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The Bantha in the Room: That Missing Demographic

Discussion in 'Literature' started by Barriss_Coffee, Sep 24, 2010.

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  1. Quinnocent-Till-Sith

    Quinnocent-Till-Sith Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Jul 21, 2004
    You know Echuu Chen-Jon but not Kai Justiss? He's got one of the easier names to remember. :p
     
  2. Dawud786

    Dawud786 Jedi Grand Master star 5

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    Dec 28, 2006
    I do believe that Toshiro Mifune was considered for the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi back in 74-75,but the language barrier was an issue. Too bad, because as much as I like Sir Alec, Mifune-sama would have been a very awesome and very different Kenobi.

    Also, the default assumption of the reader that characters not explicitly stated to be non-white are white is as much the fault of the reader as the writer and interpreters at LFL. It's a cultural tendency in the Western setting, certainly, because we've essentially been brainwashed to think that way... but it is something in our own heads. For a long time now I've been decided that Darth Revan, for instance, is one of the East Asian faces and frankly, so is the Exile too.

    I agree, Star Wars like most other sci-fi/fantasy franchises is very very white-washed. Which is what makes it all the more shameful when other awesome fantasy franchises are white-washed for film adaptations like Prince of Persia and Avatar: The Last Airbender, and worse yet that there are so many people willing to apologize for it and rationalize why that's acceptable as some kind of "post-racialism" move. Here we are talking about the under-representation of East Asians in Star Wars and M. Night Shyamalan was trying to say that with A:TLA he could have another Star Wars on his hands and he proceeds to appropriate East Asian cultural asthetics, language and martial arts only to populate the cast of heroes(including the messianic figure of the story) with white people, and making the villians of the film dark-
     
  3. beccatoria

    beccatoria Jedi Master star 4

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    Dec 8, 2006
    Yeah, I totally agree that the white-washing of characters who aren't specifically described as an ethnicity other than Caucasian is as much the fault of the reader as anyone else. I should have been clearer on that. I think that the fact LFL does release art of various characters who have never before been visually depicted would just be a really convenient and easy way to start combating that social brainwashing.

    I have some problems with the near-human designation too for similar reasons. I think I would be more willing to embrace it as a fun way of diversifying the universe if many (though of course not all) of the near-human races didn't seem to be code for an ethnicity or cultural group that evokes minority cultural groups in Western society.
     
  4. Dawud786

    Dawud786 Jedi Grand Master star 5

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    Dec 28, 2006
    Same here. I just find it bizarre to label a Miralian "near-human" while at the same time putting Chiss, or better yet, Sullustans in that category. I mean, I can understand some shared DNA that would qualify Sullustans and Chiss and Zeltrons and that like as "near-human" but for beings that are human except a skintone we don't see on earth or some totally normal human ethnic marker I see no reason they shouldn't just be humans.

    And you're right, LFL should be working harder to diversify the universe. I mean, chances are they'll give Revan a white face when they get around to that reveal but should it be? Same with the Exile.

    Also, why is everyone on Haruun Kal supposedly black? I mean, does that even make sense? There just happened to be a starship full of dark-skinned human Jedi that crash landed on that planet? Makes no sense to me.
     
  5. Taral-DLOS

    Taral-DLOS Jedi Master star 3

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    Jun 29, 2009
    In fairness, the Haruun Kal thing might have been evolution. Remember that Humans started out in Africa and so were black, and as we spread out, other races came to be, probably from environmental pressures.

    When reading Shatterpoint, I pictured the livable parts of Haruun Kal as resembling sub-Saharan Africa, with plaines and jungles. It isn't unreasonable to assume that in 700 generations the population developed darker skin in response to the environment. Just as Humans on Earth became paler as a result of exposure to new environmental conditions in Europe.
     
  6. Dan Wallace

    Dan Wallace Author: Essential Atlas, Essential Guides, RPG star 3 VIP

    Registered:
    Aug 17, 1998
     
  7. CeiranHarmony

    CeiranHarmony Jedi Grand Master star 5

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    May 10, 2004
     
  8. Havac

    Havac Former Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

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    Sep 29, 2005
    Omas is blue-eyed, though, so that's a little bit limiting but not entirely so. Garris Shrike is another blue-eyed, black-haired, but otherwise undescribed figure of some importance, though I'm not sure you want to make the abusive criminal who raised Han Solo a nefarious minority.

    FOTJ's Daala-aide Wynn Dorvan has brown hair, but is otherwise undescribed, and I think he could be depicted as something other than white. Dyon Stadd is the same way. Moff Drikl Lecersen is completely up in the air -- indeed, any depiction of Remnant Moffs, including Ephin Sarreti, could show a great deal of diversity, just by virtue of the fact that they're never described.

    To go back a series, LOTF is resplendent with underdescribed characters. Five Worlds Prime Minister Dur Gejjen is established as a black-haired, dark-skinned man, but has yet to be depicted. Just by his description, he could be black, or a darker-skinned Middle Eastern, South Asian, or Hispanic individual. GAG officer Captain Lon Shevu is undescribed, as far as I can tell. Five Worlds Prime Minister Aidel Saxan is black-haired but otherwise open to depiction. Yet another Five Worlds Prime Minister, Sadras Koyan, is similarly malleable. Corellian minister Denjax Teppler could be anything. GA Admiral Matric Klauskin is up for depiction. Mandalorian Goran Beviin could belong to just about any race (I've always pictured him as vaguely Hispanic, for no particular reason). Corellian Supreme Commander Genna Delpin could be anything.

    Lord Lestra Oxic from Millennium Falcon is totally undescribed, physically. Coruscant Senator G'vli G'Sil of LOTF is undescribed, as are the NJO's Senators Chelch Dravvad (Corellia) and Fyor Rodan (Commenor). For the Imperials, Admiral Teren Rogriss could be any race. Major historian Wolam Tser could also be portrayed any way you want.

    Edit: I forgot about the Bantam warlords, who offer a wealth of possibilities. Blitzer Harrsk is a black-haired enigma. Treuten Teradoc could be anything. Sander Delvardus has dark brown hair, which could fit with numerous minorities (and I would love for a distant Tarkin relative to be non-white, just to show some diversity within families). Foga Brill could be anything.

    Cronal could be anything, so long as he's old and ugly.
     
  9. Armchair_Admiral

    Armchair_Admiral Jedi Master star 4

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    May 31, 2005
    Interesting observations Havoc, but it still doesn't erase the fact that nearly all the big-shot characters that casual fans actually care about are white. Therefore, I'm also one of them folks who wish that one day, Revan and/or the Exile get clearly described as non-Caucasian. Introducing diversity into the KOTOR subfranchise's player characters would be a huge leap foward for the entire EU in this regard.
     
  10. Lord_Hydronium

    Lord_Hydronium Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

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    Jun 11, 2002
    Well, with genetic drift they don't have to all be dark-skinned, simply enough of a majority that it becomes fixed in the population over the intervening years. It's known as the "founder effect".

    Dawud's mention of Mifune potentially having been Obi-Wan makes me wonder if we'd see a noticeable difference in the demographics of the EU in that alternate scenario. In a way, the lily-white world of the OT makes it easier for a lily-white EU to follow; that's not to say there's a conscious aping of the OT's demographics, simply that a more diverse OT might have highlighted how odd it would be for the rest of the universe to be monoracial, or might have simply opened the door a little on the (probably mostly unconscious) bias that made such a white universe. I don't know if it's coincidental that the best-represented minority we see in the EU are black people, same as the OT's one main non-white human character (or if it's not coincidental, if that's because of the above theory or more about the society that produced both).

    The PT unfortunately isn't the best situation to test out that theory. On its own, it would be interesting to compare products spun off a PT-only Star Wars to see if they're more racially diverse, but in this case it comes after 20 years of OT-inspired Star Wars, so there's as much or more of that influencing it.
     
  11. Havac

    Havac Former Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

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    Sep 29, 2005
    I'm not sure it would have made that much difference. I mean, the OT was full of aliens and, to a lesser extent, women, and we still have the problem of their underrepresentation among main characters (they are better represented among supporting characters than non-Caucasian races, but I think that goes more toward literature's difficulty in cluing the reader in to race without real-world racial terminology or the use of "tells" that could themselves be described as racist or at the least stereotypical, and isn't so much a matter of greater racial bias -- note that minorities show up with much greater frequency in visual media). The EU defaults to white male humans anyway. I think it's a matter of cultural assumptions that run deeper than just Star Wars.
     
  12. Lord_Hydronium

    Lord_Hydronium Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

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    Jun 11, 2002
    Oh, certainly. I'm just wondering if it might be a little better at circumventing that bias if the movies had had a more diverse cast to base things on. Or, in regards to the topic, if a main character being East Asian might mean more East Asian representation, even if only as a greater percentage of the non-white cast.
     
  13. CooperTFN

    CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus star 6 VIP

    Registered:
    Jul 8, 1999
    [link=http://boards.theforce.net/literature/b10003/30367020/p1/]*cough*[/link]
     
  14. Havac

    Havac Former Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 29, 2005
    Possibly. But I think that the EU defaults to white male humans regardless of what's in the movies. In the movies, the political leaders were Leia and Mon Mothma. Every major EU politician since has been male, with the exception of Viqi Shesh, who was a villain. I can't think of any major black supporting characters, even after Lando was introduced. The only group represented in the same proportion among the heroes as in the movies is the exceedingly broad group of "aliens" and even so they still can't break into main-hero territory. I think the EU just doesn't take its cues from the movies in terms of cast diversity, outside of "some of the supporting characters need to be aliens so people can tell it's sci-fi."
     
  15. Dawud786

    Dawud786 Jedi Grand Master star 5

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    Dec 28, 2006
    You know... it's an interesting thought game to play though when thinking about what might have been if certain casting factors were different. I mean, GL created Lando because he'd initially wanted to make Han Solo black... so he created a Han Solo-esque character, made him an old buddy of Han's and named him Lando Calrissian. Let's say Han Solo was black then, and Obi-Wan was played by Toshiro Mifune... how would that have effected the EU? Especially if the story were to have been relatively unchanged(I suspect these earlier casting considerations were at an earlier stage of the drafts for the story in the first place, but let's just play the thought out). Would the EU still skew towards white male leads just on Luke Skywalker's gravitas alone? Probably... and more importantly, I'd personally be more uncomfortable with both Luke and Anakin Skywalker as messianic characters in Star Wars. It'd be yet another white savior thing. For some reason it's currently not as hard to swallow with the surrounding heroes being pale skinned as well.

    The white messiah thing bothers me more in things like The Last Airbender, and any depiction of Christ, The Matrix(though Keanu isn't totally of European descent the guy passes for it without a second thought from anybody watching), and any other film that basically has a white person come in and save the day for the helpless brown people. Which includes stuff that isn't epic fantasy, but things like The Last Samurai and Keanu Reeves' Hardball.
     
  16. QuentinGeorge

    QuentinGeorge Jedi Grand Master star 5

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    Dec 12, 2003
    The "white messiah" complex is often a consequence of a diversification of the cast, to a point. Early European literature had all white casts, naturally, but as time went on, anciliary characters were added that weren't, but generally the main character remained as such.
     
  17. Dawud786

    Dawud786 Jedi Grand Master star 5

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    Dec 28, 2006
    Still bothers me. But it's worse when you step outside epic fantasy and make a random white guy the saving grace for a group of troubled non-white teens/people. That stuff really gets my grits.
     
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  18. Jeff_Ferguson

    Jeff_Ferguson Jedi Grand Master star 4

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    May 15, 2006
    That's why Sister Act II was the best of the inner-city youth films of the '80s and '90s --- Whoopi was already a sistah!
     
  19. QuentinGeorge

    QuentinGeorge Jedi Grand Master star 5

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    Dec 12, 2003
    Still bothers me. But it's worse when you step outside epic fantasy and make a random white guy the saving grace for a group of troubled non-white teens/people. That stuff really gets my grits.

    I was actually agreeing with you. White casts make sense if you're writing for that culture, just like Japanese heroes make sense for traditional Japanese literature.

    But why the EU strives to be whiter than its source material, then its a concern.
     
  20. Only-One Cannoli

    Only-One Cannoli Ex-Mod star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

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    Aug 20, 2003
    It is suspicious, especially since SW does love to steal so much culturally/artistically from East Asia. Very suspicious indeed.
     
  21. AdmiralWesJanson

    AdmiralWesJanson Jedi Grand Master star 5

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    May 23, 2005
    Is there any major evidence that would indicate Kuat is not an Asian-styled culture/people? The more I think about, the more Kuat seems to fit as that role, with some of the characters and styles we have seen attributed to Kuat.
     
  22. QuentinGeorge

    QuentinGeorge Jedi Grand Master star 5

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    Dec 12, 2003
    What is "Asian" styled culture mean? China? Japan? Indonesia? India? Tibet? Afghanistan? Turkic?

    We've seen African-looking Kuati (Giddean Danu) and caucasian-looking Kuati (Onara Kuat, Viqi Shesh) as well.
     
  23. Havac

    Havac Former Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

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    Sep 29, 2005
    I'd assume it's just racially diverse. As most planets should be; "Oh, black people all come from that planet, and this one's the Hispanic planet, and over here is the all-Arab planet" only increases the problem.
     
  24. CooperTFN

    CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus star 6 VIP

    Registered:
    Jul 8, 1999
    I'm apparently more sensitive to this matter than most, and I understand that character modeling is hard, but that Mandalore classroom scene in this week's TCW seriously made me outright uncomfortable.
     
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  25. Jeff_Ferguson

    Jeff_Ferguson Jedi Grand Master star 4

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    May 15, 2006
    With TCW, I think it's mostly a question of what character models are available. Other than the clone youth brigade, they haven't really dealt in children before, so after they made one Mandalorian child, they probably just copied and pasted the character model in order to fill up the classroom. I mean, we see the same background aliens all the time, with a new one coming along only rarely --- and after we had one Gotal, we all of a sudden had a whole labour team of them the next week.

    Also, if nineteen years of twin suns can't give Luke even the slightest tan, then we have to assume that the Force is at work in keeping everyone light-skinned.
     
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