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Lit Ignorance is Bias: The Diversity Manifesto

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

  1. CooperTFN

    CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus star 6 VIP

    Registered:
    Jul 8, 1999
    I don't remember ever seeing Daala as sexualized. Happening to have had a history with Tarkin hardly makes her Darth Talon. And as for "still sexy in her 70s"...

    [​IMG]

    I don't see it. And even as a young woman, I don't think there's a picture of her in existence that shows skin below the neck.

    Come to think of it, Aurra Sing never really came across to me as sexualized either. Sultry, perhaps.
     
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  2. Havac

    Havac Former Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

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    Sep 29, 2005
    Daala's not running around in her underwear, yeah, but she's always described as an attractive young woman (with flowing, coppery hair) and her entire past hinges around her sexual relationship with a powerful man. She's an Imperial admiral; she could look like anything and could have been promoted purely on competence. Instead she's a hot young babe whose career is inextricable from her position as Tarkin's mistress.

    I don't think she has to be Darth Talon to be a character who has been given a sexual focus purely because she's a woman (quick, count how many male good-looking young Imperial admirals with sex-based backgrounds we've had). If she were the only character, it wouldn't be the biggest "sexualization" deal. But I think, given the overall state of the universe, she does fit into the trend to make all the female villains sexually appealing femme fatales or sexual objects. She certainly can't be cited as an exception.
     
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  3. TheRedBlade

    TheRedBlade Jedi Master star 4

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    Mar 17, 2007
    Sair Yonka?
     
  4. Mechalich

    Mechalich Jedi Knight star 4

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    Feb 2, 2010
    Regarding Daala, it's worth noting that the sexual elements in her past are designed to make a point about how misogyny and the old-boys-cloud patronage network of the Empire is a bad thing. Daala was promoted well above her ability because she was sleeping with Tarkin. This, ultimately, was a massive disaster for the Empire on several levels. Daala is an example of why prejudice is bad, which is a pro-diversity viewpoint.

    As far as the overtly sexual portrayal of female characters is concerned, that's not going away. Sex sells; humans are entirely too vulnerable to appeals to base hormones. The movement we have seen, however, is to equalize the portrayal across the genders. The more recent comics have included a number of male characters heavy on the 'beefcake' factor who spend a considerable amount of time without their shirts on, and TOR has its fair share of buff companions as well (I have no idea whether this works, perhaps the ladies can answer, but the effort is there). Now, this does lead to a sort of 'beautiful people syndrome' which no doubt has its own problems, but it seems to be the best we can hope for.
     
  5. CaptainPeabody

    CaptainPeabody Jedi Master star 3

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    Jul 15, 2008
    [​IMG]
    'Nuff said.
     
  6. CaptainPeabody

    CaptainPeabody Jedi Master star 3

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    Jul 15, 2008
    Anyway, the point is, Kreia is awesome, and we should have more female villains like her. As opposed to female villains like Daala...and that's not just in reference to her possibly being sexualized. It's just about every aspect of her character.
     
  7. Havac

    Havac Former Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

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    Sep 29, 2005
    Eh, that's the way we read her past. But the books initially presenting her spent a lot of effort trying to convince us that Daala was the most brilliant officer ever and she was promoted based on competence; she just happened to be Tarkin's mistress. And it remains the official position of the EU that she performed well in school and was considered a competent officer. Her career is still inextricable from her position as Tarkin's sexual plaything -- he notices her competence and it leads to a sexual relationship; he promotes her while he's sleeping with her and both of them insist it's for wholly professional reasons, but of course that kind of decisionmaking is hopelessly tangled.

    But KJA was not making any kind of statement about nepotism, because he wanted us to believe Daala was the second coming of Thrawn. So it remains the case that we were given a villain who was supposed to just be a competent Imperial admiral, and just happened to have it tacked on that she was young and attractive and her backstory of advancement within the ranks placed within the context of a sexual relationship. Daala can protest that she didn't sleep her way to the top -- she earned it -- all she wants, but she's still in the context where her backstory revolves around being Tarkin's mistress. It's perhaps interesting that the two main female villains of the Imperial era, Isard and Daala, were both given sexual connections to male superiors.
     
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  8. beccatoria

    beccatoria Jedi Master star 4

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    Dec 8, 2006
    Frankly even if KJA was trying to make a statement about nepotism and the dangers of promoting someone above their level of competence, doing that via a stereotype like "woman who sleeps her way to the top", particularly while characterising her as ignorant this fact within her own perspective and seeing herself as fighting against a sexist system, is pretty gross. Look kids, women don't even REALISE they shouldn't have important jobs and only get them because easily swayed men give in to them! Though, I agree with Havac that that's not what's actually happening here. I just don't think it would make it better if it were.

    As to the sex appeal thing, a couple of shirtless dudes in comics doesn't equal the amount sexualisation happens to women. Even if it did, numerically, I'd be interested to see the degree to which the rest of those characters characterisation revolved around their appearance while shirtless, and that's without going into the fact that most of the "but guys get sexualised too!" arguments don't take into account the difference between sexual vulnerability and sexual power, or the enormous role that social context and a boatload of history plays into these things.

    Finally, re: Hav's question - Q'Anillia and Raana Tey from the KOTOR comics may count? Raana Tey, certainly. Q'Anillia had some element of the "beautiful, sick love interest," but I'd say she was romanticised rather than sexualised.

    For a more major and mainstream EU character, hate to say it because I wish she'd never been made into an antagonist, but, Vergere.
     
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  9. Robimus

    Robimus Jedi Grand Master star 5

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    Jul 6, 2007
    Ko Sai, though she is on the extreme end of humaniod - not unlike Vergere in that regard.
     
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  10. Havac

    Havac Former Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

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    Sep 29, 2005
    Raana Tey is a good call; I'm not sure if Q'Anilia even counts as a villain, though, given her nature as the sort of tragic, softhearted figure trapped in the Covenant. KOTOR also had Chantique, though, who falls right back within the sexpot villainess trope.
     
  11. darthcaedus1138

    darthcaedus1138 Jedi Grand Master star 5

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    Oct 13, 2007
    I have to say that this is a very interesting thread.

    Coop, do you look for textual references in the books to determine what color a character's skin is?

    That being said, I'm not sure how you could use text to impart that a character looks to have Asian ethnicity.

    I was surprised to read in The Making of Star Wars that Lucas toyed with making Han Solo black. Which I have no problem with, I actually think it might make Han cooler. And that would certainly unbalance the numbers we have here.

    EDIT: I thought Arvel Crynyd was Asian. My bad.
     
  12. jedimaster203

    jedimaster203 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 19, 1999
    I wonder if Jariah Syn's race is a call back to that concept. I think Syn and Blue are two examples of diversity done well in Star Wars. Well, other than Blue being a dead sexy pink chick. Maybe just Syn is an example of diversity done well :p
     
  13. The Loyal Imperial

    The Loyal Imperial Manager Emeritus star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

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    Nov 19, 2007
    Eh, I wouldn't say Syn is quite an example of diversity done well, exactly, given his mannerisms and general archetype.
     
  14. jedimaster203

    jedimaster203 Jedi Grand Master star 4

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    Dec 19, 1999
    I think Syn is a great character with believable (maybe not, ya know, moral) motivations. What mannerisms preclude his being a good example of diversity?


    Plus, he hits on Cade's mom.
     
  15. CooperTFN

    CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus star 6 VIP

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    Jul 8, 1999
    I think the best argument in favor of Syn's character is that he and Cade and largely the same type of dude. He's not exactly the upstanding, respectable type, but none of their fringer characters are. Nor was Quin, for that matter.

    Yeah, how best to describe asians has been a popular topic lately; especially after Mercy Kill appears to have chosen the word "yellow". Historically, overt descriptions of darker-skinned characters seem to be easier and more prevalent - things like "his complexion was dark as caf" or what have you. It would be interesting if someone went through some of the black character introductions we do have (hell, Shatterpoint alone would be informative) and catalogued all the skin references.

    That's....not entirely better. :p
     
  16. The Loyal Imperial

    The Loyal Imperial Manager Emeritus star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

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    Nov 19, 2007
    The problem I have with Syn is that, essentially, he's a thuggish and violent black man born into a life of crime traveling the galaxy with his drug addict best friend. And Blue. I see it less as an if-Han-Solo-were-black case, and more of an if-they-made-the-space-drug-smuggler-Hispanic case.
     
  17. CooperTFN

    CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus star 6 VIP

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    Jul 8, 1999
    Thing is (while I'm not saying he's "black Han"), I don't think he's "thuggish and violent" in any way that couldn't also be attributed to Cade, or even Blue (or Villie, or...). Someone was saying a couple pages ago that avoiding disreputable minority characters for fear of stereotyping still only amounts to unfairly limiting their utility. If Syn had happened to be white, I don't see any reason to think he'd have been written any differently.
     
  18. The Loyal Imperial

    The Loyal Imperial Manager Emeritus star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

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    Nov 19, 2007
    Well, I've always considered Cade to be one of the most thoroughly unpleasant parts of Legacy, so comparing the two really doesn't improve the situation, for me. I don't take issue with having disreputable minority characters - or even outrageously villainous ones - but I do think at least some caution should be exercised to avoid having them conform too closely to preexisting stereotypes (at which point it becomes counterproductive if you're trying to make them more relatable).
     
  19. cthugha

    cthugha Jedi Master star 3

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    Sep 24, 2010
    Now there's a plot hook for a Legacy-era Lando book... :cool:
     
  20. CooperTFN

    CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus star 6 VIP

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    Jul 8, 1999
    I'm torn between the offensiveness of Lando having "illegitimate" children and a desire for more Landos running around.

    I was never wild about Cade myself, but that's a whole separate conversation--all I'm saying is, the whole group embodies the "obnoxious drug dealer" stereotype to an extent, and going out of their way to write the black one as less obnoxious is still a way of treating him unequally.
     
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  21. The Loyal Imperial

    The Loyal Imperial Manager Emeritus star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

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    Nov 19, 2007
    Normally, I would agree - if we had enough diversity to allow for the exploration of a variety of different character types among minorities. Unfortunately, we don't. And when we have as few significant black characters as we do, Syn feels, to me, more like a step backwards than a sign of progress.
     
  22. Gorefiend

    Gorefiend Chosen One star 5

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    Oct 23, 2004
    Piett if you go by certain fan sites [face_batting]
     
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  23. TheRedBlade

    TheRedBlade Jedi Master star 4

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    Mar 17, 2007
    Is it fair, then, to ONLY show positive portrayals of minority characters? I know the Law and Order series takes a lot of it because the overwhelming majority of its criminals are white, which is not an accurate reflection of New York crime statistics.

    Now, if Syn or anyone was an express "Crip/Blood" in space, I'd have a huge problem. But in dress and demeanor, he didn't seem much different from other fringe characters we've seen throughout the saga.
     
  24. Gorefiend

    Gorefiend Chosen One star 5

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    Oct 23, 2004
    Aside from using Vong equipment, which so far the only Fringers who do so are the Peace Brigade, since Del Rey apparently wants to ignore the Vong War. o_O Though Syn is way too enjoyable and interesting as character to just be there for the diversity quota or because they need a “black thug” sidekick.
     
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  25. CooperTFN

    CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus star 6 VIP

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    Jul 8, 1999
    I always knew he and Ozzel had something going on...
     
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