Lit Ignorance is Bias: The Diversity Manifesto

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

  1. Havac Some Guy Who Moderates Lit

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    Well, it was the Empire.

    Technically, he could have been into alien women, and the Empire definitely wouldn't have dug that, but I think the nudge-and-a-wink way Crispin went about saying that "In truth, the Moff's sexual preferences did not run to human females" without just saying, "In truth, the Moff's sexual preferences did not run to humans," or, "In truth, the Moff's sexual preferences ran to alien females," suggests that she was trying to get something by that could only be gotten by that way -- that Shild was a closeted gay man. Alien preference is supportable by the pure text, and you could make a case for that being the preferable interpretation in the bigger picture, but the passage has always read to me as clearly intending to indicate Shild's homosexuality.

    You appear to have me confused with the guy who can't mess with your account.
    Last edited by Havac, Sep 4, 2012
  2. Robimus Force Ghost

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    Do Barbarel's even romance each other and have such relationships? I wonder?

    I do think though that LFL needs to get humanity in the proper light. I could just imagine a Lucasbooks representitive telling people, "Yes, we have gay characters - take the lizard people for instance.
  3. AdmiralNick22 Fleet Admiral of Literature

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    I just want to point out, for the record, that for all the various shortcomings in diversity we have noted in this thread and the one on the temp boards, we can still be proud that our record is better than Star Treks. They edge us out in terms of human diversity, but we blow them out of the water when it comes to actual non-human characters.

    I say this as a Trek fan that would love to see the Federation and Starfleet actually look diverse, not just a bunch of humans and one token alien traveling around the galaxy.

    --Adm. Nick
  4. JediFreac Force Ghost

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    Do we really, though? I thought it was a bunch of humans and one token alien (Chewbacca) traveling around the galaxy. Does Ben Skywalker even have a token alien friend?
  5. CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus

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    Yeah, it strikes me that gay members of cold-blooded species could be very interesting; especially if males and females don't normally play the same role in child-rearing that humans do. If all you're socially expected to do from a reproduction standpoint is deposit your seed/eggs somewhere and walk away, there could be far less reason for anyone to care what your other proclivities are.

    Well that's part of the problem, isn't it--are they disproportionately rarer? Compared to modern western demos, sure, but there's no IU reason to think that whites couldn't be 99% of the human population. It's certainly bad from an OOU perspective, and should be countered as much as possible, but to the extent the ship has already sailed, we're very much forced to accept either that whites are 99%, or that it is just a coincidence that Jango Fett is brown and Mon Mothma is white. Though there has been some interesting discussion about how the core might have ended up predominantly white, which would mirror the systemic prejudice that is established as existing, and at least handwave the problem OOU.
    I hate that guy. :p
    Last edited by CooperTFN, Sep 4, 2012
  6. Todd the Jedi Mod and Sitcom Dad of SWTV

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    I agree with JediSmurf's last post. The movies themselves are not great for diversity. There's the token cantina scene, and most of the background characters and minor Jedi in the prequels are aliens, but main cast is almost exclusively human. Only real exceptions are Chewie and the droids, to an extent.

    It's a good amount of books, comics, games, etc. that are great for diversity a lot.
    Last edited by ToddtheJedi, Sep 4, 2012
  7. AdmiralNick22 Fleet Admiral of Literature

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    The Prequels definitely do. As for the Original Trilogy, while aliens mainly served a background characters, at least they were not simply humans with a bump pasted on their nose or forehead. I give Star Wars credit for making aliens appear alien. Duros, Mon Cals, Ithorians, Ugnaughts, Ishi Tiib, Klatooinians, Quarren, Sullustans- all of these aliens and far more are 1000 times more diverse than Bajorans, Vulcans, Talarians, Betazoids, or any of the other alien species in Star Trek that are just humans with a ridge or ear point added.

    Like I said, I love Star Trek and I am not trying to bash it, but at least Star Wars gave us aliens that looked unique!

    --Adm. Nick
  8. CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus

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    I think the OT does an admirable job of establishing a diverse galaxy, all things considered. Aside from the obvious budgetary reasons for not having a slew of alien main characters, the fact is that the saga is essentially about one family and their immediate romantic interests. The only human mains who could be made into aliens without radically changing the story are Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, and Lando (I suppose Palpatine or Tarkin, but then you have to rethink the Empire a bit).
    Last edited by CooperTFN, Sep 4, 2012
  9. Havac Some Guy Who Moderates Lit

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    Just for the record, every time I see this thread title I read it as "Ignorance is Bliss."
  10. AdmiralNick22 Fleet Admiral of Literature

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    As I am pretty sure I mentioned this in the temp thread, I think it is pretty telling that George Lucas seriously considered adding several Rebel Mon Calamarians and Sullustans to A New Hope during the Death Star briefing scence. Budget, especially during ANH, was very limited. George's visions have always surpassed the budgetary or tech levels available to him at the time. It shows that Lucas wanted to make the Rebellion more diverse.

    Granted, he didn't say he wanted to add people of color or women, but it is a start. :p

    --Adm. Nick
  11. The Loyal Imperial Manager Emeritus

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    Mice and fish over women? Yeah...not really a start. More like a giant step backwards.
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  12. CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus

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    That's the idea - play on words. I'm clever like that, don't you know.
    Last edited by CooperTFN, Sep 4, 2012
  13. Zorrixor Chosen One

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    I often get confused by "human" too, especially as it seems to vary between authors. I know some use "[sentient] being", but anthropomorphised group generalisations seem more frequent, which I actually find confusing sometimes, as I'm never certain if Ackbar or Saba or whoever are still there or have actually left to do something else.
    I've always been a bit disappointed they don't make alien characters' POVs have an affect on the narrative more. A chapter from Saba's POV could disrupt a reader's expectation by inverting what Coop just mentioned, as she wouldn't see the world in groups of humans, but groups of Barabels, or... "Barabeloids" or something. :p

    I find linguistic experimentation fun though, so I don't know if I'm just more open to that kinda thing than your average mass market consumer who might groan and roll their eyes? To me though, it's the kind of corny pulpy thing that just seems totally at home for Star Wars.
    For some reason, I coulda sworn I've read something like that recently... but can't think where.

    My ailing memory notwithstanding, you've actually just reminded me of Asari, who while far from perfect, aren't something I think I've ever seen Star Wars even come close to replicating? (In the sense of how, pervy interracial sex scenes aside, they're domestically a homosexual race.)

    Why's Star Wars so afraid of gay characters when Mass Effect has an entire race of lesbians?
    Last edited by Zorrixor, Sep 4, 2012
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  14. imiller Force Ghost

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    I think the Asari are more technically omnisexuals, though they are definitely constructed as lesbians, given the way their models are designed (which is ridiculous, unless you buy the "they appear to each species differently" theory).

    And aren't the Zeltrons sorta-like that? I mean, Zeltrons have kind of disappeared except for the Ostrander-Duursema psycho-exception Zeltrons and Deliah Blue, and when they first appeared they were more typically romantically portrayed - but in concept, I think they have some similarities.
  15. Esg Jedi Grand Master

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    Reeves used a Zeltron
  16. imiller Force Ghost

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    In what? I think the only Reeves I've read are the second Medstar and Shadow Games.
  17. Robimus Force Ghost

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    Patterns of the Force iirc
  18. Esg Jedi Grand Master

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  19. Robimus Force Ghost

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  20. beccatoria Force Ghost

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    Yeah, I've always had hugely conflicting feelings about that, though. I LOVE the Mass Effect series. The Asari, though, are the perfect representation of the razor thin line between progress and exploitation those games hang on, representationally.

    On the one hand, they're a canonically queer, internally homosexual (true they may not have developed the concept of gender in their own society, but Liara acknowledges that their gender identity within galactic society is generally constructed as female and they seem comfortable with that) society of women who are the wisest, most powerful faction in the galaxy.

    On the other hand, they're a race of chicks who spend their gap-year-century as stripper-ninjas in skin-tight catsuits. They're a bunch of superhot women who will sleep with you whatever you look like, but will also make out with other chicks in cut scenes that are more sexually explicit than any of the other love-interest scenes, in a game series that for the majority of its run, will let you be a lesbian but not a gay man, because we know what freaks out the gaming community more...

    Not to mention the same dichotomy existing in their reproduction which can be simultaneously construed as utopian and without boundaries but also as assimilation through reproduction, and while it didn't occur to me personally, I have seen a number of people wondering whether the other partner in that reproduction need even be completely aware it occurred. Women running off with your kids again, and having them without your permission.

    Um, at which point, I'm on a total tangent and I apologise. To bring it slightly back on track, my point, inasmuch as I had one, is that I don't think Star Wars does have an equivalent, no. Star Wars really doesn't have any species that so blatantly raises the questions of orientation and gender identification. The Hutts, perhaps, but they suffer from the inverse problem to the Asari. They're designed to be physically repulsive meaning that using them to explore the oft-mocked and uncomfortable areas of gender identification very easily falls into seeming to belittle it, being dismissive, associating it with physical and moral grossness - it's sort of an inversion of the issue with the Asari, where they're designed to appeal to the fairly homophobic, sexist norm of gaming culture, and so any serious points they want to make are easily co-opted by tendency to fall back into ninja-stripperhood as described above.

    Ziro the Hutt is a good example of this. I actually like The Clone Wars quite a lot (when I turn off my continuity radar), and think it's better than it has a right to be. I don't even think that Ziro is an awful idea, or that everything about the way he's played is appalling. But...without the context of other characters who play with gender identity (which is something different to being gender neutral, which Ziro obviously isn't), they made Jabba's evil uncle into an old dodgy gay-man stereotype, whose effeminate tendencies are visible and audible cues to judge him as freaky and not-right.

    Particularly in a film aimed at kids I think that's a...painful choice and a giant missed opportunity.
    Last edited by beccatoria, Sep 6, 2012
  21. CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus

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    "Better than it has a right to be" is probably the best summation of TCW I've ever heard.

    Not only do I not mind Ziro at all--aside from the very broad contextual issues becca mentions that I don't think are necessarily the show's fault--I think that fact that a character like that even occurred to Lucas (or, at least, that he signed off on it) suggests that he sees Hutts largely the same way the EU does. Some can be masculine and surround themselves with humanoid strippers, some can be flamboyant and carry on relationships with Pa'lowicks. They are whatever they feel like being. And to boot, Ziro is even portrayed as being relatively well-regarded in the Hutt power structure.
  22. Robimus Force Ghost

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    While I think there is something to what Bec is saying I'd just like to point out that tone of voice(and even mannerisms) don't equal gay. I kinda found that Ziro sounds a little like Mike Tyson and him dating Sy Snoodles(weird as that is) kinda screams don't judge a book by its cover.
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  23. The Loyal Imperial Manager Emeritus

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    At the very least, we know that Lucas specified that he sound like Truman Capote.
  24. cthugha Force Ghost

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    I'm a late arrival to this thread (though I've been reading on and off for a while), so maybe this has been said before... but it just struck me that when I think about diversity in SW, I think of two entirely different things.
    On the one hand, I'd like to see more (POV) characters who aren't White Human Males without that being much of an issue -- i.e. using non-WHMs as focal characters without emphasizing their "otherness", so it is clear that we as readers are supposed to identify with them, whatever our own race, species or gender. Piggy in Mercy Kill is a good example on the species scale, as is Mara in the more recent Zahn books on the gender scale.

    On the other hand, some of my favorite scenes in the EU are those that highlight and use "extreme otherness" to maximum effect -- such as the Kud'ar Mub'at scenes in the Bounty Hunter Wars trilogy or Haninum Tyk Rhinann in Coruscant Nights. This is the sort of diversity I'm specifically looking for in science fiction and fantasy, the kind of "what would the world look like from the perspective of a totally different being" thought experiments -- whereas the other form of diversity, the one that shows us that "it's not just WHMs who can be heroes" (or whose experiences are relevant enough to be put in a book) I expect from every kind of literature, fantasy or not.

    My thoughts exactly.
    So, on a positive note, what other great "very alien" POVs in the EU can we think of? There's the two droids on the Coruscant rooftop in Yoda: Dark Rendezvous; the One and the Others in L. Neil Smith's Lando trilogy; R2-D2 and C-3PO's voyage in Planet of Twilight... anything else? And hey, do we get a Waru POV in Crystal Star? I seem to remember there was one, but I'm not sure...
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  25. MercenaryAce Force Ghost

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    Would such a species even have "proclivities". To be horribly unromantic for a moment, human love and romance probably originates in the bond-pair instinct a few animals have to raise their kids better. If the parent does not play an active role in raising the child, would it even have an instinct to pair off, at least in a way that would be considered something other than friendship from the standpoint of his/her society.

    And if they have external fertilization, would they even have a sexuality at all. I mean, such a thing isn't really sex, and describing sexuality without sex seems....artificially human.

    To bring up Mass Effect, the Salarians are similar to what you describe, and almost completely asexual from what I understand. (Almost because I remember there being an Asari-Salarian coupling somewhere. Was very worried about being remembered after he was gone.)


    Though, such a species could be an interesting story telling tool that we could use to examine our own preconceptions about love, friendship, gender and society.

    About the title: It always makes me think of some kind of horrible, dark version of Friendship is Magic.