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Lit Ignorance is Bias: The Diversity Manifesto

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

  1. Rilwen_Shadowflame

    Rilwen_Shadowflame Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Registered:
    Mar 27, 2005
    Too often these days it seems 'but my escapism!' is used as an excuse to shut down discussion.

    You can't point out, say, sexism, because it's escapism. You can't put that character in there, because that damages escapism.

    Never mind that my escapism involves having a world I'd actually like to escape to; never mind that keeping minorities out means in the real world they're being told "hey, we don't want for you to be able to share our fantasy, because then we'd have to remember you exist and that makes us uncomfortable."

    'My escapism is more important than your escapism' in other words. It's a really frustrating sort of exclusion because it's frequently delivered with a side order of 'You're taking this way too seriously.' And a nice condescending dollop of 'Well, it's not real' on top.
     
  2. TheRedBlade

    TheRedBlade Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 17, 2007
    Is there a question of implication with how any future gay characters are used, or which established characters are retroactively identified as gay (or non-white)? That is to say, must they all be heroes?

    I remember hearing on one of the Battlestar Galatica commentaries that Ron Moore got in a fair amount of trouble with his wife because they made Admiral Caine, a complete monster, homosexual. Felix Gaeta, a character who was (quietly) established to be gay, became a villain towards the very end of the show. Is the show to be commended for making the characters villains first, and homosexuals second? Or is there something sinister in having two gay antagonists as traitors or murderous sociopaths?

    I ask because, when going through the mental list of good characters with no obvious sexual preference, General Melvar showed up.
     
  3. Robimus

    Robimus Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 6, 2007
    I never picked up on Felix Gaeta being a gay character, though the actor that portrays him is - but then I'm pretty far removed from my BSG watching.
     
  4. TheRedBlade

    TheRedBlade Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 17, 2007
    There are a few very small allusions to him being gay post-New Caprica, but the webisodes that preceded Season 4.5 established him as being in a relationship with Mr. Hoshi. His fling with one of the Sharons is viewed as an aberration, and is partly explained by the webisodes.
     
  5. Robimus

    Robimus Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 6, 2007
    Ah, I never paid close attention to the webisodes.
     
  6. Skaddix

    Skaddix Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 3, 2012
    Allana is not a big deal. They just take some eggs and stuff some sperm into it. We can do that on Earth. It should be easy in Star Wars U but then again Medical Care has never been a strong point in the Star Wars Universe.
     
  7. JediFreac

    JediFreac Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 7, 2002
    I think this goes back to the "We can't do this from a soapbox" anxiety or mentality that people who AREN'T used to or good at diversity approach things from. It's really a mix of good and bad, right? Good because there was presence of LGBTQ characters on BSG, bad because the two most prominent ones were kind of stereotypic in their villainy or portrayed as less morally upright than the straight characters. It's all connected too--If there were more "good" characters like Lt. Hoshi to balance out the gay characters gone rogue, it wouldn't have been nearly as jarring. There are straight bad guys and we don't worry about them perpetrating the stereotype that straight people are morally bankrupt because there are enough straight good guys to balance then out.
     
  8. JediFreac

    JediFreac Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 7, 2002
    Maybe, maybe not. The way Hapes approaches generating heirs seems pretty lax. You don't need to be in a relationship to make an heir, as Tenel Ka and Jacen demonstrated.

    I think we all agree that it shouldnt be a defining part of he character. So is this fear that if the character is gay it will become a defining part of her character (more so than if the character were default-straight/heteronormative)? Is that because we don't trust the authors to handle diverse characters well? If Allana is a well written character, then her defining characteristic will be her assertiveness or her intelligence or her political savvy or her brashness, not her "gayness."

    I am thinking of the 2008 fantasy novel "The Steel Remains" by Richard K. Morgan. The protagonist is a guy named Ringil Eskiath. He's a bold war hero and an asskicker and an exile, there is a lot going on with this character. He also happens to be gay, which contributes to his story (part of the reason he is an exile, part of his dynamics with his family) but isn't what defines the character. Yes, readers note that he is gay and that "this is the Morgan book with the gay protagonist," but that's because gay lead characters are rare in fantasy novels, not because the author did a poor job with his characterization.

    The primary plot is about how he will rescue a kidnapped family member, not how he will continue his family's bloodline. While the bloodline issue comes up, it isn't the only plot. The best characters are continually challenged from many different directions and stymied in a lot of different ways, this is one of the ways this character is challenged. "The gay hero whose family shames him instead of respects him" almost feels like an archetypal fantasy character, except it isn't used a lot at all. And it draws parallels to some issues that real world people and real world readers experience, rather than invalidating those experiences outright.

    There are a few diffences between this book and Star Wars. It's set in a fantasy world with more archaic views of homosexuality (to be gay is to be hated) than Star Wars (to be gay is not really talked about). It's also rated R and Star Wars is rated more like PG or Teen. But I would argue that look, it's possible to do a gay character and do a good job. Just as it is possible to write a woman character and not only fixate on what a woman the character is. (Which is what fans used to say about women characters in sic fi...)
     
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  9. CooperTFN

    CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus star 6 VIP

    Registered:
    Jul 8, 1999
    In terms of Battlestar specifically, I actually thought Cain and Gaeta were fantastic characters. Cain is maybe a harder case to make, but Gaeta certainly wasn't portrayed as morally lacking at all, in my opinion. It's very hard to do a civil war storyline with both sides seeming genuinely sympathetic (see: Marvel), but I think BSG came as close as anyone ever has - and Gaeta was the heart of the whole thing.

    Besides which, he was at least unofficially understood to be gay for a while prior to the rebellion storyline, so if the story ended up taking him to a less-than-heroic place down the line, so be it - that happened with everyone on that show. :p
     
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  10. CeiranHarmony

    CeiranHarmony Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 10, 2004
    some more diversity thoughts I had...

    why do we have an overuse of aliens that are humanoid / nearhuman even? I demand more tiny, giant, differentlooking alien species. and with different social systems and such too. Hiveminds, ok we got several. And rpg sourcebooks tend to give cultures cool background with different political and social systems that the rest of the EU ignores then sadly or reduces to stereotypes and basics instead of fully using it properly.

    We have species with more than two sexes... we have species reproducing asexually or very different from humanoids.. we have a lot that is not used but exotic.

    Give me the full range of sociology and not just copy of american society in this or that decade projected to an alien species which is only alien due to skincolor or other bodyextensions.

    no more kings or queens or democracies... there is lots more than that to explore. one of the reasons why I think Melida/Daan was such an interesting conflict!

    and for diversity's sake... dear artists.. do all women in the gffa have double-d breasts? I demand Breastsize-diversity in comics too! and please not within one character changing by several bra sizes within the same comic arc that poor Lady in Dark Times had! Pay attention to canon heigths, and other such data and not just haircolor, lightsabercolor and what type of generic movie clothes can be photoshopped.
     
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  11. CooperTFN

    CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus star 6 VIP

    Registered:
    Jul 8, 1999
    I'd settle for them getting hair and lightsabers right. o_O
     
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  12. CeiranHarmony

    CeiranHarmony Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 10, 2004
    that would be a first step into a larger world indeed! I am not even asking to portray the right ages and not 9 year , 19 year olds or 90 year olds and nothing in between ;)
     
  13. Mechalich

    Mechalich Jedi Knight star 4

    Registered:
    Feb 2, 2010
    There's a couple of reasons for this, both from an in-universe and out-of-universe perspective.

    First the out of universe ones: In every medium other than straight text, non-human aliens are expensive. In live-action it means creating a wholly CGI creation, with all the filming costs that entails, or a complex animatronic device, which is equally so. In 3d animation, computer, and video games is means new and complicated character models - look at TOR, is has a very small number of body types, and struggles to portray anything that doesn't qualify as either humanoid or quadrapred. Even in comics you're stuck having to draw the darned things and fit them into the limited display architecture of panels.

    There's also the conceptional issue. All of the authors are human. Form reflects function in biology and the more you deviate from the humanoid model the less likely you're going to end up with something that's reasoning process can be portrayed in anything resembling a viable fashion. For example, think about the Cephalon in Coruscant Nights, it was weird enough that a larger role would have been almost impossible, and you can forget using it as a viewpoint character. it's not for nothing that Vort SaBring is perhaps our first true alien protagonist: he was medically, chemically, and genetically modified into having human thought processes.

    Second, the in-universe issue, which actually flows from the out-of-universe one. Star Wars is a human-dominated space opera. Humans rule, overwhelmingly, all aspects of the current iteration of galactic civilization (having taken over from the Rakata). Galactic society therefore, conforms to a human design-scheme. That ranges from the politics (democracy first), to the development patterns (urbanized centers of authority) to the architecture and agriculture. It is a human-crafted galaxy, and things that deviate heavily from a human design system just don't fit into it, whether ideologically or physically. Some examples: large species like Herglics have trouble getting through doorways and tight spaces, smaller species have difficulty reaching and accessing objects not tailored to their height (in the cantina scene in ANH the poor chadra-fan extends his arms above his head to grasp his drink on the bar). Species with vastly different psychologies also end up marginalized. Hive species, to use a common example, have a vastly different system of values. The Killik's 'joiner' feature isn't good or evil, inherently, but to anything with a human idea of individuality, its horrific.This also extends the expense issue into an in-universe concern. One obvious example: Palpatine justified barring aliens from military service under the need for 'unified control surfaces.' He was actually promoting the speciesist Human High Culture regime, but multi-species configurations do represent a non-zero expenditure, and one the Rebel Alliance and later New Republic had to grapple with (there are canon examples of how humans can't really get the full functionality out of Mon Calamari star cruisers and the like).

    All of this creates an immense bias within the Star Wars galaxy against species that range to far outside of human body type and mental norms to stay out of things. That doesn't stop them from contributing to that society: the Colicoids are an industrial powerhouse and very influential completely without bothering to wander the galaxy, but it does mean we simply aren't likely to see them very much. That's even without counting both direct or indirect biases in-universe. Speciesism is very much alive and well in the Star Wars universe, and is a much harder thing to combat than racism (race is a construct of human perceptions and sociology, species betokens real, functional differences between populations), and the systematic legacy of 25,000 of anti-alien prejudice has led to a galaxy dominated by humans and things human-like-enough not to make the humans nervous.

    Look I want lots of new, strange and unusual aliens as much as the next guy (I'm an entomologist, I love weird biology!), but introducing such beings requires care, attention, and considerable work. It's not nearly as simple as 'Randomize the humanoid npcs into humans, Twi'Leks, Chagrians, Nautolans, and Togruta unless otherwise specified!' (which is roughly the TOR experience).
     
  14. CeiranHarmony

    CeiranHarmony Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 10, 2004
    I know what you say, and understand that well my friend. The thing is... I still want them to go to that effort with care, attention and considerable work instead of the easy path!
     
  15. dewback_rancher

    dewback_rancher Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 23, 2009
    Ah, the perils of generalizing with any one group strike again.

    This SOS regular, at least, was more than "Simply open" to the idea of a half-Zeltron Skywalker. I rather loved it TBPH.

    I love diversity in Star Wars. My first thought when I saw all these wild alien cultures was "I want to hear more about them- I get enough Humans in everyday life". Two of my five (six counting the tie- more on that in a moment) favorite Star Wars characters are aliens (Jar Jar at second, Wicket at fifth), and my fourth favorite character slot is filled by tie between Kerra Holt and Meetra Surik/The Jedi Exile.

    I admit readily to actually squeeing- while on a bus no less!- when I saw Celegians and Krevaaki in the Knight Errant novel. I love all these wild alien cultures. And heck, I love it when we get different viewpoints on the universe. I love stories with strong female protagonists in the lead, or the Ewok stuff because hey, Ewoks are wildly different than real life and whimsical, and I love the Gungans because they're just so fascinating, and dangit droid-POVs are always worth cheering for.

    Just saying, don't generalize even the JCC fanbase. You'll be surprised.[face_peace]
     
  16. Robimus

    Robimus Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 6, 2007
    Aside from perhaps some poor wording on my behalf I don't see what you are getting at. The facts are that a number of users didn't like the idea of Cade and Blue having a child. These are Star Wars fans, people who are part of Del Rey's customer base. I suspect they are not alone.

    Now as has been driven home for whatever reason, yes, I'm generalizing based on a rough ratio from that thread. But the opinions given in that topic represent some people who actually have feelings about the topic one way or another. I think its at the very least relevent to the discussion.

    To me it was never about generalizing the JCC or the SOS. It was about saying there were people who have gone on the record saying that they didn't like the idea.
     
  17. dewback_rancher

    dewback_rancher Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 23, 2009
    Fair play on that, and I did indeed get the gist of what you were going for (valid point by the way, as I can attest to by being an SOS regular, I can even readily mention a few by username who disliked the idea!).

    However, given I've been a semi-lurker in the diversity threads for a while (and a full lurker for even longer, mostly out of a lack of anything to say that hasn't already been said except in a few instances), felt like making a comment on said word choice.

    Apologies that said comment did indeed miss the point of your post. But given how little I actually find a chance to say in these, I take what opportunities I find to throw my support behind the diversity theads. Errm, I'll go back to the corner and lurk now and stop making an idiot of myself, sorry. [face_blush]
     
  18. CooperTFN

    CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus star 6 VIP

    Registered:
    Jul 8, 1999
    Rancher, your opinions are as welcome in here as anyone else's. I fear one of the most true things Rob has said in the last couple pages is that a lot of people don't bother to contribute in here for fear of being shouted down. I don't need to argue every single JCer into submission, but I really am interested in what those who disagree with us have to say - even if they just say their piece then step aside.
     
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  19. Robimus

    Robimus Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 6, 2007
    No need to go away, I just wanted to be sure I was clear about what I was trying to say.
     
  20. dewback_rancher

    dewback_rancher Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 23, 2009
    Oh, I don't disagree is the thing. It's just that everyone here is far more eloquent than I am, and I don't know what to say that someone else hasn't already said in a far more amazing manner.

    I'm more passionate about the issue than I am able to really articulate what it is I'm trying to say.
     
  21. CooperTFN

    CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus star 6 VIP

    Registered:
    Jul 8, 1999
    Embrace your sig, rancher. :p
     
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  22. jedimaster203

    jedimaster203 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 19, 1999
    Are there any examples of mixed species reproduction in star wars? Can Cade and Blue have children at all?

    I would think that Blue (Zeltron, right), would probably be able to, but it depends on genetics. I doubt that a mon cal and a bothan are going to be able to have a baby though.
     
  23. Gorefiend

    Gorefiend Chosen One star 5

    Registered:
    Oct 23, 2004
    Afaik only Theelin because they are genetically very weird and force abominations like the Sith and that whole Dathomir mess from TCW.
     
  24. AdmiralNick22

    AdmiralNick22 Fleet Admiral of Literature star 6 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    May 28, 2003
    Just as a side bar, I have been re-reading the Rogue Squadron comic series. I don't have any exact numbers currently, but the series scores well in terms of alien diversity, but pretty darned low regarding the sheer number of white human males & females. For example, during the capture of Brentaal, the squadron has Wedge, Tycho, Hobbie, Janson, Avan Berrus, Felis Ardelle, Plourr Ilo,and Dar Keyis were all white humans. Add in Horton Salm, Soontir Fel, and Tuur Phennir (also human white pilots) and the score gets even worse.

    Granted, I want to give the series a pass because it is such an awesome piece of the EU, but in terms of diversity it doesn't look to good.

    --Adm. Nick
     
  25. Zorrixor

    Zorrixor Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Sep 8, 2004
    You've also got those Human/Twi'lek hybrids in TCW (which I still hate, given the clone was only the stepfather, yet they still made them hybrids... :rolleyes:).

    Admittedly, after the whole Mother Machine artificially creating species like the Twi'leks, I wouldn't put it past there being loads more mixed species compatibilities than we've heard about, on the pseudoscientific basis that they had a "common ancestor" in the test tube when the Rakata spliced the genes to create said new species.