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Lit Ignorance is Bias: The Diversity Manifesto

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

  1. Skaddix

    Skaddix Jedi Grand Master star 5

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    Feb 3, 2012
    ColorBlind is BS. It does not exist.
     
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  2. CooperTFN

    CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus star 6 VIP

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    Jul 8, 1999
    Okay, looks like she's done for the time being. It'll be interesting if the thread keeps going from here or if that's the end of it.
    She makes a fair point about not having been involved for very long; I mostly wanted to gauge her personal feelings rather than past actions. Most promising is her perspective that "there's always room for improvement, everywhere". And it's particularly relevant to our current discussion that she cites Shonda Rhimes as a positive example. I don't know exactly what the racial breakdown of Grey's Anatomy is, but I know it's a damn sight better than overall US demographics.
     
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  3. Skaddix

    Skaddix Jedi Grand Master star 5

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    Feb 3, 2012
    Yeah but Shonda is not a surprise really. She is a black female after all. Minorities notice Race. Honestly, the best analogy I have ever heard about it is the Fish and Water One.

    Still interesting stuff.
     
  4. CeiranHarmony

    CeiranHarmony Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 10, 2004
    so basically the points are:

    -good points, they agree with us
    -but they will not force it
    -and so long white writers/artists are dominating the scene, so will white characters
    -given that US and Europe, Star Wars Main target groups are mostly white percentagewise
    -and that the popularity of more diverse characters is not as high as those who are the generic kaukasian type?

    I understand this reasoning.. I even think it is ok that way and that she is a nice and intelligent woman great at her job. But still I hope for way more diversity. It sounds too much like "most fans want that, so we do that", the TCW excuse for kicking the EU and continuity around.

    and here I am wondering what would have been had the clone army been all clones of Lando Calrissian or another black guy for example (like in early prequel rumors that turned out to be wrong). Then we'd discuss racism and their enslavement all the same I guess. And the irony of black clones wearing white helmets/masks!
     
  5. CooperTFN

    CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus star 6 VIP

    Registered:
    Jul 8, 1999
    Per a few posts back, I'm not quite convinced of that.
     
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  6. CeiranHarmony

    CeiranHarmony Jedi Grand Master star 5

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    May 10, 2004
    oh I missed that... sorry. agreed of course
     
  7. AdmiralNick22

    AdmiralNick22 Fleet Admiral of Literature star 6 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    May 28, 2003
    I agree Coop, but only to a certain extent. With the exception of the Force, the very ethos of Star Wars is VERY Western in nature and it is obvious why these types of themes would strike a more resounding chord in the US, Canada, or Europe than say mainland China or other Eastern cultures.

    North America, Europe, and Australia may not be the only markets, but they are most definitely the largest and most likely to be the purchaser of these books.

    --Adm. Nick
     
  8. GrandAdmiralJello

    GrandAdmiralJello Comms Admin ❉ Moderator Communitatis Litterarumque star 10 Staff Member Administrator

    Registered:
    Nov 28, 2000
    Regarding the audience--Coop, many Hollywood films are intended for global release. Yet if you spoke to someone in the developing world who resents the insidious influence of American cultural imperialism, I highly doubt they'd see a film playing in their theaters as intended for them. The audience of a cultural production does not determine its cultural biases, nor does its reception in other cultures necessarily shed any light on it either.
     
  9. CooperTFN

    CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus star 6 VIP

    Registered:
    Jul 8, 1999
    That's all correct (though, Nick, I think there's at least as much Kurosawa in SW as there is John Wayne), but what I'm thinking is that "indended for western audiences" may be misleading, because it implies that that might ever not be the case. I think Star Wars' popularity, and *relatively* low western cultural basis, means that it has as close to a globally-targeted audience as anything that exists. Maybe it's the one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind in that regard, but the point is, that doesn't make for a convincing argument as to why it's so pervasively white.
     
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  10. Mechalich

    Mechalich Jedi Knight star 4

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    Feb 2, 2010
    The relative global popularity of Star Wars is difficult to parse. For one, science fiction movies do extremely well internationally for some reason, I mean Battleship made 200 million+ globally (seriously), so it's hard to separate global appeal of the Star Wars films from global science fiction appeal generally. The considerably greater western biases of certain science fiction franchises, notably the Transformers movies, which are heavily influenced by American automobile culture, don't seem to hurt them much. Possibly the global audience just want to see fast moving things explode. Worth mentioning - this phenomenon does not function in reverse, and even smash hit foreign blockbusters, such as Red Cliff, find only niche American audiences. This fact surely influences marketing decisions, in that the American audience is apparently more xenophobic and one could even say racist compared to the global one (the experience of Red Tails could also be mentioned in this regard). Not exactly something for we Americans to be proud of, but it surely informs publishing decisions and we the audience will have to change before they the publishers, who through the miracle (gag) of corporate citizenship are responsible only to their bottom lines.

    Of course EU properties, and particularly the novels, are not in the same class as the movies or even the video games when it comes to a global audience. They are targeted at a much smaller audience to begin with and have a comparably much higher cost for purposes of translation. How many of the Star Wars novels or comics are even available in other languages? Are any printed in Chinese at all? If they aren't - and I admit I don't know the answer and would love to find out - then the global audience becomes the English-reading audience, and that is undoubtedly a whiter group.
     
  11. Zorrixor

    Zorrixor Force Ghost star 6

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    Sep 8, 2004
    No idea about Chinese, but I imagine the Japanese book covers suggest they're translated into Japanese at least?
     
  12. AdmiralNick22

    AdmiralNick22 Fleet Admiral of Literature star 6 Staff Member Manager

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    May 28, 2003
    Point taken on the Kurosawa influences. Lucas loved those movies. One might argue that Western culture is more willing to accept other views and incorporate them, but that is a slippery slope that I don't want to go down. :p

    --Adm. Nick
     
  13. CooperTFN

    CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus star 6 VIP

    Registered:
    Jul 8, 1999
    Well that kind of takes you back into the same direction - we may well have many more examples of western media incorporating other influences than vice versa, but we have WAY WAY more examples of western media period; anything else is essentially being made for a niche market, so there's less impetus to expand your areas of inspiration. If America went down the tubes and Bollywood, say, became the center of the global media world, who's to say what they'd do with that amount of power?

    Again, per the TFN Foreign Covers page, we know for certain they're at least being translated into Czech, Dutch, French, German, Japanese, Polish, and Turkish. And personally? If someone deems is worthwhile to make Turkish and Czech editions, I have a hard time thinking of a language they wouldn't bother with. :p
     
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  14. JediFreac

    JediFreac Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 7, 2002
    I think the best analogy for Heddle is that she is the studio and that the authors are more like show runner Shonda Rhimes. Rhimes had to push for a lot of the diversity on her show and get it approved by high uppers. For example, author Martha Wells, who is writing the recently announced CVI Princess Leia novel, is conscious of the need for divsity in Star Wars. She replied to a post I made in her LJ and wants to put a woman of color character in, and a gay character in. Will this go through with Heddle and the brass? We know that authors have previously spoken about getting shot down when proposing gay characters based on that one Zhan, Stackpole, Allston Roundtable.

    Had Rhimes not been in a position to push, then diversity would not have happened either, so it is important to at least have people conscious of diversity doing the writing, and then to have people supportive of diversity as editors. I seriously wonder what would happen of a post FOTJ author said, "I want to write Allana as the first gay member of the Skywalker bloodline." (Seriously, imagine how interesting this would be given she is the heir to Hapes?) Would Heddle be supportive of this? She told Coop she knows there will always be racists and that shouldn't affect the process. Does the same apply to homophobes?

    I don't know if it makes sense to frame Grey's against overall US demographics! First of all, the show is set in Seattle, and all metropolitan cities are more diverse than the overall population. It's also set in a hospital, which also doesn't reflect the overall population. Most nurses are women, 50% of nurses are Filipino (don't think this has ever been reflected on any show set in a hospital!), one out of three doctors in the USA under age 40 is a person of color (not really reflected on shows, either.) A ton of people who are Asian American go into medical school, but it's rare to see more than one Asian (East Asian, Southeast Asian, or South Asian) character on a show about doctors at all even though 1 out of 5 young doctors are Asian American.

    I think it's also important to note that the two leads of Grey's Anatomy, including the titular character, are white. Which, okay, you could argue that white people make up the majority of Seattle and the field of medicine but...the character with majority status doesn't have to be the lead character just because of demographics. In fact, one technique that authors--especially science fiction authors--utilize in world building is to use the fish out of water character as an entry point to explore a setting! From a writer's standpoint, it makes exposition so much more fluid and easier. (Which is why Grey's Anatomy began with the main character just starting off her work at the hospital...)

    (So for example, the show The OC used a poor kid from a poor town to introduce the setting of the wealthy Orange County city of the television series--granted, the show depicted the OC as super white even though it has huge Latino and Asian populations. And how much more interesting or complex would the show have been if the main character--who was a foster youth living with a wealthy white family in a wealthy white neighborhood--had been black or Latino?)
     
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  15. Gorefiend

    Gorefiend Chosen One star 5

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    Oct 23, 2004
    There are apparently some 70 Million Turkish speaking people in the world so it is kind of understandable, though yes Czech is odd, as there are only some 12 Million. :)
     
  16. Jeff_Ferguson

    Jeff_Ferguson Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    May 15, 2006
    If they are, I hope they're signficantly better than as fantastic as Backstroke of the West.

    I've never seen a SW book in a Korean bookstore save for the regular-ol' English ones in the scattered English-language bookstores. Although I, Jedi was once randomly on the bookshelf of a book cafe. That was pretty cool. But anyway, there's no EU market in the ROK.
     
  17. CooperTFN

    CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus star 6 VIP

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    Jul 8, 1999
    Just got another official comment from (apparently) Shelly Shapiro:

    Emphasis mine. I know it's not as if they're going to say "eh, we'll see", but these strike me as much more promising responses than we've seen before now.
     
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  18. The Loyal Imperial

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

    Registered:
    Nov 19, 2007
    I'll believe it when I see the array of non-white non-male faces staring back at me.
     
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  19. beccatoria

    beccatoria Jedi Master star 4

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    Dec 8, 2006
    [face_hypnotized]

    WANT.
     
  20. Robimus

    Robimus Jedi Grand Master star 5

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    Jul 6, 2007
    While it would be interesting did any of you happen to catch the fan backlash from Luke Skywalker fans when it was suggested that Cade and Blue might one day have a child? It was a pretty clear 50/50 split between the for and against sides in the SOS thread. Those for were simply open to the idea, those against were vehemently opposed.

    While it was an extremely small sample size I suspect anything that might enrage 50 percent of Star Wars readers or more is going to be something Del Rey tip toes around in a very delicate fashion. At the end of the day its still a business and making business decisions about Skywalkers is tricky at best.
     
  21. Rilwen_Shadowflame

    Rilwen_Shadowflame Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Registered:
    Mar 27, 2005
    Letting a human person turn out to be a lesbian is, to me, considerably less weird than repeating the TCW-route stuff of "uh, species is what?"

    For example, Zeltrons have two livers. Would they split the difference and give Cade's child one and a half?;)
     
  22. beccatoria

    beccatoria Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 8, 2006
    *shrugs*

    Well, there'll always be racists, there'll always be homophobes, there'll always be sexists, there'll always be xenophobes, there'll always be people upset by the idea of Luke's descendants not being human, you can't write for those people. Or, at least this thread's premise, is not doing so, no matter how prevalent they are/may seem to be.

    Do I realistically expect it to happen? No. But that's immaterial to how much of an awesome idea it is.
     
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  23. CeiranHarmony

    CeiranHarmony Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 10, 2004
    I want this too but not just for diversity reasons [face_whistling]
     
  24. Mechalich

    Mechalich Jedi Knight star 4

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    Feb 2, 2010
    I'd actually be very hesitant to make Allana homosexual, because while it would create plotlines, they would all center around her inability to enter into a 'traditional' relationship resulting in a natural heir. That would have a resultant tendency to define the character via sexuality, which is general not a good recipe for either positive minority representation or good storytelling. Due to Star Wars' somewhat archaic societal governance systems Allana and other nobility are part of a small cadre of characters whose reproductive status and therefore by extension sexual orientation actually do play into broader issues. Personally, I feel its much more inclusive to treat the homo- or bisexuality of the first major character to display such a trait as an effective non-issue and simply a natural part of society, rather than making it into a 'big issue' that forces the drawing of lines.

    Well, inter-species reproductive issues are considerably more complicated than simple prejudice. For the overwhelming majority of its history, Star Wars has dodged the issue of hybridization across species and all the inherent messy biological conundrums it induces. The recent unnecessary admission that humans and Twi'Leks can interbreed was a departure in this regard, and frankly a mistake, since it left everything unresolved about that issue (and other, post-dated sources like TOR hanging in the wind).

    Species interbreeding has to be addressed on a case by case basis, much like hybridization in the real world. There are several possible consequences. In the Cade/Deliah case, one reason to nix the possibility of Human/Zeltron relations is to preserve the viability of the Zeltron species. Consider, Zeltrons are, as a species, extraordinarily attractive to baseline humans, they are also outnumbered by baseline humans by an incredible margin, and their species is very cosmopolitan and their world open to outsiders. If Humans and Zeltrons can interbreed, the much smaller Zeltron population is likely to hybridize itself into oblivion (something that happens in nature). Given the history of potentially thousands of years of contact between the two species, and the lack of such problems, or indeed any previously known Human/Zeltron hybrids, the simplest explanation is that this particular hybridization is not easily accomplished.

    Some general questions having to do with hybridization that you have to answer each time: What's the success rate? Is it equal to intraspecies reproductive chances, or is it much lower or perhaps even higher, potentially by orders of magnitude. What is the viability of the hybrid offspring? Are they hale and hearty and display hybrid vigor ala mules, or are they sickly malformed creatures struggling against inherent genetic incompatibilities. Perhaps a tremendously high percentage perish as infants. Are the hybrids themselves fertile? This is very rare. Are back-crosses possible? Perhaps only one way?

    This list could go on and on. It gets messy fast, and in Star Wars is easily avoided. In addition to the time honored childless couple issue, it should be possible for almost any pairing to take genetic material from only one parent and produce a viable clone to be born and raised naturally, perhaps with some carefully limited genetic mixing. The couple could even alternate back and forth (I like this idea, have Cade and Deliah have a Zeltron child and then a Human child).
     
  25. CooperTFN

    CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus star 6 VIP

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    Jul 8, 1999
    Not only does the usual caveat "Lit doesn't represent all EU fandom" apply here, I don't think SOS is even necessarily representative of Lit as a whole. In fact, I'd take it one further and speculate that SOS by its nature probably tends to attract a much more conservative than average group of fans.

    Which is all to say, tough for them. :p
     
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