This is one of those posts that gets shared on both Tumblr and here on wordpress, so here we go.
I just thought of this while doing laundry. Yes, I think of the oddest things while I’m doing house work. Or is it odd? I tend to think it isn’t.
However, here we go.
There are hundreds of contradictory arguments that arise when the race or gender of a person in a film or comic or book is discussed. The most recent being the casting of a black man as Johnny Storm in a possible Fantastic Four movie and the remake of Annie with a predominantly black cast. This goes back further, people might remember the backlash that arose when Idris Elba was cast as Heimdall in Thor. But these are the same people who cry and moan about that, but at the same time will be the first to announce that when a white person is cast in a role that is clearly described as a black or brown skinned role (I’m talking Hunger Games), those same people will always claim that the casting director was merely looking for the best actor for the part.
It can also be said that these people who make those two previous observations and bemoan about the former, that also the ones who moan whenever someone points out something amazingly racist or sexist or transphobic. These are also the same people who claim that we all need to just get along and everything will be like a saccharine coke commercial where everyone joins hands and fucking sings “I Want To Teach The World To Sing”.
Here’s the thing. I do believe that sometime in the future, that when a book or a movie comes out, that no one will care if a character is black, white, red or yellow and is played by an actor who happens to be either black, white, red or yellow. No one will cry and moan when a role for a film is said to be up for a man but when it’s released it’s a woman in the lead. No one will care because they’ll be concentrating on acting ability alone, not the race of a person, nor the gender of a person. And they won’t even care about the sexual orientation of a person. None of that will matter, because at some point in the future we just won’t care about. All we’ll want is a good story with good characters we can relate to.
But that’s a future that’s far and away not happening anytime soon. Therefore, we need to identify when a character is a race other than white. We need to identify whether or not a character is female, or a trans-woman, or a trans-man. We need to identify if a female character is a lesbian or a male character is gay (and not written into the side notes of a script during the post production of a major motion picture based on a best selling series of novels). The reason why we need to know if a character is black, or a trans-man, or a lesbian, is because if it isn’t stated then the current audience will think that the character happens to be a straight, white male (or female). We are no where near close to the future I described above. And here’s the reason why.
If we were then we would have equal pay for both men and women, regardless of race. If we were, then we’d be in a true post racial society (hint, we’re really not, and if you start to argue that we are, then you clearly have your head stuck in the ground or up your ass). If we were, then there wouldn’t be extremely discriminatory laws being considered which would see LGBT people stripped of rights, even fired, denied basic health care, or denied service in a shop or restaurant. If we were, then we wouldn’t have news stories about transgender people being attacked, put in prison for defending themselves, or even killed, just because they happen to be transgender.
That future is a lofty goal, and one that we do need to strive for. And it’s one that MLK dreamed of, where people would be judged based on their character, not by the colour of their skin. I don’t want to equate the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s to what’s going on now, but that thought can be expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identification. That future would be really great to see. But we’re not there yet. And until we are, it’s important to have fictional characters identified as a different race other than white, or a different sexual orientation other than straight, or a different gender identification other than cis.