Lit Ignorance is Bias: The Diversity Manifesto

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

  1. CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus

    VIP
    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1999
    star 6
    Not necessarily, but given the overall Legacy setting that John and Jan built, they'd have to go out of their way to not have a pretty diverse cast.
    Last edited by CooperTFN, Dec 4, 2012
  2. GrandAdmiralJello Moderator Communitatis Litterarumque

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Nov 28, 2000
    star 10
    This sort of complaint has always struck me as crypto-sexist, to be completely honest. I have no idea what "the story has to fit the character" even means. How does the biological accident of sex have anything to do with the character (by which I take it you mean a person's personality, life experiences, traits, etc.)?

    Somehow, if a character is female (or ethnic), we get complaints that it should only be that way if the story dictates. That tends to suggest a stereotyped conception of such types of people and what they're useful for -- for instance, if it's an action heavy story, we often see the complaint that it "just makes sense" that it's a hero rather than a heroine (you see this complaint often from Mass Effect fans who detest the idea of a femShep).

    Guess what -- there are all different sorts of personalities and life experiences out there and it has nothing to do with sex or gender. I can think of a few girls offhand that I'd say were tougher than I am without being some sort of masculinized stereotype.
  3. jedimaster203 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 19, 1999
    star 4
    Cooper, I have no issues with female leads. Let me make that clear.

    I have an issue with female/alien leads for the sole purpose of making a female lead. Conversley, I'd have an issue if some comic exec sat around and said "That story is really cool, change the female lead to a mid 20's male everyman and we'll publish it."

    I don't think you should have to pander to tell a good story. If your lead is a woman, I'm absolutely cool with that. If the only reason you're making that lead a woman is for the sake of being politically correct, I have an issue with that. I recognize that as a mid 20's white, heterosexual male that I'm probably oblivious to a lot of diversity issues in both the real world and in literature, but you have the make those characters stand on their own within a story. If you have a story that would fit better with a male/female/alien character, then that is how it should be written.

    In my minds eye, I just see a bunch of comic executives sitting around a conference table saying "Well, damn...we've been getting hit in the media for our portrayal of females. That upcoming story we have about superman, well thats going to be supergirl now."
    In many cases, female portrayals in comics are horrible. I have issues with women being nothing more than recepticles for male heroes. However, if you shoehorn a female character in, it is off putting.

    I actually have mixed feelings. I have a daughter who I'd like to be able to share my love of star wars/comics/video games with, and I want her to have strong, identifiable characters. I think media has a responsiblity to portray women realisticly (as opposed to the 50 Shades, Twilight BS). I think all media, not just science fiction/videogames/comics fails in this miserably. Girls are taught from childhood that they are not leading characters (Don't believe me? Watch disney movies!) That said, it is off putting to just suddenly have women in situations we've never had them in before. We're going through a bit of a cultural rebirth right now, especially concerning the roles of women. I'm in the Army, and we've banned women from combat units since 1994. This is, rightly, being re-examined. Both sides, however, make compelling arguments.

    Anyways, I'll shut up before I come off as sexist. I'll just say i don't think female leads are bad, I just don't think we should have to pander to get it that way.
  4. jedimaster203 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 19, 1999
    star 4
    To clarify, I don't have any issues with female leads and you're absolutely correct. My main issue is with the perception that "we have to do this, because if we don't we're wrong" mentality of gender and sexuality in media. It ties the artist/authors hands quite a bit.

    In the end, it should be the creator who dictates the characters and stories, not the executives. Its not even really about gender, its about meddling.
  5. CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus

    VIP
    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1999
    star 6
    Like I said before, I don't think your motives here are at all sexist. Your mental image of executive meddling is something we're all against, but at least in terms of Randy and DH, I see no reason whatsoever to think that's what's happening, or has ever happened, so raising the concern unprovoked can seem...well, out of place. Like if KFC announced a new chicken sandwich, and someone felt compelled to say "it better not be turkey!"
    Contessa likes this.
  6. Likewater Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 31, 2009
    star 4
    Well when writing a story with a non-white male character lead some writer err on the side of the stupid.

    Captain "Mood Swing" Janeway for example, in an Attempt to potray her as strong they depicted her as nuts.

    On the other hand Patricia Briggs "Mercy Thompson" series, or Kim Harrison "Hollows" series both modern fantasy have strong female character neither of which come of as insane, or "know it all bitch".

    and the KiAB is how Leia and Jaina came off looking in FotJ. there is a line between confident and entitled, and some scenes it was clare the readers were suppose to see confidant while it looked entitled.

    And there is contetnt. Jesuotaku in one of her reviews "Paraside Kiss" i believe, points out the diffrence between being a Character who happens to be female and being a Female character.

    How does the sociaty that said female character live in views women? Women of that characters age? whats their social station? for example "A song of ice and fire", look how being female has effected Aria, Sansa, Briaane, Cerscie, Daenreys, and Catlyn all very diffrently. They arn't Jon Snow, Jaime, or Tyrion in a skirt are they?
    Last edited by Likewater, Dec 4, 2012
  7. Zorrixor Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Sep 8, 2004
    star 6
    I think what you're saying, then, is that you dislike when instead of [Insert jackass male protagonist] you get [Insert jackass female protagonist], which, yes, I can agree doesn't exactly set the best female role model if they always have to fit a Mara Jade, skintight leather jumpsuit, badass, femme fatale ***** stereotype.

    However, the exact same thing is true when its a male character, as I get equally tired of the contemporary trend for Wolverine, leather jacket, badass, jerk ******* stereotypes. That, after all, was a common complaint people voiced about Cade, as a lot of people didn't care for that type of male character either.

    So I think your issue really comes down to the same thing all of us would want: decent characterisation. Like Coop said though, I don't think you've got any reason to worry: DH have proved themselves reliable recently, and I expect it's very, very, very unlikely that they'd just give us a female Cade clone, which (if I'm reading you right) is what I think your worry actually is?

    If anything, from looking at the character design I'm seeing more Leia Organa than anything, which I'd consider a positive sign of where they're thinking of going with the character.
    Last edited by Zorrixor, Dec 4, 2012
    GrandAdmiralJello likes this.
  8. GrandAdmiralJello Moderator Communitatis Litterarumque

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Nov 28, 2000
    star 10
    Yeah, although admittedly though Zor, you can have a "strong male character" who isn't James Dean, but it's very rare that you see media with a "strong female character" that isn't essentially the Mara Jade personality type. The stereotypes about female characters are so pervasive that the archetype used to break the stereotype has itself become a stereotype.
    Valin__Kenobi and Zorrixor like this.
  9. CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus

    VIP
    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1999
    star 6
    You know what Star Wars needs? More Kaylees.
    jedimaster203 likes this.
  10. Zorrixor Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Sep 8, 2004
    star 6
    True. In a way, I suppose that itself is a sign that there aren't enough female characters, making the few there are get too easily reduced to fitting such a limited set of archetypes.

    I do, nevertheless, see it a good sign that the first artwork isn't reminiscent of what we saw of Darth Talon, as it at least suggests they're not simply planning to exploit this character as a sex object like a lot of female protagonists get treated (especially in sci-fi). I'm actually sorta hopeful that the somewhat understated "action heroine" appearance results in a FemShep type of character, who isn't a jumpsuit wearing femme fatale cliche, but a more well rounded hero that works irrespective of gender.
    Last edited by Zorrixor, Dec 4, 2012
  11. GrandAdmiralJello Moderator Communitatis Litterarumque

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Nov 28, 2000
    star 10
  12. Robimus Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 6, 2007
    star 5
    I'm probably forgetting something from Apocalypse, but did Jaina specifically mention that she was taking Fel's last name?

    Or is it in that short story from the insider that I missed?

    Where did the wook get that info?
  13. Skaddix Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Feb 3, 2012
    star 4
    Yeah its hard to be not diverse in Legacy
    Contessa likes this.
  14. Jeff_Ferguson Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 15, 2006
    star 4
    Reader's Companion; I think it was the entry for the honeymoon short story "Getaway."
  15. beccatoria Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 8, 2006
    star 4
    All right, you're not really talking to me, but I'm gonna answer anyway, because listen, I understand you do not consider yourself to be a sexist person. I understand that you do not sit around feeling upset with women. But what you are saying in this post is sexist and stems from a bunch of sexist assumptions.

    The underlying point being, "as long as it fits the story and it's not 'for the sake' of her being a woman," is something I see again and again and again when it comes to having a female lead while "as long as it fits the story and it's not 'for the sake' of having another 'relatable' white everyman," is something I never, ever, ever see raised by those same people.

    (Unless it's after the fact in an effort to create a false equivalence, like one is actually as common an occurrence as the other and in an attempt to paint their initial response to the question of a female character as inherently requiring justification as something other than biased.)

    Protagonists in the media skew massively towards white males, so if your concern is to make sure that the gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc., of a character is demanded by the story, why are white males not the first groups we go after with a critical, "is this really artistically necessary or is there a crass commercial element to it?"

    Which doesn't even begin to touch on the fact that I literally have no idea what kind of story would require being a specific gender and couldn't be reworked to equally serve the opposite gender unless it was actually a story about oppression itself.

    Let's be specific - name a story you think had a female protagonist for poor reasons, and then explain why it would have been better if it had a male protagonist. "I felt distracted by my perception of why they made this choice about her gender," is not a valid reason, because another audience member - say, me, for instance - might instead be really thrilled that she was a girl. Stick to actual ways the narrative suffered because of the choice of gender.

    I'm not being facetious here - why do you have an issue with political correctness? Step back from the way the phrase has been co-opted into something negative (arguably by people threatened by the concept and the inherent distrust of anything with the word "political" in it), and think about what it originally meant - trying not to use words and phrases and labels we know to be offensive to people and trying to work out ways to offset the structural inequalities in our society. Why is that bad?

    I know a lot of people argue it's bad because it's not organic - the very act of stopping and thinking, "does this character have to be a man?" instead of waking up and going, "Aha! This character must be a woman!" is supposed, somehow, to make the decision less artistically valid.

    The problem is that without prompts to get us to think about these things, we stick with the familiar; representation doesn't change - the relationship between life and art is malleable for a reason. This is something you must be aware of because you allude to it yourself when you recognise that your own demographic background renders you less aware of oppressive issues around you. And that's okay - so does mine - I'm a woman, but I'm also an able-bodied, heterosexual, cisgendered white person. But you're not wrong when you note that it means we're oblivious to a lot of the subtleties around us. So if we're aware of this issue, there's really only two things we can do if we're gonna join in this discussion: 1) do so in ignorance and look like prats or 2) make some effort to think outside our box of socialisation.

    And however you cut it, 2) is the practice of political correctness; referring to the occasional extreme instance of such policies and saying, "hey, but in this instance it was funny/awful/the wrong decision," doesn't change the theory.

    And I have images of executives sitting around going, "We'll never greenlight this action movie, everyone knows chicks can't sell action movies..." Given the uniqueness of Salt and its casting of Angelina Jolie in a straight swap of Tom Cruise was legitimately newsworthy because it was so unusual, the fact that failed female-lead movies are almost always blamed on the protagonist's gender not the writing of the movie (see also Catwoman and Electra getting dropped while Green Lantern gets another shot, see also Ant-Man getting a movie before Black Widow, see also...the entirety of Hollywood...)

    Again, I guess I'd ask for examples? Because I'm really, really struggling to think of anything that's fitting your description here. It took three movies to get Catwoman into the Batman series. Superman doesn't, in fact, appear to feature Supergirl. It looks like we're going to get a Flash movie before a Wonder Woman movie. It took three games to get Femshep onto the back of Mass Effect covers so we could flip 'em over if we wanted, and to get her an alternate trailer of her own. I already mentioned the Avengers managing a grand total of one out of six female characters, who then, despite being the given a really well-received role in the film, gets to co-star in another Avenger's movie, that's subtitled to introduce yet another white dude (Captain America: Winter Soldier). See also the fact that, statistically, computer games starring women get half the marketing budget of computer games that star men. I could continue?

    I think my ultimate problem is that, as a woman, I feel like the definition of "shoehorning in," most of the time just means anytime a dude says, "I wasn't expecting it." And if women were being "shoehorned" into properties all over the place, you'd think that'd be backed up with, well, more women being in things.

    I'd actually kinda stand up for Disney movies here. Some of them are awful, sure, but at least the Disney films from my childhood have a pretty huge roster of female leads, often with their male romantic counterparts as secondary. Ariel and Belle stand out on that, even Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, while far more passive, for obvious reasons, in terms of their ultimate "my prince will save me!" moments, are still the protagonists in a very definitive way. I think the current TV series, Once Upon A Time, is an interesting example of this - it's a show aimed at family viewing, not specifically towards women, but the majority of the lead characters are women because it's based on fairytales, specifically updated, realworld Disney versions. And because it's based on a collection of characters we all know and are familiar with, it's one of the few pieces of media that's not constantly being asked to validate its decision to introduce more and more female characters. No one goes, "Oh, jees, we already have Snow White, Emma, and Sleeping Beauty running around the woods, and now the new character is gonna be a cheesy Warrior Woman? Puh-leeze, that's so cliche..." because it's Mulan, so it makes sense.

    Anyway, I'm on a slight tangent, but I think it's relevant, mainly because it's an illustration of the way our reactions are shaped by media and by life-experience. Had the viewers of Once Upon A Time not watched Disney films as children, how might they react? Disney in the 90s made films with male protagonists, too - The Lion King and Aladdin, for instance - but the company was never branded as "for boys" or "for girls" exclusively, even if certain films skewed in each direction. If Once Upon A Time were based upon a more exclusively feminine or masculine set of updated childhood tales, I wonder if it would be more clearly gendered in terms of its modern appeal. I'd argue that it's an example of familiarity created by the media we watch ultimately leading to a less hostile environment for the representation of women at a later date.

    Roles that may seem forced, now, to you, may be key to creating a media landscape where this is not such a big issue, where no one needs to be reminded to think about the gender of their characters and it'll be as strange to argue about as whether or not a character is left- or right-handed, or what their sense of humour is like. But to suggest that we are already at that point is to wilfully ignore the continuing and obvious representational inequalities in the modern media.

    It's worth not only examining why you consider it off-putting but also how others might view it. What's distracting for you may be empowering and important to others.

    Uhura, for instance, was an example of a very conscious attempt at "political correctness". Nichelle Nicholls was treated so poorly by the network that she was planning to quit until Martin Luther King told her how important her work was because she was one of the only black people on prime time television who wasn't a servant. The number of people to whom she was enormously important is...huge. Again, you reference this concept directly in your concern about appropriate and diverse rolemodels for your daughter. Is it better she have none and that we adhere to some strange attachment to social realism only when it comes to gender, but not when it comes to...anything else, from lightsabers to people not being totally deafened when they walk away from explosions? That seems like an odd place to draw the line.

    And if we do draw the line there, you're making the assumption that the rest of the audience will share your distraction at women in certain roles and that your discomfort is more important than their gratification.

    It's kind of late for that, mate. ;)

    But seriously, I think that the assumptions in the final line encapsulate my issue with your entire post, really. Like I said, I don't think you're a bad guy, but I think you're working from an unexamined viewpoint. The very fact that female leads must pass a pandering test - that very concept - sets "male" up as the default and "female" up as the alternative. It's all well and good to wrap it up inside an idealistic notion that it's only because you want the female leads to be untainted by this "pandering" but it doesn't really address the glaring issue that any female character, no matter how narratively justified, will be accused of only being there as pandering. Any one. Seriously. And, I hate to say it, but your very argument in this thread kind of proves the point.

    Honestly, I think the egregious lack of female protagonists in anything other than romance is a far, far larger problem than the occasional (if not mythical) example of women being shoehorned in because Hollywood fears angry blogger tirades more than it fears duff ticket sales.

    Anyway - long post is long. I'll sign off.
    Last edited by beccatoria, Dec 4, 2012
  16. CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus

    VIP
    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1999
    star 6
  17. GrandAdmiralJello Moderator Communitatis Litterarumque

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Nov 28, 2000
    star 10
    Don't remember Kaylee being a filty alien :p
  18. Trip Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 7, 2003
    star 4
    ick
  19. CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus

    VIP
    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1999
    star 6
    [IMG]

    Strong. Female. Character. [face_whistling]
  20. Trip Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 7, 2003
    star 4
    oh true i forgot that scene
  21. TrakNar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 4, 2011
    star 5
    Let's see... I'm female, yet I dress in comfortable unisex clothing, I keep my hair short and manageable, I wear thick glasses, and I exercise to keep in shape; my routine including pushups, situps, and bicep curls. My interests lay in arts and science, I'm a bit of a naturalist and I'm very outdoorsy, and I have no problems with getting elbow-deep in dirt. If I were, for whatever reason, to be characterized, then I would be dropped into some tired female stereotype, and then criticized for being flaunted just to "lure in female readers" or be "politically correct," because I "don't fit the story."

    [face_dunno]
    beccatoria likes this.
  22. Robimus Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 6, 2007
    star 5
    I'll have to check that out. I was kinda hoping they would go for something different.

    While I agree with a lot of what you say above I can't see what point your trying to make here. Catwoman made $40 million dollars, Elektra made $24 million dollars but Green Lantern made $116 million dollars(all domestic boxoffice totals). I suggest to you that the reason a Green Lantern sequel is getting green lighted is because it made five times as much money as Elektra did and almost three times the amount of Catwoman.

    I don't think the producers sat around a table and decided that they were not going to make sequels to those films based on anything but dollars. Even though all three films were crap in my eyes, Green Lantern was a financial success. Things like production costs would also be a huge contributing factor as well.

    For instance Resident Evil 1 made the same amount of money as Catwoman, but Catwoman reportedly cost $100 million to make, Resident Evil only $35 million.

    While I'm sure that the playing field is not as level as it should be, other action films with female leads that are also kinda poor in my eyes like Tomb Raider and Resident Evil, but they get their sequels green lit because they were financially successful.

    You make it sound as if sexism made sequels to those films impossible, when in reality the numbers don't lie.
    Last edited by Robimus, Dec 4, 2012
  23. Likewater Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 31, 2009
    star 4
    when you say unisex clothing I think thoes horrible space clothed from Star Trek the Next Generation, thoughes hedious bright jumpsuits they put the kids in....
  24. TrakNar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 4, 2011
    star 5
    Thankfully, my jeans and t-shirts aren't quite to that level. :p
  25. Trip Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 7, 2003
    star 4
    i think "unitard" is the word you're looking for here
    CT-867-5309 and TrakNar like this.