Diversity and Good Writing

There has been a lot of talk lately about how diversity is killing good writing… or perhaps more accurately, studios and companies have been accused of using diversity as a stand in for good writing.

I honestly had no idea the two were mutually exclusive.

There is truth to the idea that many creators out there have been producing complete garbage, but seem to think that they still deserve credit because their cast of characters is diverse…

In fact, Richard Roeper touched on this in his reaction from the Ghostbuster’s backlash:


So the question is, does intentionally creating a diverse cast mean that your writing is going to suffer or can it be used as a cover for poor writing?

Well first of all, let’s touch on what ‘diversity’ actually is;

    • di·ver·si·ty
      dəˈvərsədē,dīˈvərsədē/
      noun
      1. the state of being diverse; variety.
        “there was considerable diversity in the style of the reports”
        • a range of different things.
          plural noun: diversities

         

      2. a range of different things.
        plural noun: diversities

Note the second definition. ‘A rage of different things.’  So taking that definition, a diverse cast (in terms of race/gender identity) would be a cast that has more than one gender AND more than one race.

So let’s take the fore-mention Ghostbusters movie. Is this a diverse cast?

vzQVL4JcaXwJDdfPlN13h4AtqBz

In terms of race, yes. However in terms of gender, no. So because this really only meets one of the criteria, I’m going to say no. This cast is as diverse as the original;

vzQVL4JcaXwJDdfPlN13h4AtqBz

To be honest, I think a lot of people today would say that the 1984 team isn’t diverse, so I’m going to hold them to their own standards here.

So if neither of these teams is truly diverse, then what is?

Well to be honest, Suicide Squad actually fit the definition perfectly:

vzQVL4JcaXwJDdfPlN13h4AtqBz

That is a diverse cast. Both genders are represented, as are multiple races. This actually meets the criteria perfectly.

So there you have it. A diverse cast is a cast where both genders and multiples races are represented. So now that we know what diversity is, let’s explore the questions. Does diversity kill good writing? Is diversity a good excuse for bad writing?

Well… Marvel comics certainly seems to think so…

“What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity.  They didn’t want female characters out there.  That’s what we heard, whether we believe that or not.  I don’t know that that’s really true, but that’s what we saw in sales.

We saw the sales of any character that was diverse, any character that was new, our female characters, anything that was not a core Marvel character, people were turning their nose up against.  That was difficult for us because we had a lot of fresh, new, exciting ideas that we were trying to get out and nothing new really worked.”
-David Gabriel

There was considerably backlash over this statement, leading Gabriel to issue a correction:
 “Discussed candidly by some of the retailers at the summit, we heard that some were not happy with the false abandonment of the core Marvel heroes and, contrary to what some said about characters “not working,” the sticking factor and popularity for a majority of these new titles and characters like Squirrel Girl, Ms. Marvel, The Mighty Thor, Spider-Gwen, Miles Morales, and Moon Girl, continue to prove that our fans and retailers ARE excited about these new heroes. And let me be clear, our new heroes are not going anywhere! We are proud and excited to keep introducing unique characters that reflect new voices and new experiences into the Marvel Universe and pair them with our iconic heroes.”

So at this point, the answer to the question should be an obvious ‘no!’

It should be… but it isn’t.

So why is that? Why do many people out there roll their eyes and shun new works when the creators announce that the main characters are going to be either female or a different race.

Uh sexism and racism?

In some cases, yes, but not as many as you might think. A lot of the time people adopt this attitude because of what Marvel and Sony, among others have done. We’ve already explored Sony’s debacle with Ghostbusters, so lets take a look at Marvel.

A lot of their classic characters are having their identities/sexual orientations changed, or are being replaced completely with little to no explanation other than ‘alternate universe, we can do whatever we want.’

While that’s true, it’s become a bit of a cliche and honestly if you don’t even bother addressing HOW the universe altered from the original, you’re going to turn readers off very quickly. It’s not asking too much for the writers to retcon how we got Spider Gwen, Miles Morales, Nick (Shaft) Fury, etc. That’s not objecting to diversity, its objecting to long-established characters suddenly being changed with little in the way of explanation. However Marvel apparently doesn’t see a difference.

Secondly, based on what I’ve read in many of these comics… as well as reviews from others, people are seeing a lot of characters come out without a lot of character:

“Others, however, argued that the focus on identity came at the expense of the story.”

Now here’s where we get into trouble. Diversity of the cast isn’t the problem, its when the story focuses on their superficial traits that we run into issues.

Let’s put it this way for a moment, you have two books. The first one offers you a cast that is diverse. Let’s say for the sake of argument that it’s an even cast of men and women (2 of each) and a transgender. Let’s also say that the cast includes a white person, an African American character, an Asian character, and a Latino character. Now maybe a character has an accent or something culturally quirky they do in the story, that’s fine. However other than that, race, gender, ethnicity isn’t raised except in the initial description, and any time the character’s physical traits come up. They’re treated as equals, their differences are non-issues, and the story is able to progress as it should. Any political views of the author are written into the story through metaphor and situational circumstances. If alternate viewpoints are addressed, they are done so respectfully, perhaps with a side character that eloquently explains his point of view.

Now, let’s take a look at another book. This book has that same diverse cast, however in this book, the characters’ identities and races are constantly being brought up. The political beliefs of the author surrounding their identities is constantly being brought into the story to the point where it’s almost completely brought to a halt. The author then goes on to berate any viewpoint that disagrees with theirs, often by making the main villain a sort of insulting caricature of their detractors.

Which story sounds more appealing?

In my opinion, the first one. The second one fails on several levels. First, people don’t like being preached at. I’ve covered this in a previous post. No one is going to read your book/watch your movie if you bad mouth them for their beliefs, or resort to childish name-calling. Something the cast of Ghostbusters did on countless occasions and even mentioned in the movie when they took a swipe at the online community.

Perhaps the most glaring issue with this is that the characters in the second story aren’t characters at all. They’re archetypes for characters. They’re cardboard cutouts of characters that are often either mildly stereotypical… or blatantly racist as we see in several crticisms of America Chavez that were captured by The Wire:

“The dialogue was terrible, the Spanglish was racist (at best), the plot jumped around between various irrelevant points with little connection, the political commentary was a subtle as a sledgehammer, and there wasn’t a single character with any sort of development (other than “random girlfriend whom the reader never gave a reason to care about broke up with the protagonist, in what might be one of the least realistic exchanges of dialogue ever written”).

The author is apparently hoping that “MINORITY LESBIAN YASSSS!!” will be enough to cover up for her complete inability to write either characters or plot lines, but this comic is so completely terrible in every aspect that I doubt she’ll get away with calling everyone who points out its plethora of flaws “racist/homophobic”.”

This is a trend that we see, not only in Marvel comics, but in traditional writing, and in movies. The writer is trying so desperately to push an agenda and be inclusive that they actually wind up doing exactly the opposite; creating resentment, anger, and offense.

Diversity has a place in good writing and it always will. The gender/race of a character should never be a tell-tale as to whether or not a story will be good. As long as the characters are treated equally, not having their superficial traits focused on at the expense of the story, then it should be fine.

But Jim, politics has ALWAYS been a part of fictional/fantasy mediums, what’s so different about it here? 

That’s true, politics and social issues have and always been apart of fiction/fantasy, and that goes straight to my point. Stan Lee wrote about things like segregation, the holocaust, racism, and several other themes too. However he did it in a very clever way; he didn’t even really bring it up. He told his story, showed his characters being segregated, murdered, and abused, but at the same time, he explored the arguments of the other side as well. He didn’t paint them as straight villains. In many cases, you could actually empathize with the villains as much as you could the heroes.

So then how does one write a diverse cast without falling into these traps?

The way I see it, there are three ways;

  1. Respect your characters and their background.
  2. Respect your audience.
  3. Understand that there are opposing viewpoints that have legitimate criticisms.

When you write, focus on the character’s personality, their traits, and their abilities, not their skin color or gender. Focus on what really matters; the heart of the character. Your minority characters deserve the same treatment as your other characters. Continuously showing and pointing out what makes them different isn’t the way to bridge any gaps. Showing how they’re the same and how they can easily get along with others, their own issues not withstanding, will draw your readers in.

“What you are isn’t nearly as important as who you are.”
-General Xaphan.

Anyway, sorry for the lengthy ramble, but this was a trend that I wanted to speak about for a long time. Do you have a different view? Is there a different way of going about it that I missed? Am I way off on my opinion? I’d love to hear from you. Let me know in the comments!

Thanks friends!



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.

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

 

Advertisements

From My Writing Playlist

Ah Tron Legacy… this movie has people completely divided across the spectrum. Some people love it, some people hate it, most people think it’s just ‘meh’.

I’m actually in the ‘LOVE’ camp! This movie is absolutely fantastic! The visuals are awesome, the music is fantastic, the story is great, albeit having little to do with the original, and I loved Quorra’s character.

Granted I might be a little biased because I first saw this in IMAX 3-D… but I own the special edition and watch it regularly.

When to listen: This is a build up song. Preferably before a major battle or campaign.

 



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.

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

From My Writing Playlist

This is a little-known gem from Virgin Steele, a rather classic metal band. It’s a rather sad and solemn song.

When to listen: Does your lead heroine have a dark past or sad story to tell? Listen to it when writing that out. Project the emotion from this song into that writing.

 



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.

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

From My Writing Playlist

Ugh… okay so the video is not the best thing in the world… minimization baby!!!

When to listen: I’d say during times of ethical quandary where the main character is dealing with a far greater adversary than the main villain; his own conscience.



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.

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

Major Character Trait Annoyance!

 

This is more of a rant, so if you’re looking for advice, you can skip this post.

Have you ever seen or read about a character that at some point in the story encounters an issue that he was neither the cause of nor at fault with… yet when he’s confronted, he says nothing… for no apparent reason?

It’s especially frustrating when the person who confronted him later finds out that the character wasn’t at fault… but for some reason doesn’t ask why that character didn’t tell him the truth.

In cases where the character is standing up for, or defending, someone else, it’s understandable. However in other cases where there is no logical reason for it, the character keeps his mouth shut, thus incurring the wrath for something s/he isn’t guilty of.

So my question is why? Why does a character do this? All the writer accomplishes by having their character do this is getting the audience mad and making them yell at the screen/book saying, “What are you doing? Defend yourself! It wasn’t your fault!”

Am I missing something here? Let me know in the comments.



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.

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

 

From My Writing Playlist

 

I’m just going to say that straight up, I despise Metallica and the notion that they are somehow a metal band. I don’t even consider them a hard rock band. They’ve taken up the alt-rock emblem of Creed and Tantric… though sadly have not suffered the same fade into obscurity.

That… being… said… there was a time when they were a metal band. This album, ‘And Justice For All’ was the end of that era. From the Black Album onwards, this band has been an ear sore that punk rockers and little kids listen to when they want to look hardcore… without actually being hardcore.

Anyway, back on topic…

When to listen: This is an evil song, a really evil song. The opening guitar solo with demonic sounds in the background used to make the hair stand up on the back of my neck. It was especially menacing if I listened to this song at night either driving or when I was laying down. For some reason I always envisioned this song being the theme of a story about a guy who’s home is right on the border of Hell. He can hear the demons and knows if he steps outside his house at night, he’s probably doomed.
Yeah I have a demented imagination, but what fantasy writer doesn’t?
Listen to this song when writing a scary scene in your story. The menacing music give an air of impeding danger from afar.

 



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.

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

Fire Emblem: The Nowi Controversy

Oh God… he’s talking about Fire Emblem again!

Yes I am!

So ever since Fire Emblem Awakening came out, there has been some controversy over the characters. Though I tend to ignore these as there seems to be a controversy every time a FE comes out, I wanted to weigh in on this one…

For those of us who’ve played Awakening… we all know who Nowi is.

Nono_confession

Yup she’s the spunky dragon girl that people either really love… or really hate for some reason. Her stats are a little low and she is a pain in the ASS to level up, I will give you that, but her offspring is one of the most powerful Manaketes you can get, and the manakete class is powerful in and of itself.

Anyway, she drummed up some controversy a while back… which I still see debated on the forums every now and then because she can achieve an S-Class ranking with another character, aka marriage. The problem is that she looks like a 12… maybe 13 (AT BEST!) year old.

I’ll be honest, in my game, I usually pair her up with Gregor. In my opinion it’s the best story if you go that route.

Now some have said that this is promoting pedophilia because of how young Nowi is. The problem is that Nowi isn’t a 12 year old human being, by human standards in the game, she’s well over 1,000 years old, and while she has a rather energetic attitude, she does show a level of maturity that reflects that.

Gregor… I actually don’t know how old he is. However, near as I can tell, most of the Fire Emblem characters are between 16 and 45. Gregor strikes me as being on the older side, so maybe pushing 40?

Technically you could argue that Nowi is the one crib-robbing here, but that doesn’t make sense either.

A lot of people have said that it’s not the actual age that’s important (okay…) it’s that she looks like a 12 year old and that promotes pedophilia. To that argument, I cry foul. There are medically recognized conditions, albeit rare, where someone doesn’t age. In other cases, some more petite people just look younger as well. Heck I attended college with a girl who to this day looks like she’s 13. So what, do those people not deserve to be in love, have a relationship and a family? Will they have large societal hurdles to overcome? Unfortunately, yes… but that should not stop them.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not making a case for pedophilia or promoting it. I personally think that it’s a serious mental illness that is in dire need of proper treatment.
This isn’t a case of that at all. Nowi isn’t a human being, she’s a different species all together with different maturity and aging rates.

One could make the argument that by her own species’ standards, she’s just a child, but that would require us to know how they age, their culture and biological maturity… people, it’s a fantasy story. We’re not getting that deep into this! I know some people like to, but personally unless it’s somehow necessary to the plot, I’d rather spare the gory details.

In the end, I don’t believe that Nowi’s appearances poses any real problems. To the anti-child endangerment crowd, I’m with you guys 100% that no child should ever be hurt or abused, but you’re focusing on the wrong target here. The god-awful show ‘Stage Moms of LA’ would be a better place to direct your rage.

But maybe I’m wrong, maybe there’s something I’m missing here. Let’s open this up to discussion! Leave me a comment, I’d be happy to discuss this with you!



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.

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