Lit Ignorance is Bias: The Diversity Manifesto

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

  1. Mia Mesharad Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 2, 2012
    star 4
    Perception issues aside, that is the very think that ruined "Catwoman". Catwoman the movie wasn't about Catwoman the character. It was basically just "The Crow" with a female protagonist. If you're making a Catwoman movie, you can't just get an attractive actress, dress her in a leather catsuit, and send her out to do stuff. Ant Man seems like a stretch and a half for a major movie, but I can sure as hell bet they're going to center it right in the Marvel universe. He's going to be Hank Pym, with the right personality, and all those little details to match. Catwoman crashed because it was [random person] with magical cat powers when it should've been Selina Kyle's adventures in Gotham, with or without Batman present so long as the atmosphere was correct.

    And that's why Green Lantern's still going when Elektra isn't. So long as it wasn't a complete and total absolute abomination of a movie—which while it wasn't the best, it certainly wasn't that—they're going to drag it kicking and screaming forward because they need him in DC's mad dash toward the future "Justice League" movie. Sadly, Elektra had none of the same prospects.

    On a minor note, I just want to say that "Green Lantern" didn't fail because they got Ryan Reynolds. It was because the writers didn't get Hal Jordan. Hal is not a whiny, indecisive, mopey chump who doesn't know if he's worthy of the ring and is scared of fear. He grabs the ring and never looks back, literally beats Fear's ass, and loves being a superhero. When he was actually allowed to play Hal, the real Hal—short as those moments were—Reynolds didn't do all that bad. Can't say the same about the writers...
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  2. TrakNar Force Ghost

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    Apr 4, 2011
    star 5
    You know... since we have an almost concurrent discussion going on in a similar thread concerning diversity and bias, I'm going to drag some of that discussion in here.

    Most species who are not Human or Human-faced tend to be portrayed as all of them being cut from the same pattern as their few or even single representative. Those who act differently than their initial species representative traits had already established are considered "unique" or even outcasts; case in point Greeata Jendowanian. She loved music and dance, so she was an outcast in her race because she didn't act like Greedo, who was the representative of the Rodian race as a whole.

    The thing about the species traits defined in RPG source material is that they are simply starting points. Unfortunately, many have taken them at face value, and that's why we have species stereotyped as they are. Rodians are all bloodthirsty inept hunters who are terrible drivers (according to one comment in an X-Wing comic); Kubaz will eat damn near anything with an exoskeleton, regardless of sentience; Gand commoners are almost unheard of, as almost all encountered offworld are findsmen or bounty hunters; all Hutts are crime lords, etc. Even Humans are not immune to this, as all Corellians are allergic to the odds.

    It's silly.
  3. CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus

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    Don't get me started on alien stereotypes. That's probably the core of why I liked the youngling TCW arc so much; they weren't a Wookiee and a Rodian and a Nautolan and an Ithorian, they were just kids.
    Last edited by CooperTFN, Dec 6, 2012
  4. patchworkz7 Force Ghost

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    Mar 26, 2004
    star 4
    FWIW, thank you for starting this thread and keeping it going for so long.

    And I completely agree with your point re: younglings as kids vs their species stereotypes.
  5. Zorrixor Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Sep 8, 2004
    star 6
    You say that now, but just wait until every future Ithorian character is depicted wearing a mandatory flower mask as dictated by Ithorian culture. :p
  6. cthugha Jedi Grand Master

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    Sep 24, 2010
    star 3
    You know, I actually wouldn't mind that. At all. [face_alien]
  7. beccatoria Force Ghost

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    Dec 8, 2006
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    Okay, see, I thought we were talking about how we interpret the actual behaviour of current media markets, not your personal confusion about why superhero films are successful in the first place.

    At this point, I agree with Hav, this discussion is going to prove frustrating and fruitless, so I'll bow out.

    I dunno, dude. I accept that Ant-Man may turn out to be a great movie, so I'm not going to bash it in terms of quality, but I think there's plenty of justification for having a negative response to the announcement. Sure, he's one of the classic Avengers line-up, but he hasn't really been so visible recently, so essentially we're relying on historical importance to justify why he gets chosen over a more popular and current Avenger. This is the general, "why another white dude when it could have been Power Man, Black Panther, Captain (Ms) Marvel," etc. - I think it's fair to be disappointed in that choice with nothing more than, "but classic!" as a justification.

    With regards to Ant-Man, though, I think there are two other points which push mover the line from vaguely disappointed to actively irritated. The first is that if it really does have to be Ant-Man, why the hell isn't it Ant-Man & Wasp in a double-header? They've been a partnership forever and she's just as much a mainstay of the Avengers line-up as he is.

    Secondly, of course, is that while Ant-Man doesn't have much of a reputation outside of comics-reading circles, his reputation in those circles is as, "that dude who once beat his wife," and "that dude who once spied on girls in the shower." I don't follow Marvel that closely, but I'm aware that the former instance, at least, was partially down to a misunderstanding on the part of the artist; I'm sure that there have been explanations, retcons, rewritings (though I believe the domestic violence was an ongoing part of the Ultimate version of the character too), but that doesn't change the fact that he has one helluva public relations problem - put Hank Pym or Ant Man into google and add a "d" "w" or "s" and it autofills "domestic violence", "wife beater" or "spousal abuse" for you. It's been referenced enough times in enough ways since that it's an acknowledged part of his history, not like...some disturbing, trippy thing that happened in the sixties we'd all rather forget, like the time Lois Lane tried to convince a child version of Superman to marry her. For whatever reason, this is what's stuck to Ant-Man, this is what people remember about him. This is his reputation. This is the guy Marvel are choosing to make a multimillion dollar blockbuster about.

    I'm not sure if ignoring the issue or addressing it could possibly be something I really want to see in a movie about an "edgy" superhero. The former feels like whitewashing a significant part of the character's story, especially if he's still portrayed as a psychologically complicated, darker character, because I'll always wonder what violence is lurking under the surface and what he'll do in future movies, and the latter is just...I like the Marvel movies quite a lot, but I really do not trust them to tell me a story where the hero punches his wife.

    So you know...Ant-Man. I feel I have stronger-than-usual reasons to be kinda pissed about it even though it hasn't been made yet.

    Though to be clear, I don't think anyone who's excited about it needs to justify that decision. Superheroes are complicated in the way there are many concurrent versions of the same character, being worked on in an active way, for decades, constantly. I just...think that the normal "wait and see, it might be good," logic doesn't quite apply here, because my reaction is based on what I already know about the character, not a prejudgement about the quality of the film.
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  8. Zorrixor Chosen One

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    star 6
    Even if the Anzat is sparkly? :p
  9. Mechalich Force Ghost

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    star 4
    This much, certainly, I would say is true. Both characters are founding Avengers, and certainly much of the story of those characters is tied together. I would be very dissapointed with whatever the Ant-Man film turns out to be if the Wasp is not in it in some fashion. Those two together are probably the most signficant Avengers that have not yet appeared on the silver screen. We really have no idea what's going to be in the Ant-Man film though, so I think judgment should be reserved on that front. Aside from the title, but that's kind of a wash, you can't call it 'Ant-Man and the Wasp' that just screams B-movie.

    Hank Pym is, by pretty much any measure, mentally ill. Or at least has been at various points in his lengthy career. This is the man known as Ant-Man/Yellowjacket/Wasp/Giant Man and each of those more than once after all. He's had all sorts of problems with being a hero, with being married to another hero, with being married period, with creating a robot that has almost destroyed the world several times over and currently imperils the entire galaxy, with trying to bring his wife back from the dead/alternative dimensions. Yeah, he's messed up.

    That, frankly, if why I'm actually excited to see Ant-Man portrayed. Provided they don't whitewash his issues completely (always a possibility), his character is about as close as Marvel really gets to a Watchman-style 'hey-maybe-being-a-superhero-messes-you-up-a-bunch' form of introspection.

    The current slate of films has played rather fast and loose with the boundaries of mental instability so far - in Iron Man and with the Hulk notably. I'd like to see Hank Pym in contrast to Tony Stark - one is a super scientist who is seriously damaged but somehow always turns out ultimately okay; the other is one who doesn't.

    Ant-Man (and the Wasp too), played a major role in the recent Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, cartoon, alongside Iron-Man, Thor, Captain America, the Hulk, Hawkeye, and Black Panther (with lesser roles played by a number of second tier Avengers including Ms. Marvel, Black Widow, and others). That series was very closely linked to the movie universe (black Nick Fury, digital Jarvis in the armor, etc.), so it's not surprising that it's headliners would be next up. Further Ant-Man, under his ever-changing set of pseudonyms, remains active in various comics runs in major roles, most recently in Avengers Academy. He is also, importantly, the creator of Ultron, who happens to be one of the marquee Marvel villains and a suitable opponent for the Avengers - introducing Ultron might, in itself, be a reason to choose Ant-Man over some other lesser known character.

    Now, I certainly think Black Panther should get his own film as well, but it's a bit...tricky to handle yes? Waconda, challenges to be king, and all the other baggage and there's some nasty potential for exploitation. I'm sure it could be done, and done well, but it would be more challenging, and Hollywood is a fearful place.

    More broadly, while you may consider 'but classic!' to be a dissapointing reason, it is a reason, and it is not a decision born of prejudice. Name recognition at least hypothetically equals dollars, and dollars trump all. Superhero comics, much like Star Wars, are in this sense burdened by drawing on an earlier, whiter past, and this is going to be particularly prevalent in single-hero vehicles, whether its super-famous Spider-Man or only modestly famous Ant-Man. The path to progress I see is taking secondary characters, or new ones, who do have diverse backgrounds and putting them in alongside extant characters and hoping they take so that they can eventually become franchises of their own. Marvel has made postive choices on the margins, where they have the most flexibility: Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Idris Elba as Heimdall, hopefully they'll be more to that. I'd love to see Luke Cage cameo in a Spider-Man film.
    Last edited by Mechalich, Dec 7, 2012
  10. beccatoria Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 8, 2006
    star 4
    It may not be born of intentional prejudice but the net effect is the same. The notion that profit absolves the media of a moral obligation to be less racist, sexist, homophobic and...all that other great stuff, is not one I subscribe to.

    Repeatedly, we see Marvel's film franchise putting white men in key positions when there are viable alternatives. Captain America: the Winter Soldier, is rumoured to feature Black Widow in a prominent role as well as potentially introducing the African-American character of Falcon, however it's Bucky who gets the film's subtitle.

    I agree that Black Panther's a property that could come off as horrifically racist. I also approach the notion of a Wonder Woman film with a mix of desire and dread because I think that poor handling of the source material will be cringe-inducing and tank it horribly. However, I don't think the source material itself is any harder or less intuitively "super hero" to adapt than, say, Thor, with its heavy space-fantasy Norse Mythology, or the decision to make Guardians of the Galaxy with its crackpot band of misfits going on cosmic space adventures. Marvel are also apparently willing to pull in heavyweight directorial muscle, like Kenneth Branagh, where appropriate. So, I'm not really willing to accept that either. Any more than I'm willing to accept that "Ant-Man and Wasp" sounds that much more ridiculous than "Ant-Man" or "Attack of the Clones." I mean, people who don't know the character are already gonna hear that title and go, "Whut?"

    As to name recognition, Nick Fury's a great example because his look was originally inspired by Jackson. Obviously there are far fewer, but there are black actors out there who can command big box office returns. Not even Hollywood could say no to Will Smith as John Stewart's Green Lantern. I strongly disagree with the notion that being satisfied with cameo appearances "in the margins" is enough. If you can't use the Avengers franchise to launch a movie anchored by anything other than a straight, white male after it spawned the third-highest grossing movie of all time, when can you do it?

    So, you know, I agree, the film itself may be awesome. I still think that the universe would have been better served by another choice. The Avengers universe is established now. Ant-Man is the film they're carrying because they want the chance to highlight the character and know the wider franchise will give him support and visibility a contextless solo movie never could. I submit that if you are discussing that choice in the context of diversity in the media, there were far better choices to be made.
    Last edited by beccatoria, Dec 7, 2012
  11. Skaddix Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Feb 3, 2012
    star 4
    Look the case could be made for Thor, Cap and Iron Man going first after all they at least have long running ongoings at Marvel but Ant-man nah that is just another white guy getting a chance. Sure u need him for Ultron I suppose but past that no.
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  12. GrandAdmiralJello Community and Lit moderator person

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    They're not masks. Flowers actually grow out of their face.
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  13. Mechalich Force Ghost

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    Feb 2, 2010
    star 4
    Corporations are soulless entities that are beholden entirely and totally to the pursuit of profit. Any choice that a corporation makes, for any reason whatsoever, that fails to absolutely maximize the profit motive is against its own, completely amoral, interests. The is the model of capitalism we, in the West, presently live under.

    Now, that model has horrible, terrible, possibly world-destroying problems with it, but insofar as that means profit trumps concerns of diversity, that's a case of collateral damage. Until you change the nature of the modern corporation (and it should be changed, like now, now, now!) that is always going to happen. As the world is presently construed, media has no moral obligation.
    Last edited by Mechalich, Dec 7, 2012
  14. TrakNar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 4, 2011
    star 5
    On that subject... One thing that irked my brother and I about the Gand entry in the New Essential Guide to Alien Species?

    Nonbreathing Gands do not require [breath masks], but would sometimes wear them anyway while traveling offworld to maintain anonymity.

    The reason for this is not that cop-out excuse; it's that no one aside from the Japanese X-Wing: Rogue Squadron character sketches had really bothered to try and draw a Gand without a breath mask. It's a cheap excuse to explain away why we have an image of Ooryl wearing a mask, why every single Gand that is encountered is depicted wearing a mask. Because Zuckuss wears one, they all wear one, even the ones who don't have to.
  15. jacktherack Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 2008
    star 4
    WRONG the nick fury that is based on sam jackson is in a fact an alternate universe version of him, form the ultimate universe. the actual nick fury is an old white man with gray/black hair.

    that's why i alway joke that the makers of the iron man movies just looked up nick fury on google images, and saw the worlds ultimate nick fury, saying oh it's ultimate that means he's the best. when in reality it means a version of nick fury from the ultimate universe which isn't the main one...

    *edit* and yes the ultimate universe is the one where peter parker got killed. the avengers are called the ultimates and it is way darker then the originals. with the first issue of hulk going on a rampage to find bettie and rape her because he is horny. (not making that up) plus the wasp distracting him with a "mardi gras special"...
    Last edited by jacktherack, Dec 7, 2012
  16. Esg Jedi Grand Master

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    Sep 2, 2012
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    Wait, don't you have a Gand Companion to the Trooper in TOR who's as far as I know just a soldier
    Last edited by Esg, Dec 7, 2012
  17. TrakNar Force Ghost

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    Apr 4, 2011
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    Yuun? He's a findsman. He started out as a findsman before he became a soldier. And even as a soldier, he is still a findsman and had mentioned about needing to complete the zaviir-juna at his earliest convenience. The only actual non-findsman Gand commoner in TOR that I am aware of is Qoussk, the vendor on Coruscant. He refers to himself as "this one," as he had not even begun to earn his identity. There's a group of Gand merchants led by Aulus G'luun, but I am not aware of G'luun's or his cohorts' levels of identity.
    Last edited by TrakNar, Dec 7, 2012
  18. CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus

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    And with that, I'm officially as tired of this subject as Hav is.

    It's almost time for me to pick another SW novel out of my back catalog and diversity score it (oh, and read it, I suppose). Should I go for Riptide or Red Harvest?
    Last edited by CooperTFN, Dec 7, 2012
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  19. RC-1991 Force Ghost

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    Dec 2, 2009
    star 4
    Riptide. I'm curious to see what you think of it.
  20. cthugha Jedi Grand Master

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    Sep 24, 2010
    star 3
    Especially if the Anzat is sparkly. I'm all for intra-species diversity, you know.
  21. TrakNar Force Ghost

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    Apr 4, 2011
    star 5
    You can keep your sparkly brain-suckers. I'll stick with my buggies. :3
  22. Havac Some Guy Who Moderates Lit

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    Riptide. Red Harvest is diversity-useless. It's basically all human dudes of indeterminate ethnicity.
  23. beccatoria Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 8, 2006
    star 4
    Fair enough - I think we're approaching this conversation from different positions. I feel that the premise of this sort of discussion is to call out the realpolitik excuse of profit above all else not use it. Not that we shouldn't acknowledge it as the reason things are as they are; it just depresses me to use it as an argument for why things won't/shouldn't/don't need to change, in superhero films or in Star Wars. [face_peace]

    Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't realise his parents put "Ultimate Nick" on his birth certificate.

    Dude, I know the difference between Nick Fury and Nick Fury and it's completely irrelevant to the point I was making about the version of Nick Fury that inspired the movie character, who ended up played by said inspiration.

    At which point, I agree with Coop, this has become an exercise in tail-chasing, so to save everyone's sanity, I apologise, and vote for Riptide.
    Last edited by beccatoria, Dec 8, 2012
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  24. Zorrixor Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Sep 8, 2004
    star 6
    I vote Red Harvest simply because I want to see how humans possessed by talking plant matter get categorised. :p
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  25. Todd the Jedi Mod and Sitcom Dad of SWTV

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    If anything, the few non-humans that are in Red Harvest are rarely seen elsewhere. Even the Whiphid counts a bit more, since they are usually just background characters (besides K'Kruhk of course).