Why do we cater to Political Correctness in our Writing?

This is something I’ve seen, not only in writing, but also movie-making, and comic books. It’s something I can say that I’m guilty of as well.

What do I mean when I say we cater to the PC (Politically Correct) crowd? Well… honestly, we spend a lot of time concerned with the ethnicity of our characters, who get’s killed off and/or who gets center stage… not based on who is the strongest character, but rather which character isn’t going to make us look in any way bigoted.

Example: (SPOILER ALERT) I killed off a female character of Asian decent in one of my stories. In my next novel, I plan  on replacing her with another female character because it suits my narrative, but she’s not Asian or any sort of minority. She’s a very perky country artist that’s going to be more of a nuisance than anything. This, I admit gave me pause… and maybe it’s just me… maybe I’ve been affected by the mass-media because of incidents like what happened with James Rolfe, but even knowing that, it’s hard to get passed. In the end, I decided that it’s my story and I’ll write it however I want. DAMN THE TORPEDOES, FULL SPEED AHEAD!!!

Now I know what a lot of people are thinking… what, you have a problem with diversity? We should be adding more minority characters into stories! We don’t want to alienate people!!

That’s very true. People of all backgrounds should have someone like themselves to look up to. However, forcing/pressuring someone to write a character a certain way for the sake of diversity can have a damaging effect…

Consider this… you’re writing based on your experiences. You’re using fantasy to  make your story a lot more interesting and decide that you want to represent more people. As a result, you write in a character of an ethnicity, who’s culture and background you may not have enough information on. The result is a stereotypical character that some would consider something to the affect of a ‘black-face’ character and guess what? You’ve now offended the very audience that you’re trying to include.

So why not immerse yourself more in the culture! Take the time to learn more about people.

Very true. That’s good advice that I was actually going to allude to later on, but that’s not always an option. Put it this way, a writer living in Greenwich CT, who has spent their life there, is not going to be able to properly represent a person from… let’s say New Orleans. Even if they visit it for a little while. Immersion into another culture isn’t always possible unless you have the time and money to do it… which I can honestly say most authors starting out don’t have.

My point is that you should write what you know, do your best to learn, but don’t feel pressured by societal norms into writing characters certain ways. If you want to write in a character of another ethnicity or religion, just make sure you represent them correctly. Otherwise, you’re going to turn people off to your work.

Seriously dude, how can diversity in writing honestly be THAT damaging?

Well let’s take a look:

Most recently, Ghostbusters 2016. This movie was absolutely blatant in its girl power message… blatant to the point of being offensive to all 5 senses. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with a strong female as one of the leading roles in a story. (See Damnation and Soul Siphon). The problem was that Sony was obnoxious about it. Instead of making the women in the story equal with everyone else, they pushed something closer to a social justice warrior narrative where they promoted the women in a rather derogatory way. Instead of having them work with male characters side by side, they created a ‘Separate but equal (kinda)’ team of all-women, and from what I saw from the reviews, the male characters were weak, evil, or grossly incompetent.
This is where Star Wars and Fury Road worked where Ghostbusters failed. They made the female/minority characters work alongside their male/non-minority companions. They didn’t try to force any diversity message down anyone’s throats, they just wrote a great story with great characters.
As I stated in a previous review, a female Ghostbusters cast could have worked. If they had a Rey or a Furiosa on the team and maybe had them working alongside two male Ghostbusters (not even the majority) it would have been great, but that’s not what they did. They brought in a director that’s known for his ‘girl-power’ feminism agenda, which he then proceeded to force down everyone’s throats.
What’s worse, Sony and Feig double-downed on this and went so far as to paint the main fan-base of Ghostbusters as misogynistic and ‘assholes.’ Yeah… not the way to get butts in the seats. The result was a consistent controversy, critics of the film getting needlessly attacked for their opinions, key spokespeople having to do damage control, and the movie chalking in a multi-million dollar loss internationally.
Now the big money question: Have I seen the new Ghostbusters?
No, and I have no plans to. Sorry, but I was greatly offended by what Paul Feig said about geek culture and the damage Sony did to it, that I’m pretty much sworn off any of Feig’s work, past, present, or future. Geek culture and it’s progress over the last 20 years is something very near and dear to my heart, and I don’t appreciate us being painted with a wide, hypocritical brush as ‘assholes’ and misogynists. Sorry, but they’re not getting a dime of my money and I sincerely hope Sony studios gets flushed down the drain they’re already circling. (Hostile, I know, but oh well. I’m human.)

Second Example:
Marvel Comics… I’ve already gotten into this in a previous post, so I’ll just give a brief quote on it:
“I still enjoy Captain America with someone else holding the shield and Thor being a woman, because it’s explained well. It works and it all comes together. However when you make one character gay with no explanation (Colossus), or randomly change a character’s race (Nick Fury, Psylocke, and Spider-man), and do so with little explanation simply using the ‘Alternate Universe’ defense for poor storytelling, that’s where problems arise. It’s at this point that the pandering and blatant tokenism becomes obvious. For me, it was when they took arguably the most diverse team in comic book history,  a team that has literally had members from almost everywhere on the planet and actually dealt with bigotry and hatred, and made that team all women. Essentially, they took the X-Men, THE most diverse team and made it less diverse in the name of diversity. How does that even make sense?”

This may be why Marvel Comic sales are going down.  Honestly, that X-Men series didn’t last long, thankfully.

Next up…Disney’s The Frog Princess. This movie had controversy around it from day 1. Disney worked on the film over and over, altering characters, roles, even the jobs that these characters had, making it even less historically accurate in the name of not offending anyone.
Probably with little surprise… this movie didn’t do very well, which is a shame as the visuals and the villain are absolutely spectacular!

Fire Emblem has also come under fire for removing anything Nintendo thinks an American Audience might view as offensive and potentially misogynistic in some cases. It has drawn a lot of criticism and anger from the gaming community… which is sad because I absolutely love the series.

Another good example is the Character Percy from Pokemon. Percy was created because the show’s creators thought a western audience might find Brock racially insensitive… 4Kids, was also known for carefully censoring certain parts of the Japanese dialogue and editing it for… what they viewed as a more sensitive, American audience. Again, geeks and kids are far more intelligent than people like this give them credit. The backlash was pretty bad.

There are plenty of other examples, but I think I’ve made my point.

So… why did each of these projects fail? Was it the result of racism/misogyny/bigotry/sexism? Maybe in part, as certainly those can play a role in why select audiences might not waste their time with something… however I don’t think that’s the main reason. We currently live in a country that is extremely politically divided on almost every issue, and people are getting tired of it.
Political correctness was originally a term that, in modern usage, was used to describe language, policies, or measures that are intended not to offend or disadvantage any particular group of people in society. On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with that… however, over time, the term has been used as a crutch by people who are either WAY too sensitive, or are essentially looking for a reason to create a divisive issue… Sony’s response to the Ghostbusters criticism is a good example of this. PC now comes with a negative connotation as it has become the war cry of the now euphemistically-named Social Justice Warriors, AKA the type of people who quote Martin Luther King Jr. or Susan B. Anthony without a firm grasp of the meaning behind what they were saying or what their main goals were. It’s become a tool of these groups used to stifle creativity and Freedom of Speech and thought under the guise of empowering it. Their actions continuously become less and less righteous, and more like they’re seeking either handouts, self promotion, or superiority of their select ‘under-privileged class’ instead of seeking equality. They are extremely hypocritical in their arguments and usually impossible to engage in a critical debate. (Look up the feminist argument of Barbie vs. HeMan and their response) They insert racial issues into controversy where they have no place, and create other controversies when they have nothing to complain about. Basically, many of the more extreme of these regressive people would rather us go back to the 50s-60s or earlier, as long as they and their group is the one on top.

The problem is… these are the people that our media is now catering to. The result is politics being inserted into movies, books, etc. where they have no place and it is turning people off. I liken it to a comedian I saw recently who stopped in the middle of his act to get on a soapbox give his opinion on various political issues without cracking a single joke. The result was boo’s, heckling, people telling him to ‘Shut up and tell a joke!’ and people walking out demanding their money back… myself included. That’s the real problem here. People are tired of politics and regressive views, they are tired of political correctness and the hypocritical views that come with it.
When we go to see movies, listen to music, see a comedian, read a comic or a book, there are political options out there. You can easily find media that is political in natures. However, unless these people specifically want politics forcing it on them in a movie, book, or other medium, will make you loose the majority of your audience. People are tired of this level of BS and it is starting to show in the  backlash that comes as a result.

In closing, if you want to right about another culture or person of another walk of life, go for it, just make sure you get it right. Do your homework and make sure you’re accurately portraying that person’s background. If however you don’t want to or don’t think you can properly portray that group, don’t. You are under no obligation to. Don’t let anything or anyone intimidate you or pressure you into changing who you are or how you create.These people are not the biggest threat to your Freedom of Speech… your fear of them is.This type of nonsense only has power if you let it.

Anyway… I know I said that I’d do my best to keep politics off of my page, and I apologize for going back on that, but this is something that I had to get off of my chest.



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.
jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com
I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.
Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

You can also add me on Twitter!

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!
Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

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20 thoughts on “Why do we cater to Political Correctness in our Writing?

  1. James says:

    Thanks for stopping by and liking one of my blog posts.

    To address your question, I think mainstream media (film, TV, comic books) are made up primarily of politically correct people. All writers write from their moral and ethical perspective, so that’s what makes it into their products. This does nothing to describe the world we actually live in but it does give us a picture of the world as they want it to be. Worst case scenario (when I want to be paranoid) is that this is indoctrination disguised as entertainment, but then again, that’s always been true of entertainment.

    An example of the current bias is that people of religion, and especially Christians, are portrayed either ignorant dupes or manipulative hypocrites. There’s no attempt to understand that population and depict them in fiction as they truly are.

    I’m not against diversity in fiction. In fact, I’m currently writing my first novel and the core characters are a male Orthodox Jew, a female African-American Baptist, one’s a female Mexican-American, one’s a female Vietnamese-American, and the last is a plain ol’ white American male.

    Oh, and I have plenty of artificially intelligent synthetic life forms, too.

    The world is full of different people. Depending on where you live and work, there’s a lot of diversity and that should be represented. It goes wrong when you’re writing diversity for its own sake rather than because it’s important to the story or important to reflect the real world.

    Since the male to female ratio in STEM careers is seven to one on the average, it’s pretty unlikely you’d have three genius scientists on the Ghostbusters team that are all women.

    I think that even if your political and social views lean toward the conservative side, if you want a wide readership, there’s a tendency to cater to their expectations. I’m acquainted with a few conservative religious fiction writers, and the blog comments section of one of them regularly is a flame-fest. One writer at a liberal publication says he “hate follows” the guy’s blog to get material to insult his views.

    We all tend to see ourselves as good people and we want others to see us the same way. If our political and social views don’t mesh with the progressive ideal, we could be seen as other than “good” and not attract a lot of readers. It’s a tough choice to make, but I believe in the end, writing a good story that has a lot of different points of view rather than following some “party line” makes for a more interesting and believable story.

    Coming out as a Christian in Hollywood is probably harder than coming out as gay these days.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Canary says:

    Interesting post!

    Imo there’s a huge difference between these two scenarios:

    1. You kill off your asian female character in book 1. In book 2 you replace her in the narrative with another female character because all females are interchangeable and she’s a cliche plot device (the spunky love interest, the damsel in distress, the dangerous villainess, the manic pixie dream girl) or her appearance puts a check in a demographic box (here, see, I got a character with boobs! Therefore my book now officially appeals to women or is sexy!).

    2. You kill off your female asian character in book 1. In book 2, you have a need to add a character because your story needs a certain number of characters to work. You decide this character will be a female, not because cliche or you’re doing diversity math, but because this character will be an interesting addition to the story.

    The first option makes for derivative writing that supports gender stereotyping and is likely to annoy some reader. The second option may well lead to a cool story (assuming you’re a good writer and have an interesting story in the first place) and some great characters. Yet, imo, neither option 1 or 2 is about “political correctness.”

    You don’t have to do a ton of research into other cultures/genders/norms in order to do a decent job at having a story include all sorts of different characters. In the end, people are people. The problem really starts when an author decides that there is something special and exotic about “the other.” and tries to write that in. All women are gentle and kind and hysterical. All Asians like sushi and can’t pronounce r’s, all southern folk in the US speak in a heavy drawl and eat cooked raccoon off a spit.

    People are people. Treating them as less than that (or more than that) is one of the many issues you see getting pushback.

    And if you want to add in cultural differences to flesh out these characters (perhaps your Asian American is first generation, or your hero’s friend is a female exchange student from Bolivia), then you gotta do the research. I mean, you wouldn’t dream (I hope) of writing a spy thriller in WWI without doing any research about the period, right? If you wrote about a modern-day action adventure set in Russia, I’d kinda assume you’d have to at least get a few Russian beta readers to save you from the worst silliness. (Reminds me of a Russian-inspired book I just read about. Turns out, in this book, the author had her characters get drunk on “Kvas.” A super popular drink in Russia that contains about as much alcohol as Sprite.) Even fantasy authors learn a ridiculous amount of info about things like battles and swords and the kinds of foods peasants ate and how long it takes to travel 10 miles by horse.

    If you don’t do your due diligence as a writer, whether this relates to figuring out what kind of weapons your historic soldier would have used or how you depict your characters, that’s on you as an author. A writer who just makes up stuff about real stuff like history, science, culture, etc runs the risk of criticism. If criticism happens, it’s on the author to decide how to take it.

    When it comes to diversity, there’s even less reason to create fantasy societies that have only one kind of person (unless it’s a world intentionally made uniform). After all, if you’re coming up with a guild of assassins in a universe completely different from ours, why would this guild not have diversity of gender and race? Or why would it? Or why wouldn’t the world be a matriarchal society? Or a society that believes red-haired people are reincarnations of the fire god and born to rule? Or a society that thinks that the first born should work and earn money, and all second and third-born are biologically fit only to take care of the home and children, regardless of gender?

    When an author makes a world where they are the sole creator and god, well, all the choices that are made are choices. Often, when these choices happen without deep thought, they reflect the authors assumptions about how the world works. That’s why we so often have patriarchal worlds in fantasy. It’s not because it’s “historically accurate” in fantasy, but rather because that it is such a no-brainer to the writer (female or male) that this is how the world works. In a genre that’s all about pushing boundaries of what’s possible, it can be telling.

    all-women, and from what I saw from the reviews, the male characters were weak, evil, or grossly incompetent.

    Because that movie became such a target for anger and misogyny around the internet (as well as defense), anyone who talks about the movie’s quality (or its other subjective qualities) without having seen it seems to be choosing a political position that has nothing to do with the movie, and everything to do with, well, the cultural push against (or for) inclusion. I’ve read some incredibly negative reviews of the movie, as well as heard some very positive reviews from the people I know in real life. Until I see the movie myself, I don’t feel comfortable weighing in. (Well, outside of observing earning numbers and viewership rates, perhaps.)

    Anyway, that’s my lengthy two-cents on the topic.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. F. R. Dorrian says:

    Interesting post mate. I think you’re totally right on a lot of points you made.

    Myself, I refuse to pander to anyone else with my writing – I don’t give an inch, I’m too stubborn. That may cost me readers or fans in the long term and people may go ‘woooooah’ when they see some of what I write about or refuse to tone down, but I can’t agree that pandering to the sensibilities of others leads to anything other than blandness and stagnation. This is an artform – art won’t be censored. And if it is – then it’s not true art.

    Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m suggesting we should all go start writing manuals of hate or anything, of course.

    Like

  4. M G Kizzia says:

    I don’t do PC or non-PC. It never enters my head. I don’t think that way. I just tell stories. You know. And I dislike stories where the overt agenda overwhelms what might have been a good story.

    Like

  5. Cheers to you! I agree 100% Great post

    Like

  6. […] via Why do we cater to Political Correctness in our Writing? — The Creative Works of James Harrington […]

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  7. dayya says:

    Good post. I do not impose political correctness on my fiction. I write my characters as they are. The key is to maintain a character’s humanity without falling into stereotype or cliche. Stories are organic and the characters in them must belong in them. Who and what they are must be integral to that story’s heartbeat. The good intentions of political correctness has become deeply corrupted.

    Like

  8. allendemir says:

    I think what a lot of political correctness is these days is people just completely misinterpreting what someone meant, or their motivations for it. I sometimes find myself looking back at my writing and wondering if people might misinterpret it, but I think the best thing is to just ignore it and let them tire themselves out, like a kid throwing a tantrum. As long as you’re not big enough for them to start a Twitter boycott campaign or something, you’ll be fine.

    Like

  9. […] here goes. I covered this a little in my topic ‘Why do we cater to Political Correctness in our Writing?‘ but I wanted to delve into this a little more. Think about it. Look at the movies and books […]

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  10. Sweetkolanut says:

    You’ve said my mind. The fear of offending people often hampers creativity. Thanks for writing this.

    Like

  11. kimberlybuck says:

    The major turnoff for me on the new GB was the highly intellectual but socially awkward character that is somehow supposed to remind you of the female lead in “Bones” on the actress in “Bones” knows how to act. That’s all she wrote when I saw that preview. Stereotypical girl power is not a girl power message. It’s more Hollywood crap and this one shot itself in the foot as you stated.

    And if you’re a white guy from Boston, I expect you to probably write characters about white guys from Boston, like Ben and Matt.

    I’m a white female who grew up in NY and has lived in PA for years. Don’t expect me to write from the perspective of a tribal warrior.

    If minorities want their stories in books, blogs, articles, on screen, Netflix, etc, THEN WRITE THEM. Complaining does nothing. Write your story of struggling in a low-income neighborhood of crime, drugs and an absentee father. I can’t because I don’t know what it’s like. Someone who has experienced it needs to write it. Tell me about how you made it across the US-Mexico border. Write about your struggle with a disability and how you overcame it. These are all stories that can be intriguing and sell well but they have to be written by those who have experienced it.

    Like

  12. Grant-Sud says:

    Nice post. Really enjoyed the article and I was impressed with the way you made your point without being a jerk about it, which was the entire meaning behind this issue.

    I also agree that while we need to respect other people, some need to be a little less sensitive. There’s no way you can understand everyone, so don’t force it and just learn about others slowly and respectfully.

    Again great article.

    Like

  13. i don’t…never have. continue…

    Like

  14. I really liked this post.
    I totally agree; when people add token characters just for the sake of ‘political correctness’, it really turns me off. I’ve quit reading a few series because of it.

    Like

  15. brickthomas says:

    I share many of your thoughts. Sadly political correctness, like the rants of Senator McCarthy in the fifties, has crept into American society and it is making us all a little paranoid. PC is an unhealthy American trend and like McCarthy, PC is spinning out of control. Hopefully we will find our path back to logic, reason and common sense soon but until then we should write honestly. After all, no matter what you write someone is not going to like it, so what the hell, say it the way you want to say. Brick

    Liked by 1 person

  16. […] via Why do we cater to Political Correctness in our Writing? — The Creative Works of James Harrington […]

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  17. livingbythemoonlight says:

    This is an absolutely fantastic post! Eloquently and clearly written. You echo many of my own thoughts, and it’s good to know that I’m not the only one who notices the stifling climate of political correctness.

    Like

  18. Two thoughts here: one, “PC” is a term often used defensively by those unwilling to examine their own inherent biases. If the term had existed in Nazi Germany, it would have been used to attack those critical of Hitler. Second, this issue is closely connected to that of cultural appropriation–that is, adopting expressions of oppressed cultures in an effort to enhance one’s popularity or street cred. We see this on both sides of the political spectrum, from team names in sports (“Redskins”) to wealthy movie stars adopting lifestyles of the oppressed. As writers, this is a vexing issue. I personally think one should be able to write from any character’s POV, no matter what their culture, race, or religion. OTOH, this is difficult to do with authenticity and requires both more research and the proper respect given to that other culture.

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  19. mikethepsych says:

    Reblogged this on Mike the Psych's Blog.

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  20. keithakenny says:

    Real or imagined, I think it has just become fashionable to be seen as a victim or to be seen as sensitive to victims. Unfortunately, besides being boring and unproductive, this fashion feeds whining and provides cover for misbehavior, i.e. I’m not a miscreant, I’m the victim … just look at history. People have to study and fantasize to come up with things to be angry about and to blame others for. For example, I’m not racist, I’m angry at people of that race because the Moors kidnapped white women in the 1600s from South of England to sell in the bazaar in N. Africa. Suddenly I’m a righteous dude.

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