Does diversity justify gender/racial swamping characters

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  • #5360
    Shinra Kuroki
    Shinra Kuroki
    Participant

    Part 1: Back story

    So, I really have an ever evolving opinion on this subject of the need of diversity in media (TV, books, media, games, ect.). Being gay, I naturally do want more gay characters in media. I do however, feel there is nothing wrong with an entire straight cast. The problem I find myself thinking of, how do I say it’s important to have gay characters while still holding the opinion that there’s nothing wrong with not having them. It’s a very nuanced opinion and hard to put into words. How does one reconcile believing in artistic freedom with the desire to have their identity be more visible in popular culture. So I just going to ramble a bit, but hopefully it’ll come full circle and make sense.

    It took me till High school to figure out I was gay. I was thinking one day about a very attractive guy and feeling like I wish he could be my boyfriend, but I didn’t want to be a woman, and I didn’t want him to be a woman, I just wanted to be in a relationship with a male and be a male myself. When I put it together, suddenly all that gay porn I was watched made sense. The amount of denial I was in was epic and when I had that light bulb moment, I never felt so stupid before in my life. Suddenly everything made sense, liking 6-pack abs on men, not liking boobs, watching men get naked and doing stuff together… you probably think I’m making this up completely and I wouldn’t blame you if you did. I was in such denial that it never crossed my mind to think about it.

    After dealing with the emotional crisis of figuring it out, I then started to wonder why it took me so long. I consider myself fairly bright and good at critical thinking, even for a high schooler. One problem was to me, gay people where just the people trying to screw up the god given sacrament of marriage. I was raised Traditional Roman Catholic and the only thing about “the gays” I knew about was that they went against God’s law and were sinners. The topic didn’t come up much and I can;t even recall where or when I heard about it for the first time. I also thought about all the Disney movies I saw. I know it’s cliche, but the fact it was always a prince and a princess, it really affect my subconscious. I kept thinking I would know sooner if just one of those movies had a gay couple. If there was just one I wouldn’t be feeling like such an idiot right now.

    I remember my dreams quite frequently and some of them upset me quite a bit. There’s a reoccurring theme in some of my dreams that basically play out like the damsel in distress trope. A woman, usually my age, needs to be saved from a dark wizard or something, so of course I help her out. I one, I got rooted in place by vines against a wooden fence and got stabbed by a lance, and all I could think about when I woke up was why I was doing that all for a strange woman. I wondered why the damsels in my dreams wasn’t a man. Maybe it’s because my idea of a good mate is for them to be strong is why they weren’t men, or maybe it’s just my stupid subconscious being stupid. I don’t know, I just found those dreams as a reminder of how limited and niche gay characters are in media. Sure it has gotten a lot better, kids these days can’t get passed Kindergarten without reading some pro-LGBT book these days in most states.

    I remember thinking, I don’t fit into any of the gay stereotypes. I don’t like fashion, I was more into science than hair dressing, and my voice doesn’t squeak when I talk. I then found out how annoying some minority stereotypes can be. It would be nice to have more characters that show not all gay men are fashion obsessed hair dressers. I know I can still emulate and look up to straight characters, but it just isn’t the same as having a gay character be like a paragon to look up to for me. I definitely don’t need one now, but I could see how one during my childhood could have really made a positive impact on me. I knows it completely subjective, but that’s just how I feel.

    Now a days, I just find myself thinking in circles about how to push for gay characters all while not falling into the diversity quota, censorship happy, intellectually dishonest diet tribe that is SJWs. The worst thing identity politics has done is made minority characters de facto representations of their entire minority and thus making them uninteresting, dull Mary Sues. I want to advocate for more inclusion in media while also fighting against the people who demand it at any and all costs. When there are two very polarized sides to an issue, the middle ground tends to become a no mans land. People taking nuanced opinions often get chastised by both side and moderate communication becomes difficult since those from both sides will start to mischaracterize it. When a controversy get so heated like this one, simple opinions like “I want more gay characters” get interpreted as being pro-diversity check list and pro-censorship while “artists should be able to make what they want” becomes X-phobic and Y-ism.

    Next in part 2: good and bad racial/gender swaps IMO.

    "Now, I’ve forgiven the world and myself, too. I teach myself to smile again. One day I’ll get there, I know I will. Even if it takes me not nine, but nine hundred lives." -Susan Ashworth from The Cat Lady

    #5362
    Shinra Kuroki
    Shinra Kuroki
    Participant

    Part 2: Theory v. Practice

    If you have a favorite gender/racial swap story, please feel free to write about it.

    When I heard about Green Lantern being gay, I wasn’t impressed. I remember an episode of Batman: The Brave & the Bold in which Green Lantern fights against Star Sapphire. I also remember hearing about a Green Lantern series where there are different rings the correspond to different emotions and the Sapphire’s rings being apart of that whole great epic comic story. Him being gay is going to undermine that story line. I read up on the whole gay Green Lantern and apparently they even changed the Green Lantern ring’s backstory to fit in with him being gay. They totally remain his character and backstory, even the backstory of his ring; why couldn’t they just make a new character. Why couldn’t they just have the ring pass on to someone who is gay instead of rewriting an established character. Why not just make a new super hero who gets a ring that creates power constructs that work off the power of Gaia (which is what they essential did and put the name Green Lantern onto it). Over all, the worst thing about the gay Green Lantern is that he failed to become a pop culture gay super hero. Taking an established character and then making it drop off the pop culture radar is wasting the IP. The reason gay people were excited for the gay Green Lantern were they were hoping he would bring a spotlight to LGBT people, and he has failed to do so. I look up “gay green lantern” and all I get is articles saying “DC’s new gay character”. He hasn’t done anything that has registered on Google search since he was announced.

    Now not all changes are bad. Look at Nick Fury, he used to be a white character (something that might surprise people around my age). You look up Nick Fury right now and you get pictures of Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury. Why did this work when most gender/racial swaps gets retconned sooner or later. Well, Samuel L Jackson has a lot to do with it, but also the white general being a trope also helps it. How many alien invasion movies have you seen where the general’s 1st idea is the nuclear option? How many times is the corrupt white general secretly part of the cabal that is inciting war? Making Nick Fury black helps free him of all those tropes and negative stereotypes of a military industry complex.

    I usually find it much better for new characters to take on the mantel of a super hero rather than retconing that hero out of existence. Miles Morales is a good example. He takes on the mantel of Spiderman after Peter Parker dies. He’s an interesting and different character; one interesting enough to make him gain a following of his own rather than just ride on Peter Parker’s coat tails. Most of this gender/racial swapped characters get retconed because they’re not memorable or interesting. If you want a minority character, they need to be interesting or else they’re just going to be a footnote on a wikipedia page. Also, you need to make them more interesting than the current version of the hero or else the pressure to retcon them is just too much for any red blooded capitalist. Making them take on the mantel helps remedy this since it can give a good conclusion for the current character and makes the new hero a good foil for the previous one. The new character also becomes more interesting through their relationship to the previous hero of the same name.

    I don’t think it’s ever okay to shame someone for not liking a character being gender/racial swapped, unless there is prima facie sexism, racism, homophobia, and/or bigotry in the text (aka, it has to be in the text, not subtext!). I really hated the DMC reboot. Devil May Cry is known for it’s over the top fights and it sexy, smooth, easy on the eyes protagonist Dante. Now imagine my horror when they reboot the series and completely remake Dante. Sure DMC is a good game, but I will never buy it since I will never let go of the Dante I care about. The remake killed my hope of seeing the Dante I liked in a new game. It’s not just that I hate the new Dante, it’s the fact I want to see more of the old one. Having fundamental facts of a character change can completely ruin the character for someone. I have the right to stop liking a character for any reason. Fan loyalty is how we get Final Fantasy Lightening Returns. Sure I would normally say to give the new character a chance, but when they are replacing the character you like; it’s just not the same thing as being introduced to a new character.

    Next in part 3: Taking the Social Justice out of Diversity.

    "Now, I’ve forgiven the world and myself, too. I teach myself to smile again. One day I’ll get there, I know I will. Even if it takes me not nine, but nine hundred lives." -Susan Ashworth from The Cat Lady

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