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[New Film Discussion] Diversity & Representation

Discussion in 'Communications' started by Jabba-wocky, Jan 1, 2018.

  1. Jabba-wocky

    Jabba-wocky Chosen One star 9

    May 4, 2003
    I honestly don't understand the policy being exercised on the new film forums. On the one hand, yes, I understand how representation is an important topic and can merit it's own separate discussion. But on the other, I don't see why the warning pops up in character specific threads, when those issues of representation are intrinsic to the discussion.

    I've been a member of these forums for over 10 years. In that time, I've seen many people celebrate Princess Leia as a feminist icon for her courage in her own rescue, and for killing Jabba the Hutt. Never once did I hear it remarked that such commentary was somehow not about the character of Leia or was distracting from discussion of her. Even with Rey, I've seen concerns about a possible Kylo Ren romance and its implications (positive and negative) for female fans pass without remark.

    But why do reactions about how Finn's portrayal make posters of color feel get chided as off topic or redirected to diversity threads? How is that actor's race less a part of his character and audience reception than is Carrie Fisher or Daisy Ridley's sex? I honestly don't understand where the line is being drawn on what to discuss where and why.
  2. harpua

    harpua Chosen One star 9

    Mar 12, 2005
    Wow... no response? Wocky is actually making a really valid point. What's up, SW mods?
    Asajj Ventress and KnightWriter like this.
  3. KnightWriter

    KnightWriter Administrator Emeritus star 9 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Nov 6, 2001
    Three full days have now elapsed since Wocky's post. I was going to watch this discussion unfold first before posting anything, since I don't post in the forum in question. Of course, for a discussion to happen people have to actually post. What's with the lack of response from any New Film moderators or administrators? I can't remember anything comparable in the past up to now. Part of me genuinely believes there must be some good (if currently unstated) reason for there not being any moderator response, because anything else makes no sense.
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2018
    G-FETT and harpua like this.
  4. harpua

    harpua Chosen One star 9

    Mar 12, 2005
    @A Chorus of Disapproval is probably the most reasonable new film mod. What say you? There's discussion to be had here.
  5. A Chorus of Disapproval

    A Chorus of Disapproval New Films Malleus Maleficarum star 8 Staff Member Manager

    Aug 19, 2003
    The Finn thread, specifically, suffered a lot of problems which utterly murdered topical discussion. The thread has an outrageous number of warning/guideline posts from nearly every member of staff. Even the thread's title, itself, contains the disclaimer that anyone interested in the thread needs to start with "see NEW warning on page 396 before posting)". The problem is not that anyone is in denial that John Boyega's ethnicity is certainly a part of how audiences will receive his character... the problem became that a point is always reached when a thread about a Star Wars character consistently stopped having anything to do with a Star Wars character and turned into a hostile town hall meeting.

    The Daisy Ridley/Rey thread does detour into discussions about feminism and her gender but has never ceased to still be topical to the fictional character our silly fiction-themed forum is designated for. In contrast, the Finn thread has... repeatedly... stopped even referencing Finn and been more about Al Jolson than John Boyega.

    We welcome serious, social topics being discussed, and have done everything we can to offer a platform for such discussion, but for the sake of the poor souls that actually want to discuss fictional sci-fi characters, we have had to ask people who would have less interest in the fictional character the thread is about... and more interest in simply having a C-SPAN dialogue... to participate in an alternate thread dedicated to meeting that specific need.

    We have banned more people for offtopic hostility in that thread than we have any interest in doing.

    I'd blather on more but I am anticipating spending significant time in this thread so hopefully this is a good start.
  6. CEB

    CEB Force Ghost star 5

    Dec 3, 2014
    From a personal perspective, I have pretty much stopped posting in Finn threads completely due to the exact stuff referred to by @A Chorus of Disapproval . The emotions in that thread and the seeing of every aspect of Finn’s character as a question of representation of (a very narrow set of) desired characteristics of a young black male, create a bizarre situation where liking Finn’s character and vocalising that can, through a step by step process you’re walked through whether you want to be walked through it or not), see you being implied to have problematic views about race.
    That wouldn’t be a problem if it was a one and done, but there’s almost nothing positive one can say about Finn that doesn’t get pushback. Saying that Finn is funny pretty much turns the thread into the Joe Pesci scene in goodfellas, for instance.
    Ender_and_Bean likes this.
  7. Ender_and_Bean

    Ender_and_Bean Jedi Grand Master star 4

    May 19, 2002
    Somewhat related to this, some of the same posters who want to regularly discuss their dissatisfaction of storytelling choices related to Finn as a POC hero have been insensitive toward the development of Rose Tico as a love interest to Finn and another POC hero. She’s regularly derided by some in the Finn thread as inferior and below the likes of Finn for reasons entirely unrelated to her strong character, big heart and few negative character traits presented. She’s listed as an example of how some feel his character is being mistreated. It’s frustrating to think that someone who might physically resemble Rose Tico in any way, including ethnicity but also body type, might enthusiastically come to the Finn thread excited to discuss their relationship, or how their relationship is a beautiful example of interracial harmony, or who’s just excited as a Rose fan that Finn seems to care for her and feeling completely unwelcomed by a continent of Finn supporters who had different visions for Finn’s arch and see her inclusion into his and this saga as some kind an insult to them, or Finn.

    I don’t envy those policing or advising when things might be better served to move to the diversity thread but I did want to point out this trend I’ve observed in the Finn thread now that Rose has become a significant part of his arch.
    Darth Downunder and CEB like this.
  8. anakinfansince1983

    anakinfansince1983 Nightsister of Four Realms star 9 Staff Member Manager

    Mar 4, 2011
    I am a unapologetic Finn/Rey shipper but some of the comments about Rose (whom I like as a character) and KMT herself have been pretty terrible and I’m glad the New Films mods have smacked them down. The comments that I assume you’re talking about, reduce both Ridley and Tran’s value down to their looks, which isn’t OK.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2018
  9. Tatooine Twilight Twins

    Tatooine Twilight Twins Jedi Master star 4

    May 1, 2014

    This is a point I made at least a couple of years ago and despite some of the responses that have popped up in this thread I still believe a hypocrisy does exist regarding how this forum and SW fans in general deal with race compared to how they deal with gender. Stating that talk of gender and female empowerment in Rey's thread is acceptable because the topic in that thread stays on course ignores some possible reasons why the Rey thread didn’t go off track as much. Reason #1 is that gender equality, despite all the knuckle draggers still out there, is far less controversial it seems than discussions regarding race. Does any moderator who has been around for a few years deny you had to early on do far, far, far more cleaning up of Finn's thread from the folks who kept posting disgustingly racist remarks about Finn and Boyega in that thread? That you had to ban more people in that thread for bigoted posts directed at Finn than you ever had to ban people who wrote sexist garbage about Rey? Any moderator going to deny that?

    What irks me somewhat is that when mods talk about having to shut down the Finn board for repeated violations they tend to refer to only the Finn supporters who wanted to discuss racism, including those supporters who admittedly went too far in making a point and at times hijacked that thread. But what is never mentioned anymore was that because of all the early racist crap on the Finn thread plus the constant baiting of plenty of Jedi Council regulars who would only visit the Finn thread to shoot down any theories from those who saw Finn as having a possibly crucial role, supporters of Finn in the Finn thread were put on the defensive from the get go And this defensiveness played a role in making them reflexively sensitive to perceived slights or disappointing rumors. So much blame got placed on those who fell for some of the bait, hardly any was directed at the actual people doing the baiting. Anyway point was a tone was set and it wasn't a situation unique to just the Jedi Council site. This battle between those who were dismissing Finn out of hand from the beginning (those who were saying Boyega "didn't belong") and the Finn/Boyega fans who came to his defense was happening on other message boards, on tumblr on social media. The criticism directed at Rey paled by comparison. And it continues to this day. There are websites out that that pretty much document what's going on on a daily basis.

    I have argued before that despite some brushback against Rey/Ridley, the SW community seemed more accepting of her and pegged her as the lead even before we knew much about any of the new characters. I felt one reason for this was because Rey was white and the franchise itself has been arguably the most lily white major movie franchise outside Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. But I thought most of all the idea of a female lead was far more digestible than a black lead. After all pretty much every SW fan has female loved ones or female friends of neighbors who are female. Therefore the topic of gender is one that is dealt with pretty much by everyone everywhere. The same can not be said of race and in this case specifically black people. Plenty of SW fans may not have friends, loved ones, neighbors, co-workers etc. who are of another race and even a smaller number have such connections specifically with people who are black. That may not make a difference to some but it could affect the mindset of others, making them less sensitive, less aware or downright more bigoted when reacting to an actor or character who isn't white.

    The less sensitive and less aware folks are perhaps the most vital in this discussion because those are the ones who can look at Finn and not see anything wrong or stereotypical about him. While others like myself would grow weary with the presentation of your first leading black character as, arguably, a coward, a liar, an inferior fighter/pilot/mechanic/translator/everything compared to his white counterpart(s), a buffoon who stumbles into the drinking water of animals, the comedy relief and a dude who performed sanitation duties as being painful reinforcement of stereotypical traits of black characters that we thought were long gone in Hollywood films, non-black fans looked at Finn and saw nothing wrong. Go figure. Is there any doubt if Rey had been presented as a screamer who fell into fits of panic, a damsel in distress who was in constant need of rescue, a sex kitten who tried to win men over with her looks and revealing outfits, a terrible pilot and mechanic who had no business flying or fixing a ship, a soldier who was assigned a cooking detail in the kitchen at her last assignment and a weak fighter who was knocked unconscious and laid prone in snow as her male counterpart had to take on the bad guy by himself, that SW fans and the media would've been justifiably outraged over such a sexist and outdated portrayal? And yet there was pretty much silence from the fandom and the media when it came to the characterization of Finn. The most fervent outrage seemed at times to be left to people on Finn message boards. Why was that? Were the Finn fans going overboard or were the rest simply oblivious or too disinterested in Finn (not invested in him enough) to notice and care?

    To me there is no greater proof in this gulf of difference in how gender sensitivity is prioritized over race sensitivity than all the offscreen stuff spearheaded by Kathleen Kennedy/Lucas Films/Disney. KK has no qualms about dishing out quotes regarding gender and providing examples for girls. TPTB have gone all in at conventions in celebrating the women of Star Wars. KK and the rest do not hesitate to discuss intentionally making female characters stronger and the centerpiece of recent films. But these same folks never openly discuss race in the same manner, echoing how the SW fanbase in general deal with that topic. I doubt an idea has ever come to KK's head to have James Earl Jones, Billy Dee Williams, Samuel L Jackson and John Boyega for an onstage sitdown discussion as she had for SW actresses. But in terms of the SW fanbase gender trumps race so I understand if one is prioritized over the other. I get that. But to pretty much not acknowledge point blank the importance of racial diversity, actually saying the words, and to not hold any onstage gatherings to acknowledge that diversity is pretty pathetic. And the tiring excuse of how the new sequel is about Rey so therefore race representation doesn't need to be addressed or protected is a pretty pathetic pushback IMO.

    At the time of the announcement, the casting of Boyega in TFA was arguably the biggest casting coup a black actor ever achieved. Forget Will Smith in ID4 or Eddie Murphy in 48 Hours. We were talking about Star Wars, the biggest film franchise of all time. And there were all sorts of people who in the end did not know how to process it or conceptualize Boyega having a leading role. Such people could be found on The Jedi Council message boards. And often it did get out of hand and people lost their cool. I had all the sympathy for mods who had to keep things together and put an end to unnecessary and endless heated debates. But at the same time I felt what the forum needed was not just as a bunch of mods playing the roles of take-no-prisoner enforcers. I thought we needed more of the mods to take a step back, see what a unique situation that was going on and allow the posters in the Finn thread a little more leeway when they were making calm, reasonable points about race that didn't succumb to crazy-town hysteria. Instead too often no quarter was given and no sensitivity was extended to those of us who were trying to make what I saw as reasonable observations about how race played into the perception process, handling and acceptance of Finn.

    Beyond the moderators though people in general also seemed to be tone deaf regarding how big a deal Finn was to black folks and people in color in general who never had such representation in a major role in Star Wars before Boyega's casting. Another thing I had commented on years back was that as big of a deal as it was to see Ridley get an important leading role, the casting of guys who looked like Boyega in such roles were even much more scarce. To some people it was all they had in terms of representation the year TFA came out. That made many of us not just protective of Finn/Boyega but undoubtedly over protective. This type of realization may elude individuals who are, to put it bluntly, spoiled rotten in terms of representation. If you have people on the screen who "look like you" in the lead heroic roles of spectacular films dozens of times in a year (not to mention all the examples going back decades), you may not get why it was so vital to others how Finn was portrayed, how empowered he was, how much agency he had, what type of arc he was given. This is hard to explain unless you have been woefully underrepresented in such portrayals. Unfortunately there are people who still don't get it. People who will say something stupid like "well, you can get that type of wish fulfillment when Black Panther comes out, yada, yada, yada." Wait, so we can only get such representation one time or just a handful of times and that's okay? That those handful of other opportunities means we don't have a right to be troubled by the flaw handling we see with Finn?

    The great thing about the civil conversations of the #MeToo and #Time'sUp movement is that for some guys who may not understand or get where women are coming from, you will still see them cede authority on the subject when they take part in the discussion. So even if they don't exactly understand or even agree about the interpretations of an incident or attitudes overall, they will at least listen to what women may say and instead of dismissing those remarks out of hand they will concede that perhaps their more privilege positions hid particular truths from them. That type of attitude was needed at times from non-black folks who didn't get some of the racially sensitive points that black people in the Finn thread were attempting to get across.

    What’s so sad is that the whole debate has become a moot point. The Finn thread is pretty much dead or dying quickly because the films themselves have mostly murdered any hope for that character. So, in a manner, the racists, those who used to bombard the Finn board early on, have won.

    Let me add that while the media and fans debate now mostly about whether TLJ did justice to Luke and if the new trilogy did unnecessary harm to the legendary status of the original Big Three (all legitimate questions I'll add), I am convinced that ten to fifteen years from now the characterization of Finn in these first two films will be viewed as an outdated embarrassment for the franchise in terms of of racial inclusion and the handling of diversity. And I think from there the conversation will move to questions like "and people/fans were okay with this?"
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2018
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  10. Sith-I-5

    Sith-I-5 Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 14, 2002
    Put in a shorter form, after TFA, our mods and military vets put up a reasonable defense that all military personnel do janitorial scut work at some point.

    TLJ reinforced the idea that that was ALL that Finn did before he became a stormtrooper.
  11. A Chorus of Disapproval

    A Chorus of Disapproval New Films Malleus Maleficarum star 8 Staff Member Manager

    Aug 19, 2003
    Deny it...? It is literally the entire theme of my post in this thread.
  12. Valairy Scot

    Valairy Scot Backpacking One Pack a Day Mod of New Films star 6 Staff Member Manager

    Sep 16, 2005
    TBH, sometimes SOME of the Finn supporters/defenders appear not to see any redeeming qualifies in Finn themselves. That is not unique to Finn, or Rey, or Luke, or... SOME posters want only to double down on their opinions and not engage in healthy debate. As mods, we run the risk of letting negativity run rampant OR chastising fans and not-so-fans equally.

    But I personally think the discussion of representation - be it race, gender, or sexuality - is a valid and important discussion to be had, and oftentimes the discussion is better served in the Diversity thread rather than dominating the Finn thread, where we should be discussing FINN (i.e., the posts that go off topic tend to be those that are dominated by discussions of "Disney's agenda" or whatever, rather than focusing on the thread topic). And those discussions should be discussions with most opinions (other than inflammatory, baiting, or trolling posts) welcome and valid. Disagreement is necessary - that's how we learn and grow.

    But I also think we should not pit "race" against "gender." Each concern is valid and more than worthy of discussion, but not in an adversarial context. And those deeper concerns and discussions are broader than just "Finn" or the treatment of John Boyega; those concerns need to be addressed as a whole rather than just the mistreatment or down grading of one man's role.
    CEB likes this.