January 11th, 2006


Another Post About Kicking Out White Characters

Diversity Pass.

Passing on the Diversity Pass.

Race and the Screenwriter.

Characters and Race.

Listed in chronological order, the links above show a conversation across four screenwriters blogs about race in scripts. The first begins by saying that you should add a bit of multiculturalism to your script, that you should dodge the racial stereotypes, the second talks about how putting in race is axe grinding, loading the script for a point that needn't be there, the third talks about using ethnic sounding names in scripts, and the fourth, probably the most reasonable next to the first, talks about how ethnicity in scripts simply represents the current world view.

Some of the conversation is stupid, some of it ignorant, some of it really quite interesting, and it's worth reading, especially if you're reading or writing speculative fiction, which sometimes feels like McWhite Land. Yes, I know there are plenty of examples of non-white characters in books and short fiction out there, so there's no need to point it out to me, but the point remains that as a genre, speculative fiction is predominently white, male, and heterosexual. To build upon the argument given by Blogger Four (John Rogers), it's simply not representative of the world out there. (Or perhaps it is from a race point of view. Take a look at the right hand side of Locus Online, where covers of previous issues are listed. They're just covers, so I'm not suggesting anything outside the fact that it's interesting to note the colour of nearly a year's worth of covers.) In addition to that, unlike the suggestion of Blogger Two that your representation race doesn't matter, so you can have black janitors, black astronauts, whatever... well, it does matter. In the white world, non-white individuals and their representations have a weight. In our culture, if you put up a Lebanese man and ask him to comment on something relating to Lebanese culture, you are placing that man in a position of power where he speaks and represents his culture, whereas a white person in that same position would not. So if your only black person in a film is a janitor and he mops up after a bunch of rich white kids as they runaway from a unknown horror and he then goes Morgan Freeman on them and gives them advice... well, it's bad writing, firstly, and you ought to have your eyes gouged out, but it's also demonstrating an ignorance of racial politics in the world you live.

It is, also, not thinking about your audience. Do you imagine that everyone who reads and watches your work is white? That they all come from White, Western, heterosexual backgrounds? Don't be ridiculous. The world isn't one culture, and it won't ever be one colour, no matter what some people tell you, and if all you show to your audience is one world of one colour, then you will eventually stop connecting with a portion of it. Maybe you will never connect with that audience. It's just something you might want to consider when writing, or even reading, watching, whatever. It is not axe grinding to have a multicultural representation in your work, and while you're at it, you should also think about minority lifestyles, because it's not axe-grinding to have those represented, either.

It's a diverse world. Show it.
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