I’ve been reading comments and posts through various forms of social media regarding representation within media (books, television, movies, etc.). By representation, I’m speaking of stories that give diverse characters for women, people of colour, women of colour, people who identify with various sexual orientations, and those who don’t conform to a gender binary.
I love stuff like that, because it actually makes one think about how a story could change, even their own story that they may be writing. How would a story be different if this character was a woman instead of a man? Or perhaps black instead of white? Or maybe gay instead of straight?
But there’s been a rebuttal from some who say this is actually forcing a writer to limit their imagination. Which I wonder how that could be. How can that limit imagination, when most stories (a very high percentage) involve main characters that are white, straight, cis-gendered men? The majority of stories that hit mainstream (or as close to it as you can get) feature a high majority of those who fall into most or all of those categories. So that when a good property comes out that is slightly different, it’s heralded as innovative. A good example is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Primarily female dominated cast, showcases a lesbian relationship, however falls a bit short on representing people of colour (until the last season).
We’ve had Red Tails, which was about the Tuskegee Airmen, but when is the next movie coming out about an all black group that does something incredible. It took George Lucas (yes, the guy who made Star Wars) over a decade to get someone to even consider the film. Danny Glover has been trying to create a bio pic that focuses on the uprising in Haiti that saw the first nation in the western world rise to power with a leadership descended from African slaves. No one has found that movie idea interesting, and Glover has tried to get funding from many countries around the west and into Europe.
Writing about women, women/people of colour, people with varying sexual preferences, those things shouldn’t limit imagination. Especially if the characters aren’t treated with respect and not in some sort of stereotypical way. It should spark imagination, it should be different, it should help create something incredible. I’m saying that authors can’t write about the things they’ve always written about, but don’t ignore those authors who do write about different stories with different people that make up the mainstream.
We’ll have a greater variety if we open up our own reading to a much wider scope and keep an open mind about what we’re reading. By encouraging authors who write about people of different visible minorities, women, etc., (in sci fi, fantasy and other genres) not only do we get a much richer reading experience (or television/movie viewing experience) but we also get representation. Which is also important, because we get a higher number of people who may become interested in a certain field of work because they may have seen someone in their favourite television show that looked like they did.
Don’t believe me? Just look no further than Nichelle Nichols from Star Trek and then read up on all the people she inspired thanks to her role as Uhura.