Wonder Woman, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, and Annihilation…what do they have in common?
The answer is simple. When I saw these films, I lost count of how many people said it was so great to see something of themselves represented in a film.
Something that I, as a cishet dude, have almost never had to utter in my life.unsplash-logoAustin Distel
Not that I haven’t been the Tolkien white dude in some places. My first middle school had a white minority. I spent a semester in Tanzania, lived for years in Asia, and yet I could look almost anywhere and find some depiction of my life or vision on film.
As a writer, I think it’s necessary to take some responsibility for the diversity in a story. I absolutely loved reading Starship Troopers. Killer story, full of things that I’d been brought up to believe and agree with. As a child, however, I didn’t even make the connection that Johnny Rico is Filipino.
Nor did it occur to me why that might be important.
As an adult writer, however, I see a missed opportunity. Plus, white-washing really doesn’t need to be a thing. See, it shouldn’t be a big deal that Rico is a man from Southeast Asia, but in our world today, unfortunately, it is. We should live in a world where heroes and heroines come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and creeds…but we don’t.
I strive to put together a cast of characters that represents what our future should be. Star Trek put an Asian man and a black woman on a starship in our future, but how much has really changed?
One need only look at most of the popular shows to see that minority groups are represented roughly twenty percent of the time. Jack Ryan was a great character in the 80s, but it took several books before Tom Clancy made a Latino a major character. When Amazon created a show around the character, I was gratified to see a more diverse cast. A black Muslim as his boss? Actual Middle Eastern actors?
That’s important for writers, too. If we’re to write the future, we need to make the vision we see come to life on the pages of our books. We need to show readers that it can come true because until people actually see something, it’s usually not real.
Science fiction isn’t about the future. It’s not about technology any more than fantasy is truly about magic. Great fiction tells stories about people. Classify the story however you wish, but if we don’t care about the characters, does it really matter how they get from point A to point B? Dragons, starships, horse and buggy…they’re just set dressing.
The people are who matter in the story and in our ever-shrinking world, we should include a cast that accurately reflects the plurality of cultures and ethnicities. Homogeneity is boring. Mix things up!