I've been wanting to revisit the Jim Butcher thing for awhile. (And I can't wait till my local friends, who are also huge fans, want to ask me what's up in my head. You guys: Don't Go Assuming.)
The thing is this: I work overtime to support a lot of the media I want to see; more women, more PoCs, more diverse genders and orientations thereof, and so forth. And the sad part is that's it's easy, because there's still so little
to support. Or, as this post so elegantly
[...]it’s not happening the other way. The five-year-old boy who lives up the street from me does not have a shelf groaning with stories about girl animals. Because you have to seek those books out, and as the parent of a boy, why would you? There are so many great books about boys to which he can relate directly. Smurf stories must make perfect sense to him: all the characters with this one weird personality trait to distinguish them, like being super brave or smart or frightened or a girl.
I have been told that this is a good thing for girls. “That makes girls more special,” said this person, who I wanted to punch in the face. That’s the problem. Being female should not be special. It should be normal. It is normal, in the real world. There are all kinds of girls. There are all kinds of women. You just wouldn’t think so, if you only paid attention to dogs and Smurfs.
When someone tell me "why not just enjoy it?" they assume you can only have two options, that my criticizing is like Siskel and Ebert -- "thumbs up" or "thumbs down". But the reality is that I grew up in a world where media about people like me was, at best, media about my plight. ROOTS. SHAFT. GOOD TIMES. SANFORD AND SON. You get the idea. It's wasn't until THE COSBY SHOW that African Americans on TV returned to the kind of vision that I SPY or STAR TREK had; for all their faults, they were foremost about African-Americans as characters.
That's not a knock of the shows I listed; ROOTS was damned important, GOOD TIMES started as an important premise, and so did THE JEFFERSONS, for that matter. But it marks you, when all you grow up seeing is poor Black folks, and used-to-be-poor Black folks (hello, DIFFERENT STROKES!) Reality or not, it marks you, just as I suspect DUKES OF HAZZARD marked my southern contemporaries.
And there's still an element of that in today's media. I consider Hardison from LEVERAGE a gold standard on how to write African Americans and
Geeks in media -- but he's still the jokester, the funny guy, and that echoes to how so many of the African-American led series on TV are comedies (look above...) The sassy female Black Best Friend (hello CASTLE!), or the serious Black Male member of the
Team (any police/lawyer drama) are stock characters, now.
By stock, I mean "they are what I see of my group when I watch TV or movies". When I read literature. When I talk or see or read these things, this is the world I often view -- one where "my kind of people" are presented as surplus to requirements. Where other people oft-maligned are done similar. It's depressingly common, and depressing because it's an uphill fight to even get people outside the paradigm to see it, much less to agree it's a real issue. Doing that for a couple of decades, and getting the same reflective angry retort every time, it'll make a saint go spare.
And I'm far from a saint.
I don’t want only positive female role models. I want the spectrum. Angry girls, happy girls, mean girls. Lazy girls. Girls who lie and girls who hit people and do the wrong thing sometimes. I’m pretty sure my daughters can figure out for themselves which personality aspects they should emulate, if only they see the diversity.
There are so few stories that really speak to the diversity
within these groups. So rare to have a "diversity token character" actually be diverse as a person, even in works that otherwise are paeans to diverse and complex characterization (Dee in BATTLESTAR GALACTICA). It's what makes the above so important -- the more diversity you start with, the more you talk to people about the important of diversity, the less diversity becomes a stamp, a way to make the "annoying PC folks" go away. The more it can be used to enrich your works, to rise the standards of your writing.
Because, today, every time I pick up media that falls down on the job, I have to choose. Do I dismiss it? Do I praise it? Do I gloss over it's faults, and if so, how many can I before it literally gets thrown against a wall?
That's not always as easy a choice as anger might imply. Indeed, I think some the anger comes from yet another series one might otherwise unequivocally like, now to be struggled with because of these issues. Seeing, time and again, echo after echo of sins so many think dead and buried. A burden that makes no sense to other fans. It's not, at times, one that makes sense to the people who also see the faults. It's a burden you carry your whole life, and may never quite get comfortable with.
Saying that a work triggers you, that it feels like it's another brick in a tall, long wall of denigration, that it demeans and attacks the structure of self-respect you so carefully built and tend -- that should be the core of the kind of critique that we support and labor to have in our arts and entertainment. How a work's characterization affects me as an African-American should be at least
as valuable an outlook on a work as that of a NRA guy looking at the use of guns, or a well-heeled lawyer looking at how attorneys are portrayed.
That it is not, saddens and shames me. And I wish I could say it surprises me.
for the link that led to this.)