Representation is being talked about more and more (and that's good!)

Two topics, one day? Sure, why not. This is going to be semi-bloggy.

So I've seen a fair few articles talking about wanting more diverse representations in media. I think this is a good thing, ya know? Demanding more from our art is how we're going to get varied, more interesting experiences.

So why is NIMH so memorable? It features a mother protagonist trying to save her child. Simple enough, really. We don't get these experiences that often. We treasure the few times we can see something different.

It's gotten me thinking a lot about characters in films and of character stereotypes. When we see the same heroic white male dude a trillion times, it gets old, and we can see the strings on them so to speak. They're written in very similar ways and they go on similar adventures. That's why when people see something like the Transformers movies, most aren't there to remember the experience, most are there to get something familiar and action packed. I don't think this is a bad thing, mind you. Let people enjoy what they want. It's just that if you want your film to be remembered beyond your box office performance, you're going to need to get risky.

If your character is defined mostly as a quirk, chances are you're not defining the character enough for them to be little more than a joke. If your character is based mostly off a template, chances are that we've seen the character before. Characters require depth, we need to see them in different environments.

This is where representation comes in. There are many stories out there because they're many people out there. Many people that have been in different environments and places.

Representation isn't simply about including a black or gay or trans character in a story and pointing it out. It requires much more effort than that. Many people go for stereotypes when trying to be more diverse. These stereotypes, or half truths as I'd like to call them, are the easy way out of writing a character with depth. They're written in such a way as to identify only with the group of people who are outside the demographic being portrayed. They're not written with the full experience of being black, gay, or trans.

How do we solve this? I mean, we're only our own individual. We don't know the experiences of others that may be different from us. This is a complex issue, but one of the main points here is accepting differences. Have the black, gay, or trans character in your story, but don't have that define them and don't have the fact that they're different deter them from being strong in areas. Don't think purely in black or white when writing characters, balance out positive and negative traits in a way that makes the characters unique. And obviously, don't make the fact that they're different stand out as a negative thing.

I could talk for a long time about this, but what are your opinions on diversity in media? I want to have a conversation here! How do you think we can better implement other's stories into our fiction?

Comments

  • There's also the issue of including things like racism and sexism into media. Even if the bad guys are portrayed as such, having them be racist or sexist or somethingist may be something that's over the line.

    I think the point I want to make here is that anti-social one note bad guys are pretty much a parody at this point. It's not so much them that people are worried about, it's the idea of someone who's relatable who also happens to be racist/sexist/somethingist. There was something on tumblr I saw a few days back talking about the subtle bigotry of Ron Weasly from Harry Potter. What made him unique is that him looking down on others was clearly a sign that he was ignorant and not hateful. So, like many things, it depends on the context.

  • You make some valid points there Puppetmaster. I just wonder if this can come to pass given the times and the current situation that this country finds itself in right now. What with race relations at an all time low, it seems that people are not even willing to talk to one anotheer which is sad because simple communication could go a long way towards solving some of these very issues that we face.

  • edited July 2015

    Representation is just being realistic, given the racial and ethnic makeup of this country these days. TV and movies are reflecting these changes more and more, though they have quite a ways to go and there are still plenty of stereotypes. Of course, the tricky thing about stereotypes is that there's a reason they develop in the first place, they don't just come up out of thin air. While there are plenty of individuals who don't conform to them (I've met plenty), there are always going to be those who seem hellbent on perpetuating them (met plenty of them too). The various entertainment media can certainly shoulder much of the blame in that area.

  • Of course, the tricky thing about stereotypes is that there's a reason they develop in the first place, they don't just come up out of thin air.

    ^^Hence why I called them half-truths. There might be some truth to them, but it's a half of a story.

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