Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Who's in The Room Where It Happens - Diversity in Media

My biggest problem with diversity in comics, and geekdom and stories in general, is that it doesn't always go far enough. It's great to get more people of color, women, and queer identities on the page or on screen, especially in leading roles, but we need to make greater pushes for those same identities being present and influential behind the scenes. If you're going to depict diverse characters, you need diverse people in the writers room, in art direction, behind the camera, in casting. You need to let us be the ones telling our stories.

That's what made Black Panther so good. That's what made it feel honest. That's why it spoke to so many people who have, in a lot of ways, felt like outsiders in their own geeky communities.

It's why I have reservations on things like the Charmed reboot, which looks like a show trying to insert women of color into a story and tradition of white girl magic. Which, in and of itself, could be an interesting premise; what happens to traditionally Celtic and European magic when practiced by people of color could be incredibly interesting. But only if you acknowledge that, yeah, it's going to be different. Because those are two very different histories and experiences and influences colliding. And that's okay. In fact, that's WHY it would be interesting. As storytellers, you should be embarrassed if you ignore it or treat it like some one-off, race-edition, afternoon-special episode. If you're going to insert us into these kinds of stories, you have to let us exist, as ourselves--all of ourselves--in those stories.

Again, take the Buffy reboot. A black slayer; awesome! But, let's be real, a white girl carrying an arsenal of weaponry around with her late at night is not going to be worrying about the same shit as a black girl doing the same. For a black slayer, vampires and things that go bump in the night are not the only things she has to be on the lookout for. I'm brown and crafty and my crafty, brown ass has to be worried about carrying safety scissors on a bus on my way to work; tell me how a crossbow-, sword-, and stake-wielding black girl is going to be able to do her job without some white woman calling the cops because our heroine made her uncomfortable?

Marginalized experiences are not interchangeable with the majority's. They just aren't. And you cannot treat them like they are and remain believable. So, if you want to tell our stories, great, awesome, please, PLEASE do. But let us be in the room while you do. Let us be a part of that telling. Or understand that it's not really OUR stories you're trying to tell.

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