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Lit Ignorance is Bias: The Diversity Manifesto

Discussion in 'Literature' started by CooperTFN, Sep 2, 2012.

  1. Gamiel

    Gamiel Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Dec 16, 2012
    I say they are only as white as we allow them to be! Since they seldom actually mention their skin colour we will not break any continuity by portraying them as something else then white (and when have something like the actual description mattered to the painters). Let’s flood the internet with black (Morgan Freeman like) Streen, east asien Kyp Durron, indian Octa Ramis, etc., etc
     
  2. Robimus

    Robimus Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 6, 2007
    Not saying the breakdown is good by any stretch, but.......

    How about that Boba Fett guy?
     
  3. Havac

    Havac Former Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 29, 2005
    Jeremy Bulloch is white. :p

    EDIT: Actually, that sort of inspires a thought. For the longest time, Boba Fett's appearance was a mystery, but that always meant he was sort of assumed white, you know? We all knew Jeremy Bulloch was under there, he was voiced by a white guy, and he came out of the OT where everyone was white, and I think that lends itself to assuming we'd see some pasty guy underneath that armor if we ever looked. I'm guessing that the mental image of authors who wrote about him out of armor or with his helmet off was that he was some default white guy. Yet when the PT came out, suddenly it revealed that this iconic character, under his armor, wasn't default-white . . . he was Maori. That's kind of striking, isn't it? Maybe not as much as if, surprise, Boba Fett is black! . . . but it's pretty unusual. You don't usually get, "Surprise, Master Chief is Korean-American!" or "Cal Omas is Hispanic!" or whatever in a late-game reveal creatively independent of the character's original creation.
     
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  4. DigitalMessiah

    DigitalMessiah Chosen One star 6

    Registered:
    Feb 17, 2004
  5. JediFreac

    JediFreac Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 7, 2002
    To me this has always been a striking example of diverse casting because man, the character of Boba Fett is so not defined by his race in any way and in fact, in the OT, also barely defined by his gender (though I think the clone/son thing is interesting backstory in the PT.) Boba Fett was always defined by his profession (bounty hunter) and accouterments (badass bounty hunter armor.) There really could have been anyone of any race or even gender under that armor and we would still have thought that was one bad ass looking dude. This is what effective diversity looks like--the character is not solely defined by the color of his skin but by other attributes. But for that one Maori kid (or any kid with brown skin and dark hair) who is looking to see faces like his in science fiction it can really make a difference. And on a meta level, representations like this make the Star Wars franchise appear less outwardly racially exclusive. So it's also important to show what the character looks like under the mask. But in this case, this was an important call on Lucas's part, especially since the prequels filmed in Oceania.
     
  6. instantdeath

    instantdeath Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 22, 2010
    I've always pictured Streen as Asian, myself, but I'm pretty sure his descriptions are quite vague beyond being an "old man".


    This is what I normally do, as it can be somewhat difficult (without drifting into potentially sensitive description) to convey a characters race in a universe that doesn't actually have our races. The GFFA in my head often looks quite different than the one that's written down.
     
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  7. patchworkz7

    patchworkz7 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 26, 2004
    Havac actually makes a really good point, and one of the issues that has come up with Marvel's Agents of Shield is a lot of people complaining about an absence of white characters without realizing that more characters than they think are diverse; the character of Skye is half Chinese, but because she "passes" for white, the default assumption is that she's white, even though the actress speaks Cantonese and has had a singing career in China.

    So...you end up with a situation where it can be hard to tell, and writers don't have the accepted method of writing in exaggerated accents that writers in other mediums can utilize.

    It doesn't even have to be a retcon or a late-game revelation so much as the difficulty, especially in GFFA, or guessing at someone's ethnic heritage.

    Because we transpose our own ideas of race to the GFFA...how could a writer possibly convey that someone is mixed or just light-skinned when there's no real life actor to guide a person into mentally placing them in a racial category?
     
  8. THE EVIL CLIFFIE

    THE EVIL CLIFFIE Jedi Master star 2

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2008
    It's fairly easy to describe skin-tone; I think the problem here is the Humans Are White trope (note the image). Predominantly white authors writing for what is percieved as a predominantly white audience only describe skin colour when characters aren't white - simply describing character's skin colour no matter what it is (if it's a character we're going to spend a lot of time with) or not at all (if we won't spend much time with them) goes a long way to alleviating that particular hurdle, imo.
     
  9. themetresgained

    themetresgained Jedi Knight star 4

    Registered:
    Feb 23, 2013
    I have a question - if Boba Fett is Mandalorian then why were all the Mandalorians pale blue-eyed blonds in TCW? Someone posted about this a couple of pages back but I'm unfamiliar with TCW and can't comment. Just wondering if there was ever some explanation for this?
     
  10. Random Comments

    Random Comments Jedi Master star 5

    Registered:
    Sep 25, 2012
    Because TCW decided to be stupid, that's why.
     
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  11. themetresgained

    themetresgained Jedi Knight star 4

    Registered:
    Feb 23, 2013
    I'm pretty well satisfied with that. Damn whitewashing!
     
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  12. CooperTFN

    CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus star 6 VIP

    Registered:
    Jul 8, 1999
    In fairness, "Mandalorian" isn't a race. They're defined largely by the fact that they'll take on anyone, so if you allow that there are multiple populations of them that are relatively isolated from each other, it's understandable that they'd have different racial demographics. But yeah, an entire city of Aryans was a bad idea.
     
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  13. themetresgained

    themetresgained Jedi Knight star 4

    Registered:
    Feb 23, 2013
    If they'll take on anyone, it doesn't make much sense that even those small populations would have no diversity in them? But yes, that does make a little more sense.
     
  14. Iron_lord

    Iron_lord Force Ghost star 8

    Registered:
    Sep 2, 2012
    The New Mandalorians are the population of certain areas of Mandalore, rather than "followers of The Mandalorian Way".

    So- with 7 centuries of living in those cities in the middle of deserts, they might end up looking pretty homogenous, if they have a firm anti-immigration policy.
     
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  15. CooperTFN

    CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus star 6 VIP

    Registered:
    Jul 8, 1999
    Bottom line: it's odd, but not impossible.
     
  16. instantdeath

    instantdeath Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 22, 2010
    Well, it can go beyond just a simple "(s)he had dark skin" description. While I do think it's a failing that some authors won't even bother with that for any characters at all, it can be difficult to convey that a character is Asian without getting into potentially sensitive description. Then of course, there's the question of how you portray, or whether you even bother to describe, different a ethnicity in a world that doesn't have our ethnicities at all.

    Note that I'm not using this as a defense for not diversifying your cast in a novel just because you can't see the characters; far from it. I'm reading the Malazan: Book of the Fallen books, and am continually impressed in how the diversity, and believe it makes the books themselves much better.
     
  17. Skaddix

    Skaddix Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 3, 2012
    Seven centuries of living in the desert and everyone is Blonde Haired, Pale and Blue Eyed that makes no sense.

    They whitewashed the Mandalores because obviously people who are not white cannot be that bad@ss.
     
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  18. Gorefiend

    Gorefiend Chosen One star 5

    Registered:
    Oct 23, 2004
    If the people actually watched the episodes they would quickly also spot red heads, brunettes and even dark skinned people (some also with blonde hair) but they just seem to want to fixate on something here.

    Edit: Nice example shoot
    [​IMG]
     
  19. Todd the Jedi

    Todd the Jedi Mod and Soliloquist of SWTV star 6 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Oct 16, 2008
    Anyone want to make a "they're all clones" retcon? :p Still, the dev team had even fewer character models than I thought. Hm.
     
  20. Gorefiend

    Gorefiend Chosen One star 5

    Registered:
    Oct 23, 2004

    It is actually pretty amusing if you watch the Onderon arc, were the same local Rebel must have been killed at least 5 times by the of the arc.
     
  21. Todd the Jedi

    Todd the Jedi Mod and Soliloquist of SWTV star 6 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Oct 16, 2008
    This also reminds me that there's a good amount of Prince Xizor lookalikes at the Boonta Eve podrace in TPM.
     
  22. Gorefiend

    Gorefiend Chosen One star 5

    Registered:
    Oct 23, 2004

    Properly some elaborate security set up by Xizor. ;)
     
  23. Iron_lord

    Iron_lord Force Ghost star 8

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    Sep 2, 2012
    Of course, back then Xizor wasn't Underlord of Black Sun. In the Coruscant Nights trilogy he's competing to become a Vigo - maybe in TPM he was a step or so below that?
     
  24. Gorefiend

    Gorefiend Chosen One star 5

    Registered:
    Oct 23, 2004

    I always assumed he was still more or less just a Merchant Lord trying to get into Black Sun at that time.
     
  25. Mia Mesharad

    Mia Mesharad Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Sep 2, 2012
    That's actually an example of just how bad it was. There's not a soul in that entire crowd shot—no less than fifty visible individuals in that frame alone—that isn't a blonde-haired white person, and every discernible eye is blue. There's no one there with dark skin; there's shades of white, and a couple people whose faces are shadowed by the low light. And hair diversity among white people is not the same as genuine racial diversity. Adding in a token brunette or redhead doesn't make the all-white populous situation any better.