There is a divide that the greater culture of the center/right has a hard time explaining, but an easy time recognizing: The difference between “forced diversity” and diversity which is incidental to a story.
The surface definition should be pretty easy to work with:
Forced diversity is the inclusion of characters in media that are members of social/ethnic/sexual groups for no discernible story reason.
Obviously, a story about a transwoman struggling to fit in will include trans characters. “Forced diversity” is having a character that is trans for no reason related to the plot. It’s a character that is put there for non-story reasons or a character that is given specific group membership for non-story reasons.
The usual response from the left is to say, “Why not? Trans people exist, so why not have a character be trans?”
This is where it gets harder to explain. We know “Forced Diversity” by how it feels much more than how it fits a definition; after all, nobody objects to Red being black in Shawshank Redemption – the character originally being Irish doesn’t matter to the story. Roland being black in the Dark Tower movie is something else entirely – not only is the Roland from the books specifically white, his being white causes conflict with a black character.
Forced Diversity always detracts from the story, and you can feel it when you see it in action.
There are some very specific reasons for this that have to do with how the left constructs these forced diversity characters.
The left views people according to their group membership, not as people
What I mean by this is that leftists do not judge individuals, but rather view individuals as the sum of the groups they belong to: specifically their race, sexuality, and gender identity. This becomes apparent when they try to write characters with group memberships other than their own. Since most SJW writers are white women, almost every group is viewed as a stereotype.
When they write a “diverse” character they aren’t creating a realistic person, but rather a representative golem of what the writer views that race to be; they play like a list of traits of that marginalized group, rather than a real person.
Thus American blacks in liberal media are all loud, overly-energetic, poorly educated sidekicks who react with nothing but what the writers think black urban slang is. Of course, there are many black actors who get cast in these roles – think Leslie Jones – and end up “cooning” (acting like a stereotypical Black American for the entertainment of white people) for a paycheck.
Minstrel shows might be subtle to outsiders of the group, but even the most milquetoast whites should be able to pick up the difference between Friday and what Leslie Jones does. You can tell right away when a character exist simply to act gay, or black, or Asian. The come off as annoying and out-of-place, just like Jones in the abysmal Ghostbusters reboot.
Real people have a variety of experiences that shape who they are, their race or sexuality being one.
Karen the Superhero
The infection of mass media with the ever-present Mary Sue (aka the Rey Johnson) seems to always be concentrated in one particular group: the white woman.
Like I said, most SJW writers are white. Remember that famous shot of the “diverse” huffpo meeting made up almost entirely of white and jewish women?
Characters like Captain Marvel (Super Karen) are caricatures of how white female writers view themselves. They’re super-heroes! They can do anything! Women can be strong… just as strong as men! Of course they can fly spaceships, and use guns, and… GRRRL POWER!
Of course this projection is a fantasy in the form of self-denial. They want to write strong women because they feel weak, just like how they call the manager when their burger isn’t perfect because they need to feel empowered. When they “break the mold” or “inspire girls” what they are admitting is that their caricature is an inversion of reality.
The left likes to make minstrel shows, but they seldom realize they are doing it. To them, putting a gay character into a story is a morally good act, since gays need more representation and straights need to be taught to accept them. They never think that their golem could actually be offensive to members of the marginalized group or make the evil straight white men think negatively about said group.
Shows like Will and Grace do this to the extreme – they portray a field of extreme caricatures and pat themselves on the back for being progressive and for having representation. Honestly, Will and Grace is pretty kind to gays, despite being built on stereotypes, compared to what I see nowadays. It’s just a kind of patient zero as I see it: annoying, preachy, and over-the top with the gay.
I really don’t think Druckman and the other writers of the Last of Us 2 thought much about having a character that looks like a male, enough so that people considered she was trans, track down and beat up/kill a woman. They really didn’t think people might scratch their heads at that, especially given current controversies over transwomen in sports. It didn’t occur to them, because they were being honest with how they view the characters in question.
It actually doesn’t matter if Abby from the game is trans. If she isn’t, she’s a woman loaded up on Anavar and Winstrol (not readily available in a post-apocalyptic world, mind you), and is just that much more an inversion of reality. She’s Super Karen, zombie edition! Now with the power to beat up all those nasty males – and our gay main character.
Funnily enough, I had leftists get very upset that I called the character trans in a recent video, with their rebuttal that “she’s not trans because she has a boyfriend” – as though a transgender person couldn’t have a boyfriend.
It’s unintentional, but it is revealing. It’s why so many leftist women like to speak on behalf of others (whom they love to call “people of color” which merely reinforced the reality that Karens view all people that aren’t white as mass of interchangeable nobodies).
Patronizing the other
The other end of bigotry are what I believe are the foundations of the entire movement for “representation”:
- People can only identify with and care about people that are like them
- The majority must be conditioned to accept “the other”
- Marginalized groups need representation to feel significant and validated
Starting with number one – this assumption goes way back, and actually dominated TV programming for years. There was always a belief that white audiences didn’t want to see black actors and vice versa – the Cosby Show being a curious fluke before more contemporary hits like Family Matters and Fresh Prince of Bel Air proved that White Americans were happy to watch quality programming features races that weren’t their own.
The reverse is also true – of course blacks can enjoy white characters! It’s incredibly patronizing to assume that some other ethnicity can’t relate to white characters. If the characters are good, they should be quite universal.
The justification of number 2 assumes, of course, that the target audience needs to be exposed to marginalized groups in order to not hate them. It isn’t really compatible with point number one, but that doesn’t matter. Coherency is not part of this equation. What matters is that white people are bad, mean, racists, and must be presented with marginal characters to make them stop being bad, mean racists. Don’t worry about the paradox there.
Number 3 is again directed toward “the other” – those groups that the Karens think need to be coddled and made to feel recognized and special. Maybe they do, but that raises the question – who is this all for?
What is the market?
I think, as an artist, you can make whatever art you want with whatever message or direction you want to take. You cannot, however, do whatever you want and then complain that you didn’t make money doing it.
Making money in the entertainment field requires making products audiences want. The reality is that a story about a black transwoman fighting to participate as a woman in the Special Olympics is not going to be a big seller. Gay Romance is a niche, so nobody should expect it to blow up.
When you force diversity into a story, you don’t get to complain when the fans bitch about it, especially if you are putting out a sequel and you do what amounts to a bait-and-switch.
The only way you can justify this sort of thing is by making it required reading at state schools (which is always on the table), but you can’t really do that with games. But this brings me back around again to:
It always harms the story
This is the proof in the pudding – the story is worse for the forced diversity. It all comes down to what is necessary in a story. If you want your story to be good, you have to jettison stuff that doesn’t matter. Forced diversity goes the opposite direction – it adds things that don’t matter, or actively go against the story.
I think, as an author, it would be a very bad idea to stop a space opera and spend a whole chapter explaining the polyamorous society of a planet the heroes stop at for fuel.
Likewise making a character gay whose sexuality is moot in a story is simply an annoying distraction – why halt the narrative to discuss what kind of person the character desires sex with? Imagine if Frodo and Sam had taken pages in the middle of the wilderness to discuss their gender identities and what kind of sex acts they preferred. Its’ pointless!
If you change the race or gender of an established character, the immersion is broken, especially for any fans of the work being adapted (and fans are the reason the work is being adapted to begin with).
Dumbledore is not gay. He’s not anything! He’s just the paragon character for Harry Potter’s journey. Joanne Karen Rowling, who unironically named an Asian character “Cho Chang,” just wanted a free pat on the back. If that had been in the story, it would have sunk it!
Believe it or not I, as an evil male, have written books with strong, fully fleshed-out, female protagonists:
Want to know how I manage my process to get things done? Check out my newest offering:
Thank you for putting into words what I’ve been feeling for years now.
“If you want your story to be good, you have to jettison stuff that doesn’t matter.”
This is also something the center/squishy folk also need to realize. The whole “Just take a normal character and then have them be gay! Pay no attention to it!” argument is just as bad as the other side.
If your character has a quirk that makes them different from the norm it needs to have plot relevance, otherwise it is needless and distracting. If you have a character with one arm, the missing arm needs to have some relevance to the story, otherwise the character should have two. Part of the job of the writer is prevent jarring the audience out of the story. You need to have a reason to insert anything out of the ordinary. If you don’t then why is it there? The audience is going to ask, and the more questions they ask they more they get taken out of the story.
It just shows that you don’t care as much about the story as you do showing off how progressive you are.
Hmm. I think another way to say it is, “If your character is missing an arm, it WILL affect the story, and if it doesn’t then you wrote the story poorly because missing an arm actually would affect the character’s life.”
Likewise with the homosexual thing.
If the homosexuality doesn’t actually matter, then make it matter, not necessarily to make the story “better,” but because to do otherwise would not be true to reality, and will thus either be distracting, annoying or immersion-breaking.
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Another excellent post, David. The shoehorning of diversity into stories where it has nothing to do with the story is obnoxious for all of the reasons you provided.
I will say, though, that I think this IS working. Many people DO think that if the characters “don’t look like me,” then it’s a story deliberately not for them. And it does appear to be the same on the other end–creators seem to ENJOY being exclusionary by saying “Well, we didn’t make this FOR YOU, white man” or whichever group they’re trying to stick their middle finger up at.
So what to do?
Keep plugging away, keep making good stories, and keep mocking the forces of progressive insanity in the culture. We beat them by being better than them and by NOT alienating and insulting potential customers.
Unless they’re jerks who started it.
I can’t help but see, though, that “not for you” usually converts to “niche market” in the absence of a franchise base that keeps on buying things that are “not for them.” Eventually, the train has to run out of gas, right?