Talking About Tropes is a series where I talk about storytelling tropes and my thoughts on them. I also talk about certain tropes related to my works and why I used them for that specific story. Today, I talk more about representation in media, and how we can still improve.
Talking About Tropes – More Thoughts On Diversity And Representation In Fiction
I made a blog post a little over a year ago, discussing my opinion on how media can better handle diversity and representation. Since then, many of my thoughts have changed and I’ve noticed other discussions happening as well. So I figured I’d throw my two cents in and discuss some new topics about the many efforts that still need to be taken to have a diverse world.
This article, I should preface, is purely opinion. If you disagree with it, cool. I have my own view of the world and so do you. I just want to throw in my two cents.
Diversity is good for the world
Again, let me be upfront. Diversity is good. It’s something that this world desperately needs. I want to explore different cultures and make me appreciate the world around me, rather than live in the same bubble all day long. Seeing types of roles portrayed by others and seeing them take on a new life.
That said, I also want to reiterate that I feel doing it well is more important than chucking a character in just to be diverse. If the white, male protagonists are more developed than the diverse extras, is it really diversity? Not everyone has to be flawless, but they do have to be inspiring enough. I want to be able to see these characters, even if I’m not one of them. I want to care about them and root for them.
I feel making characters like any other is the key here. Having said character be away from typical norms is better for representation. They don’t have to be “Here’s X, but as a white male archetype,” but they do have to stand out. Overwatch is a great example where each character has their own distinct personality and no one truly stands out as being sterotyped (maybe McCree and Widowmaker, but my point still stands.). If creators saw those people as more than just means to an end and something to say “here, I made a diverse cast. Enjoy.”
While I’ve already talked about my thoughts on diversity before, I don’t feel like repeating them again. You can just look here and let me know your thoughts. There are a few things I wanted to add.
Leaving certain POC characters to authors of those same groups?
Basically, only black authors should write black characters. Only women should write female characters. Only indigenous authors should only write indigenous characters (As an aside, I don’t think I’ve read many indigenous authors. If you know any, drop me a line and I’ll review some.). There should be no crossover for them. A white author should never touch a main character that isn’t a white male.
The idea of that is that more author representation means more usage of that type of character from whoever the author is. So if an author is from Africa, they might write stories based on modern African society, something a white author wouldn’t have any idea of, even if he did the research.
In some aspects, I can see how this can be problematic, but there can be exceptions. If you’re writing a crime story, and the MC happens to be black and his partner is a white male, then perhaps this could work if both of them have an equal amount of time in the book. Or maybe a sci-fi story about a female bounty hunter working with a hot-shot tough guy.
Sensitive stuff, such as rape, immigration, racism, and all that stuff, I feel should be left to those who experienced it. It’s far more authentic than someone thinking they “get it.” I personally feel that if you’re well versed in the world, you could try your hand at it. Say, you’re writing a historical novel about Ancient Chinese culture, and you happened to have studied that for a long time. Perhaps you could get away with it.
I say, write whatever is on your mind, but don’t try speaking for others. If you like the idea of a story set in someone else’s culture, then go for it. There shouldn’t be anything “off limits for anyone.” I wrote a Japanese-inspired short story because I love the culture, and I think I handled it fairly well. I doubt all of my stories will be inspired by that, but I know to leave that stuff to the experts.
And speaking of which.
Where do I begin with this? The basic idea of cultural appropriation is that one culture is taking credit for another’s ideas. Like, say, wearing a costume based on a Native American chieftain. Sure, it’s iconic and recognizable, but it’s important to their culture for a reason. Even so, I have few things to say about this.
To start, people are using it in response to seeing people not of that culture partaking in it. A white woman wearing a Chinese dress because she appreciates it, a white flute player performing in tune with a Japanese game, despite being one of the last living masters of said instrument.
And it’s always a white person. It’s always a white person.
Now, is it possible to be offended by things like that. Yes, of course. But no culture should have exclusivity. We’re a truly global society now, for better or worse, and we have a right to appreciate and enjoy other cultures. I’ve seen people bash others for not understanding other cultures, yet when they’re the slightest bit interested, they’re given the push back. And, hilariously enough, it’s white people who are offended in this scenario. Those cultures can’t speak for themselves? If they themselves know nothing of the culture, then there’s no reason to defend them in their stead.
I mean, I’m white. I like anime, manga, J-rock and all that. I like Japanese culture, their history, their lifestyle. Does that mean I’m not allowed to enjoy them because of my skin color? Isn’t that counterintuitive to what our overall goal is? A truly unified society where there’s no need for borders and everyone lives in peace. If we’re self-segregating ourselves, are we improving?
There’s plenty of ways to misuse culture, but appreciation of another’s culture is important. It’s what makes us healthy. It’s what makes the world visible outside of our own countries. It’s important we learn and understand one another. We need to grow together, or else we learn nothing.
It’s not “Political Correctness.”
And one last thing. Diversity is not political correctness. I feel many are using it as an excuse to say awful things without any push back and while I do see things that don’t warrant backlash, things that can be debatable, morality is always on the top of free speech.
Behavior and kindness don’t take a backseat to saying cruel things. It’s the “shouting fire in a crowded room” mentality. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. I feel like so many people forget that accountability needs to exist. We need to understand each other and we can’t do that by yelling down each other’s throats and saying horrible things and claiming free speech.
That’s about all I have to say, but I want there to be a society where everyone is represented fairly. We’re slowly improving, but work needs to be done. It’s not perfect, but the groundwork is there. And I think we all need to play our part in this to make sure there’s a bright future for everyone.
That’s all for today. Take care, and remember, the inn is always open.
If you have any suggestions for future topics and reviews, hit me up on my social media channels and let me know your thoughts. I always read the feedback, even if I don’t respond. Your feedback is what keeps me going, so thank you for supporting me.
My Japanese Mythology-inspired short story, Do Not Stare Into The Eyes Of A Kitsune, is finally available. You can buy it on Amazon or wherever ebooks are sold. Help a debut author make his debut worth it.
My next work will be titled “City of Kaiju,” a tale about an unlikely alliance between a young girl and her gigantic dog-dragon monster, as they survive chaos and disaster from a gigantic kaiju invasion. Part of a new Short Novel initiative, intended to fill in the gap between releases. Set for release within the Fall 2018/Winter 2019 period. Read more about it here)