayed negatively in my own personal opinion.

    I see these stories - in my own subjective and in what follows, heavily sarcastic, view - basically going "Nasty ungrateful aliens who don't know their rightful place dare to try to attack the ordained master species of the galaxy, but are righteously defeated - with the help of a few aliens who understand not to try to reach beyond their natural station in the order of things".

    In my own personal opinion, too often in EU everyone who isn't a major character (and this happens even to them, I think myself) and has a grudge or feels to be treated unjustly is shown to be wrong and is either killed or made to understand that everything is just great and what (s)he or it complains about is either justice or their own fault. (As long as it isn't pre- Pellaeon Empire they have the grudge against, that is, I feel.)

    It happens even to humans in my opinion. In Survivor's Quest Dean Jinzler mysteriously, half a century afterwards, came to believe that his parents didn't, after all, prefer his Jedi sister to him. Why? Well, there's really no logical reason in the story where he could base this change of heart, no evidence for his new belief, but of course - in my own opinion, naturally, nothing more - he needed to be shown the error of his ways, because if you have a chip on your shoulder in EU, in my opinion it almost always ends with the realisation that you must have put it in there yourself.

    Same with the aliens playing a secondary role to the humans in the galaxy, in my own personal opinion.
  19. CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus

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    Any discussion of the continuity of those two movies has to take budget and effects technology into consideration. Showing dozens and dozens of random aliens in a scene like, say, this...

    [image=http://www.amoeba.com/dynamic-images/blog/star-wars-ceremony.jpg]

    ...was beyond Lucas' abilities - even in Empire. So better instead to hit the diversity beat as hard as you possibly can in the cantina - show one example each of many different species, some only from the head up, in a dark room for 3-5 seconds each - in order to balance out the room full of British extras. Looking at the large groups seen in the prequels - the Jedi Council, the Senate, the Separatist Council - is, I think, a much better indication of what Lucas considers to be the makeup of this civilization. One wonders, in fact, if he didn't add the xenophobic undertone to the Empire purely to explain the lack of aliens.

    That would be bad enough, but no, it's worse than that - white people are the GFFA's white people.

    [image=http://images.wikia.com/starwars/images/a/a1/Mara-funeral.jpg]
  20. Sjaddix Jedi Knight

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    Yes most of the cast is white although the skywalkers do skew this. Still non white humans are far between. I mean seriously have we had a non white jedi even half as good as mace windu? And yes its bad for aliens too but seeing as I am not one, i cannot exactly get as annoyed for that. and they still show up more then non white humans. The lack of minorities particularly force sensitive ones is bad. I mean lets face it if Lando is not showing up in the book, the chance of seeing a non white human is practically zero. Especially if u want them to do something relevant. Man mace really needed a kid, we cannot get some cloning or splicing or something for him to have one u can even use his old apprentice and score two groups at the same time.
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  21. CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus

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    I honestly have far greater suspension-of-disbelief problems with the second picture I posted than the first.
  22. Likewater Force Ghost

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    Outside Star Wars: legacy, yeah it is pretty much a white wash? [face_laugh]

    I mean there was Ganner Ryshode, I think he was Indian or arabic, being that thoes areas are not in the GFFA I supposse the correct term would be Ambiguiously brown.

    And that Klin Fa-gi is ambigiously asian.

    You think that knowing that the Kiffar and Horun Kal had such high force sensative amongst its populations there would be brown jedi everywhere. but alas.
  23. Rouge77 Jedi Grand Master

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    Both are apparently just more Caucasian -looking people with dark hair.

    Canonical appearances from Wookieepedia:

    Ganner_Rhysode:

    [image=http://images2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20090820055706/starwars/images/thumb/5/5a/Ganner_Rhysode_EA.JPG/428px-Ganner_Rhysode_EA.JPG]

    Klin-Fa Gi:

    [image=http://images3.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20080216110339/starwars/images/8/82/Klin_and_Cilghal.jpg]

    Mace Windu's apprentice Depa Billaba was given features like that of some natives of the Indian sub-continent on Earth. Apparently - in my own personal, in this case very sarcastic, opinion - it almost looks to me like there is segregation going on in EU, with human Jedi that look non-Caucasian having (when these are humans) non-Caucasian looking apprentices and masters and the Caucasian looking Jedi then have Caucasian looking human apprentices and masters.

    I wonder myself personally whether non-Caucasian looking Jedi tend to have more often non-human masters and apprentices in EU? I just have a personal hunch that this might be the case... :(
  24. Likewater Force Ghost

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    Yeah, I felt so...I don't know. For the longest time i could sware Ganner was Indian...uh Brown, but then thoes picks came out.

    What was all that darkskin discription when he was mentioned?

    Alteast there is still Ambigiously south east asian jedi from "Hope"
  25. Rouge77 Jedi Grand Master

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    Confirmed to be Satele Shan. Has pretty non-Caucasian features in this in-game picture on the right, compared to the concept art picture on the left, but then there is the redhead Caucasian girl depiction from Threat of Peace and in the Lost Suns 1 preview she has again very white skin and dark hair, but resembles more her depiction in Hope.
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