Now before I start, one thing I’d like to make clear in this article is that I am not saying that we shouldn’t bother making any new films with female heroes or non white heroes.
Make as many female or black heroes as you want. I don’t care. If they are great I’ll love them.
This article will instead be looking at people who artificially try and bring about representation and force it into everything more for the sake of their own ego than anything else. I will also be looking at how representation though once important in the ongoing struggle for equality, is really no longer an issue at all. I feel we do live in a genuine meritocracy.
I realise that is a controversial stance to take, but I hope you take the time to at least hear me out here and if you disagree? Well then that’s what the comments section is for. Never let it be said that this is an echo chamber for only my opinions
I used to think representation was still important I freely admit. I often talked about how we needed more female heroes and minority heroes in the entertainment industry both here and on other sites. In recent months however I have come to change my position and who knows by the end of this article you may too.
The great irony is that I’ve never actually seen Wil Wheaton talk about or try and bring any attention to any female led series such as Xena, Buffy, Charmed, Once Upon A Time, Resident Evil, Alien, Dark Angel, Dollhouse, Ghost Whisperer or The Bionic Woman. Then again in my experience the people who claim to care about diversity are often the people who actually have the least interest in female led series or films.
Why It Doesn’t Matter And When It Did Matter
That was then. This is now. A phrase the SJW’s seemingly don’t understand.
Representation is one of these third wave feminist complaints that I feel was once legitimate but no longer matters.
Back in the 50’s and the 60’s it was actually important as back then our society was genuinely racist, sexist and homophobic. It was perfectly legal to pay women less for the same work as a man in America until 1963 and in the UK until 1970.
Black people also throughout the 50’s and 60’s were treated as second class citizens in both the UK and the US.
They were segregated from white people in the US, deprived of many basic human rights and there was also widespread support for racist groups like the KKK.
Whilst things were better in the UK, racist attitudes still prevailed. There were signs saying “No Blacks Allowed” plastered everywhere and members of the Tory party such as Peter Griffiths tried to use racist feelings towards black people in order to get elected as late as 1964.
Now remember this was not some fringe group of nutters. This was one of the two main political parties in the UK relying on widespread racist feeling to win an election and promising to impose racist policies once it got in.
Finally homosexuality was illegal in the United Kingdom until 1967. Right up until it was legalised many of our most beloved entertainers who were secretly gay such as Frankie Howerd were terrified of being found out.
Any form of entertainment that featured women and minorities in strong roles back then was therefore important for a number of reasons.
To start with television series like Star Trek would often be among the few places a black actor or actress could actually get a role that wasn’t just as a maid or a bit part.
Also positive portrayals of women and minorities helped to counteract the genuine racist and sexist propaganda that was everywhere in our society.
A black child who saw a sign saying, “No Blacks Allowed” might feel better about themselves when they read a Dan Dare comic where the main white characters boss was a black man.
Of course that’s not to say these forms of entertainment won the civil rights movement, but they did have their place in the struggle for equality.
Dan Dare, Star Trek the Original Series and Classic Doctor Who, all of which gave strong roles to black characters and female characters were decades ahead of their time. They did break new ground in a lot of ways. Martin Luther King himself said that he felt Star Trek was important and encouraged Nichelle Nicholas not to quit the series.
Times change however. Homosexuality was legalised in 1967, the civil rights movement won, and second wave feminism managed to achieve many notable victories including equal pay for women.
Many third wave feminists still complain about the gender wage gap, but it has been debunked (including by many feminists such as Christina Hoff Sommers and Ayaan Hirsi Ali) time and time again. It does exist, but not for the reasons feminists claim.
Similarly there is no rape culture in western society either. Our justice system is far from perfect and sometimes there are horrendous miscarriages of justice (for all crimes, against both genders, not just rape.) Still to say that we live in a culture where rape and abuse of women is encouraged is ridiculous.
Most men in western societies are naturally predisposed towards wanting to help and protect women and rape is rightfully viewed as one of the worst crimes anyone can commit. The actual statistics and studies do not back up any claims of society normalising widespread sexual abuse of women.
I’m not saying that our modern society is completely perfect, but the point is that most of the main battles for equality in the west were thankfully won in the later half of the 20th century. Quite frankly its an insult to anyone who did live in genuinely prejudiced times to try and pretend that things are anywhere near as bad today.
As a result of this we started to see more and more positive representation for women and other minorities to the point where by the 21st century I’d say that western audiences didn’t care at all what gender, race or sexuality a character on tv had.
Throughout the 60’s and the 70’s many strong roles for women on film and tv began to pop up such as The Bionic Woman, Wonder Woman 70’s series, Charlies Angels, and the Alien film series. Similarly more leading roles for black people began to emerge on film and tv such as Shaft.
For LGBT people meanwhile from the 70’s on there was more positive forms of representation, such as The Naked Civil Servant, a 1975 BAFTA winning drama which made a star of John Hurt and took us deep into how homophobic British society was. Many of the most popular entertainers and bands such as Queen and David Bowie’s acts had severe LGBT connotations as well.
By the end of the 90’s female heroes dominated the sci fi and fantasy market on television with Buffy, Xena and Charmed all being record breaking successes.
Until it was surpassed recently by Supernatural, Charmed was the longest running American fantasy series, whilst Buffy aside from being one of the longest running genre series was also one of the most influential too.
Xena meanwhile aside from being the most popular show in the world at the height of its success was so popular that they actually named a planet after her, albeit briefly.
On top of that most of theses series had strong roles for LGBT characters, such as Tara and Willow in Buffy, or Xena and Gabrielle themselves.
Other mainstream series such as Will and Grace also revolved around LGBT characters, whilst here in the UK many of our most popular mainstream entertainers such as Alan Carr, Graham Norton and John Barrowman are not only openly gay, but part of their entire act is being gay! On top of that all our most popular soap opera’s such as Coronation Street, Eastenders, etc (which are our most popular tv shows in general) have all had main LGBT characters.
Not exactly the same as the 60’s when Frankie Howerd, one of the most popular entertainers on British tv was scared at the prospect of his sexuality being discovered, as it would have meant the end of his career is it?
Now again I am not saying that this proves that racism, sexism and homophobia are gone completely from our modern society.
However at the same time I think it does go to show that at the very least in the entertainment industry people no longer care about a characters gender, race or sexuality.
Modern western audiences will accept anyone. Hence why Alan Carr in contrast to Frankie Howerd from the 60’s is able to make his sexuality part of his act. Hence why Beyonce is the most popular singer in all of Western society now.
In fact in both 2015 and 2014, out of the top 10 richest singers in the world, only two were heterosexual, white men, whilst in 2016 only 4 were white, heterosexual men.
See here Top 10 Richest Singers 2016/15/14
Now you might be thinking that there still aren’t as many black people on television as white people. You would be right about that, but that does not mean that it is because audiences or producers hate black people.
It is because there simply aren’t as many black people as there are white people in western society. Tell me how many white people are there in Bollywood films?
In the United Kingdom black people make up just 3 percent of the population. In the US they make up only 12 percent of the whole population, whilst in other western countries like France they make up 3-5 percent of the population and in Germany they are a mere 300,000 of a population which overall consists of 80.62 million people.
There are never going to be as many black people in western television series as white people. That does not mean that audiences will reject any black characters or performers that do appear as demonstrated with the record breaking success of Beyonce, or the enduring popularity of actors like Will Smith, Samuel L Jackson and Idris Elba.
The recent Oscars controversy where the award ceremony was accused of racism because it didn’t give as many awards to black performers as white ones was debunked, when it was shown that in proportion to how many black actors there actually were in the entertainment industry: There was a near perfect representation at the Oscars.
See here No the Oscars are not racist
Furthermore I don’t think there is really any racist or sexist propaganda to combat in our society anymore. If a political party were to use a poster that said “if you don’t want a nigger for your neighbour then vote for us.” That would rightfully sink their chances. Similarly if anyone hung a sign that said no blacks allowed outside a pub, then they would be charged with a hate crime.
Representation is only really a useful tool in combating overt prejudice and propaganda. The more subtle kind that people aren’t even aware of needs fought in different ways.
Whenever anyone says “I need to be able to see someone like me on television” I’m sorry but I don’t think that matters anymore.
I myself am part of a minority. I am Scottish. There are barely 5 million Scots in the UK and hey we have a history of being persecuted too such as the Highland Clearances.
However ultimately I, nor any Scots person I have ever known has ever cared about Scottish representation. Growing up, it never bothered me that virtually none of the people I watched on television were like me. I am not trying to virtue signal here, as no one else I knew growing up in Scotland was bothered either. The most popular television series in Scotland have generally tended to be English or American.
Are people going to complain about a lack of Scots voices on television? Are people going to point to the fact that there aren’t nearly as many Scottish heroes or actors as proof that institutionalised racism against us exists?
No of course not because people accept rightfully with us that there aren’t as many Scottish actors because there aren’t as many Scots.
So why then do we not accept that is the case with other minorities such as black people? Well that leads me on to my next point.
Why Do People Still Pretend It Matters?
Frank Hampson, the creator of Dan Dare.
One of the main reasons I think that people within the entertainment industry keep making out that representation does still matter is because they want to make themselves look better.
Gene Roddenberry, Frank Hampson and Terry Nation all gave strong roles for women and minorities in their work. Terry Nation produced possibly the first ever British genre series starring a woman, The Survivors, whilst both Gene Roddenberry and Frank Hampson presented a future in their most famous works (Dan Dare and Star Trek) where all the nations of the earth lived together. Roddenberry later broke new ground on American television by having the first ever interracial kiss on an American scripted television show.
All three writers and their works are still praised today for how progressive they were, and personally I think a lot of modern writers who harp on about representation just want to be seen in the same way. The only problem for them is, times have move on.
Nowadays audiences are completely accepting of black and female characters. Back in the 50’s, Frank Hampson could be controversial simply by having a black character, or a woman being a leading scientist. Even in the middle of the 60’s Gene Roddenberry could break new ground simply by having a black woman and a white man kiss.
Today would anyone even notice if there was a black character who was a scientist? Or if a black woman and a white man kissed each other on tv?
As a result these modern writers who want the kudos Gene Roddenberry got therefore have to lie that things are just as bad as they were in the 60’s, so that simply casting a black actor can be seen as a groundbreaking and brave thing.
Everybody wants to be Gene Roddenberry.
J.J. Abrams I feel is an example of someone like this. In this interview here, Abrams says he was disgusted by the fact that most of the actors at an award ceremony were white, and so he was going to rectify the “problem”.
The thing is the policy that Abrams has employed is to start with racist itself. He openly admitted to refusing to hire someone based on their skin colour.
Also I feel that its terrible to lump all whites together as privileged people who never suffer racism.
Ironically white skinned people have been the victims of some of the worst genocides and slave trades in the history of mankind, such as the 6 million Jews killed in the holocaust.
On top of this even today white people are still victims of racism.
The victims of the recent grooming gang scandal in the United Kingdom, (which is the largest sexual abuse scandal the UK has ever seen,) were targeted specifically because they were white.
Here read this article were one of the perpetrators outright says that he considers white women to be nothing but trash.
Ironically Frank Hampson and Gene Roddenberry didn’t simply write all white people off as being privileged. Roddenberry had among his crew a Russian, as at that point due to the cold war era paranoia there was plenty of hostile feeling towards Russians in America too. Checkov was designed to counteract this “Russophobia” as much as Uhura was meant to counteract the racism from organisations like the KKK.
In the UK meanwhile during the 50’s there was wide spread racism against the Irish, and Dan Dare counteracted this by having there be an Irish member of Dan’s team, Lex O’Mailey.
Roddenberry and Hampson cared about combating prejudices against all groups of people, white or not. The reason for this was because I feel that their desire for representation came from a genuine desire to help marginalised groups, rather than to simply virtue signal to their Hollywood friends like Abrams.
I might be doing Abrams a disservice, but his anger at the casting room being white just sounds so manufactured and for show. Also I don’t get what it is he thinks he is combating?
Does he really think that casting a black actor is going to be a big deal? If so he’s the one ironically living in the 50’s.
Was there any controversy over this movie where the two main heroes were black? Nope, so why would Abrams think he is breaking new ground by having a non white hero, 20 years later!
Sadly Abrams is not alone in this train of thought.
Emma Thompson recently after the famous no black actors at the Oscars controversy claimed that the Oscars are all decided by racist white men and even made a joke about how she would love to kill them all slowly.
Thing is it didn’t seem to bother her when she was winning an Oscar back in 1993.
Say what you will about Marlon Brando, but he stuck to his guns. He felt there was racism in Hollywood, so he outright refused to accept an Oscar.
Thompson on the other hand? She’s happy to accept one when it furthers her career, but then when its trendy to complain about the lack of diversity in Hollywood, she stabs the people helped boost her career in 1993 in the back.
Russell T Davies the producer of Doctor Who from 2005-10, I feel also falls under this category. He blasted a rival science fiction series called Primeval simply for having an all white cast.
Considering that Primeval is made and produced in the United Kingdom, its not so surprising that most or all of its cast would be white. Its not like there are no black people in it.
I very much doubt that the producers of Primeval turned down great black actors for their main characters because they were black. I believe that they cast all of the leads in Primeval because they thought they were the best actors for those characters.
Now I am sure Russell who never had a bad word to say about the cast (in fact he said the show all around was excellent) would agree. So what did he want the makers of Primeval to do then? Not to cast actors they thought were the best for those roles, simply because of the colour of their skin? That not a little… racist?
Some of the people who claim representation in the media matter may also do so out of fear too. Steven Moffat, Doctor Who’s current producer I think is an example of this. He has recently begun to go on about representation being important, but I think this is more to do with the severe feminist backlash he endured over his work being sexist.
I personally don’t think there was anything even remotely sexist about Steven Moffat’s work on Doctor Who or anything else. Sadly in this current “lets get offended by everything” climate he was tarred with that brush by the mainstream media, and since then he has by a bizarre coincidence become obsessed with representation.
Others meanwhile I think use representation not just to get kudos from their Hollywood elite pals, and the mainstream media, but to actively further their own careers. Nowadays a lot of people like to sell their product based on the fact that it has great representation for someone.
Take a look at the latest Ghostbusters movie. It was pretty much sold on being a film about female empowerment and representation. Even before the backlash began. Take a look at this publicity picture.
I have no objection clearly to an all female franchise. Look at Xena. The two leads are women, and most of her rogues and supporting cast are women too.
Xena however could stand on more than just being a “girl power” show. Sadly in the case of the Ghostbusters the director Paul Feig was aware that being a remake of a much beloved 80’s classic, there was a danger that people would just dismiss it as yet another pointless reboot. So in order to counteract this inevitable criticism, Paul focused on the whole “its for representation” thing to sell it to audiences and also make it immune to criticism.
As we all know it backfired considerably. Even if the publicity team hadn’t gone to the effort of tarring all of their critics as sexist, then the simple fact that the movies main feature was that it offered representation wouldn’t have worked either..
Why would anyone think in this day and age that simply having female heroes was anything special? I grew up on nothing but female heroes.
Xena, Buffy, Charmed, Dark Angel, Heroic Trio, Kill Bill, Nikita, Once Upon A Time, Charlie’s Angels, Alien film series, Wonder Woman tv series, Bionic Woman, Earth 2, Star Trek Voyager, The Dead and the Deadly, Tru Calling, Dollhouse, Underworld film series, Scream film series, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, 1,2, 5 and H20, Ghost Whisperer, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th, Day of the Dead, The Bride with White Hair, Terminator 1 and 2, Jessica Jones, Survivors (original and remake), and Resident Evil.
Added to that there are plenty of shows about a male and female hero such as The X-Files, and The Avengers. Even in certain male led series such as Red Dwarf and Futurama, the female character is still the strongest, most intelligent and capable, like Leela and Kochanski.
So really with this in mind why would Ghostbusters 2016 stand out as anything important just for having female heroes? Answer, it wouldn’t, but Paul Feig is still going to pretend that it does to flog his otherwise mediocre remake of a beloved film. Lets be honest it had absolutely nothing else going for it.
Paul Feig I think shot himself in the foot, head and various other places career wise with the way he tried to promote this film.
Other people meanwhile who are career feminists like Anita Sarkeesian still make out that representation matters for the same reason they still cling on to other outdated examples of sexism. They need naive young people to believe sexism is everywhere, not just simply to further their careers like Paul Feig, but because it is the basis for their entire career overall.
If she wasn’t complaining about things being sexist, what would Anita Sarkeesian do for a living? Frank Hampson and Gene Roddenberry would still be iconic sci fi writers, even J.J. Abrams and Paul Feig would still be big shot directors. Anita however?
She needs the patriarchy for cash.
The great irony to this is that sexism is still a problem in many countries around the world, but people like Sarkeesian won’t comment on it. There is no money involved in that and they are too scared.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali for speaking out against Islamic countries treatment of women has received death threats and is forced to walk around with body guards.
People like Sarkeesian and big shot film directors however for all their talk of being “social justice warriors” would much rather pick a battle that has already been won and white knight over that to bask in the feminist and progressive praise, and if possible make a little bit of money out of it, but when it comes to tackling actual sexism? They are to put it bluntly, too shit scared to say a thing.
The great irony is as well that these people wouldn’t be pushing representation like Gene Roddenberry, Frank Hampson and Terry Nation were in the 50s and 60s. They all risked their careers and reputations in the process. The likes of Feig and Sarkeesian who only care about forwarding their careers would never take that risk
Now you might think, even if that is true, what difference does it make? Well that leads to my next point.
The Harm Still Caring About Representation Causes
Its a distraction
Representation I feel is often used by actual right wingers as a way of presenting themselves as left wing. They can distract us from the fact that nothing about the status quo is going to change. (It may even get worse) by saying “Look we have a woman/black person/LGBT person in a prominent position now, so that proves we’re moving forward even though we’re not.)
A notable example of this includes Hillary Clinton’s recent disastrous campaign for President. Hillary Clinton was quite possibly the biggest war monger in US politics.
She voted in favour of the war in Iraq, a potential war with Iran in 2005, destablised Honduras, overthrew Gaddaffi in Libya (which plunged the country into Anarchy and led to a global refugee crisis and the rise of Isis.) Clinton also wanted to impose a no fly zone over Syria which could have led to a conflict between the US and Russia.
The very idea that anyone would consider her a viable option for President is laughable. Yet Hillary was presented as the progressive candidate simply because she was a woman, and therefore would have been the first ever female President.
Never mind that Hillary Clinton is a danger to the planet, the fact that she’s a middle aged woman, and I’m a middle aged woman means you have to vote for her so I’ll be represented. Not at all a narcissistic view to have.
Obama meanwhile was no different. Hailed as an incredibly progressive choice because he was the first black President. Obama continued all of the war mongering foreign policies of his white predecessors, but the fact that it was now a black man deporting people, killing civilians with drones and starting illegal wars meant that it was apparently still more progressive.
This just goes to show why representation shouldn’t be made out to be a big deal in the modern world, as ultimately it can be used as a way to not only dupe us into thinking things are changing, when they haven’t, but also as a way of silencing people.
John Pilger a genuinely left leaning journalist was famously ostracised by many on the left for daring to criticise Obama’s hawkish policies, as they viewed it as harmful to black representation.
John Pilger brilliantly runs through many examples of war mongers and right wingers in politics using representation as a shield against criticism.
It causes people to define themselves by their sexuality, race and gender
Representation is always presented to minorites as something they need in order to enjoy a particular product. If a character is gay/black or a woman, then gay/black or female viewers will automatically have to enjoy that character the most.
Now fair enough there are differences between men and women. I’m not saying that one is superior to the other, but there are differences, and therefore there are times where casting a woman or a man will bring a completely different dynamic to a work.
Similarly if a work of fiction is set in the past, or a less enlightened culture like Saudi Arabia, then making a character gay or an ethnic minority might bring a different dynamic to it aswell.
However the way representation is pushed nowadays makes it appear that gay and black audiences can ONLY enjoy a character if they are gay or black. This in turn essentially encourages minorities to define themselves solely by their minority status and nothing else.
Maybe, just maybe a gay viewer might not care about a characters sexuality? Maybe a gay man’s favourite hero is someone like James T Kirk for different reasons other than who he wants to sleep with? Maybe a gay character might look up to Batman because he is brave, noble and resourceful rather than because of who he wants to sleep with.
One of my favourite heroes is Xena, a bisexual female hero. How can that be if we have to see ourselves in every character on screen?
Ultimately whilst there should be no taboos about having LGBT characters or black characters, constantly making out that you have to have them, or else minorities can’t enjoy something just leads to gay and black people being seen as nothing but gay and black people, by themselves and everyone around them.
Imagine if I were to decide that I couldn’t enjoy Batman because he wasn’t Scottish. That was the one part of my personality that defined me to the point where unless Batman was Scottish I would be unhappy? Imagine if I got to the point where what I needed from a character the most was being Scottish over having say an interesting backstory, a compelling rogues gallery, exciting love interests etc? People would view that in a negative way, but when it comes to sexuality and skin colour its suddenly seen as a positive?
Ultimately no audience should be defined by one characterstic. You can’t just be expected to satisfy gay audiences by crowbarring in a gay character, but sadly that is what those who push representation encourage. If you’re gay the first thing you should care about is who a character sleeps with in order to like them.
It has compromised many television series and films
I feel that many writers and producers nowadays often focus on representation above other important things like you know actually having a story.
The latest Ghostbusters film as a classic example of this. Its plot is paper thin. Its monsters are dull and uninspiring. The main focus of the film was simply that it was offering women representation. As a result of this not only were the monsters just tossed in as an after thought, but the films jokes and dialogue tended to focus on the fact that its leads were women more than anything else.
“I don’t know if this is a lady thing or a black thing but I’m mad as hell!”
Added to that when you care about filling diversity quota’s above all else then you don’t always end up hiring the best actors, actresses, or writers either.
Take a look at Doctor Who, the worlds longest running science fiction series.
Steven Moffat recently cast a woman as the Doctors archenemy the Master. The only reason Steven Moffat did this was for representation. Not only did he want to give women a strong role via the Master, but he also hoped that a female Master would pave the way for a female Doctor too.
Moffat however went one step further by having the female Master, Missy be actively in love with the Doctor, again for LGBT representation. This was a complete betrayal to what the character was meant to stand for.
Colin Baker who played the 6th Doctor sums up the appeal of the Master brilliantly in this quote.
“My favourite enemy is the Master, because Sherlock Holmes has his Moriarty, and while most monsters have no particular desire to destroy the Doctor, the good thing about the Master is that it’s a personal matter, so there’s great opportunity for confrontation.”
However now all of that has been tossed in the bin, as the female Master is in love with the Doctor and actually wants to win him back as her boyfriend more than anything else.
The Master in the 1970’s. A relentless and implacable foe of the Doctor that simply would not rest even as his world was crumbling apart around him until he had killed his archenemy.
The Master in the 2010’s after feminists managed to get their claws into the Doctor Who franchise. Anyone who says she’s believable as the villain in the above video is A/ lying B/ an SJW or C/ has never seen Classic Who.
Furthermore in addition to this the Masters other main motivation aside from killing the Doctor was to conquer the Universe. Missy however does not seek any kind of power as all she cares about is winning the Doctor, her “boyfriend” back. In fact in her first appearance, she gives up an army of unbeatable Cybermen just to win the Doctor back!
Its terrible to essentially throw out the Masters main motivation and development as a character as it basically makes it look like it didn’t matter.
Its like rewriting it that Magneto doesn’t care about Mutants rights and that his main motivation was to fuck Jean Grey instead.
Also I might add its a huge come down for the Master too. Before this used to be a villain that was desperate to reshape all of creation in his own image, where as now he is relegated to being basically the heroes jealous ex?
Finally on top of ruining the character Steven Moffat’s need for representation also led to him casting an actress who was not right for the Master.
Michelle Gomez who played the female Master, Missy is a good actress but she wasn’t right for the character of the Master, because, well he’s a man! It would be like casting Jack Nicholson as say Supergirl. Yeah Jack is great, but he wouldn’t exactly be right for that part.
Imagine that you are the casting director for Doctor Who series 8 and you are told that the Master will be returning to the show and you have to cast that character. Now leaving aside representation, political correctness etc, imagine you are casting this character based 100 percent on who the right actor for the role is.
Remember THIS is the character of the Master.
Okay that’s the character. Now who are you going to cast, based on who is the right person for the role out of these 6 actors. Charles Dance, Simon Templeman (voice of Doctor Doom), Robert Carlyle, David Warner (voice of Ra’s Al Ghul), Jason Watkins and Michelle Gomez.
I don’t think there is ANYONE who would cast her in the role over those 5 guys based solely on who was the best for the part.
The only reason that Michelle was miscast as the Master and that the Master was made into the Doctors lover instead of his archenemy was all for representation.
I might add that since Doctor Who started to pander to the need for representation, then its viewers have sunk.
See here. Doctor Who’s Ratings Fall To Record Low
Comic books have also suffered greatly for this desperate need for representation too. Marvel have begun to replace many of their male characters with female ones. Wolverine, Tony Stark and Thor have all been replaced with female counterparts as part of a move to bring greater diversity to the Marvel universe.
Now understandably many fans have been upset with this. Not because they can’t stand female heroes, but because they like these characters and therefore don’t want to see them be replaced with other people.
There have been examples of these characters being replaced by other men, and the fans not liking them, such as Damian Wayne taking over from Bruce Wayne or Doc Ock taking over from Peter Parker as Spider-Man.
Still just like with the Ghostbusters movie, anyone who doesn’t like this trend has been called a sexist. The female Thor was even given a strawman anti feminist to fight.
In a time when Marvels readers should be higher than ever due to the mainstream success of the movies, they are enduring record losses instead.
Its got nothing to do with readers rejecting female heroes in general. If that were the case why did larger audiences lap up Xena and Buffy and Charmed and Once Upon A Time? Why does the Wonder Woman trailer have a near universal approval rating? Its because people don’t want their favourite heroes replaced for some bullshit diversity.
Marvel don’t care however. They simply want to get brownie points for diversity. Introducing a new character however takes time and effort to make them one of the all time popular characters. Wolverine for instance was introduced much later than many of the rest of the X-Men, and he ended up becoming the most popular one, but only after, many, many years and writers.
It provides terrible representation for minorities
Ironically I feel that casting actors for diversity is a terrible way to represent people. Its essentially saying that the only way they can succeed is if the system is rigged for them rather than on their own merit.
Take a look at this example from the New Doctor Who. Here Steven Moffat has openly said he cast the new companion Pearl Mackie solely to have a black actress in the show.
Now I am not saying Pearl Mackie will be a bad companion. I haven’t seen her in action yet. For all I know she might be good, but sadly Steven Moffat has said before she even has a chance to start that she is only there to tick boxes.
“I had this baffling idea that if we just threw open each part to everybody then it would all work out in the end. I put my faith inexplicably in the free market. It doesn’t work. You’ve got to gauge where you’re looking for the talent“.
-Steven Moffat on casting Pearl Mackie
How can anyone say that that is good for black people? Apparently black people can’t ever succeed when being forced into a fair competition with white people. So Moffat had to exclude all white people, or “gauge” where he got the talent from in order to cast a black person?
And what has been accomplished by doing that? A black actor is now in Doctor Who? Yeah its not like its ever had a black companion before is it?
I honestly don’t think that you have to give black actors any role for representation. Black actors in the modern world, can get any part (excluding certain historical figures) they want. Provided they are right for it.
Look at Red Dwarf, a classic British sci fi comedy where half the cast is black (and again no one noticed!)
Originally Alan Rickman was considered for the role of Dave Lister. Rickman was eager to play the role. He called the script one of the most original and intelligent scripts he had ever seen.
However Craig Charles a black man won the role, simply because he was the best man for the part.
Alan Rickman was one of the greatest British actors, but he would not have been good as Lister. His portrayal of Lister would have been a posh, somewhat uptight character, which would have been too similar to Arnold Rimmer, Lister’s bunk mate.
Craig Charles however brought a slobbish, blokish, every day quality to Lister which contrasted wonderfully with the prissy uptight Rimmer and created a perfect odd couple squabbling brothers dynamic.
So yes in the open market a black guy did beat a white guy because he was the best for the role. I might add the black guy Craig Charles wasn’t even really an actor. He was a poet! A fucking poet beat out one of the most acclaimed, and versatile actors for the role of a lead in a sitcom because he was the best person for the part, and race didn’t enter into it for either.
Now I don’t think Red Dwarf is such a special show. Don’t get me wrong I adore it, but what I mean is I don’t think that its makers are the only non racist people in the entertainment industry. In fact I think that its probably typical in terms of how things are cast. The best actor gets the gig. Who gives a fuck about skin colour? The best person for the job is the only fair way to do it.
Also more importantly I feel that when these characters are there to be “the black character” or “the female character” then they are often written as such which is terrible.
Look at Class the recent Doctor Who spin off whose creator Patrick Ness has often spoken about how important representation is.
Now Class’s black character Tanya Adeola, often complains about white people, and how lucky they are. Compare her to Lister from Red Dwarf, who has many fights with Rimmer, his white bunk mate, yet not once is either men’s race mentioned.
TANYA: White people.
APRIL: White people what?
TANYA: Always so optimistic. Always so certain things are going to work out for you. Oh, well, because they usually do.
APRIL: My dad tried to kill me when I was eight.
TANYA: But you got your mum up walking again. Typical white-person happy ending.
LISTER: You never said much about your father.
LISTER: You must have been pretty close.
LISTER: Was it very close?
RIMMER: Close. (Pause) I hated him. I detested his fat stupid guts, the
pop-eyed, balding git.
RIMMER: He always wanted to join the Space Corps — be an officer. But
they wouldn’t take him because he was an inch below regulation height.
One inch. I had three brothers. When we were young he bought a
traction machine so that he could stretch us. By the time my brother
Frank was eleven he was six foot five. Every morning he’d measure us
and if we hadn’t grown, back on the rack.
LISTER: Sounds like he had a screw loose.
RIMMER: I don’t think he had one screw fully tightened, to be perfectly
honest with you. He had this fixation that we all had to get into the
Space Corps. At meal times he’d ask us questions on astronavigation.
If we got them wrong — no food.
LISTER: God, Rimmer, how did you cope with that?
RIMMER: I didn’t. I nearly died of malnutrition.
LISTER: I had no idea. I thought you adored your parents.
RIMMER: When I was fourteen I divorced them.
RIMMER: I took them to court. I got paid maintenance until employment
age and access every fourth weekend to the family dog.
LISTER: So why are you so completely blown away about him dying then?
RIMMER: Oh, it doesn’t mean to say I don’t respect him, didn’t look up to
him. It was only natural — he was my father.
LISTER: There’s nothing natural about your family, Rimmer.
RIMMER: It’s just I always wanted just once, just once, for him to say to
me, “well done.”
LISTER: For what?
RIMMER: For something, for anything. I wanted him to be proud of me,
See what I mean? Which black character comes off as more likable there?
The funny thing is Lister and Rimmer normally hate each other. Yet Lister still shows Rimmer more empathy and compassion than Tanya shows to someone who is meant to be her best friend!
Needless to say if I were black I’d not only despise Tanya. I’d actually find it offensive, that Patrick Ness thought how black people wanted to be represented on tv was as whiny, self obsessed racists who still see someone whose dad tried to kill them as being privileged, simply because they’re white!
I also find a phrase like “typical white person happy ending” to be without doubt the most racist phrase ever used in Doctor Who. I’m sure any of the grooming gang survivors would have really appreciated that episode Patrick Ness. Or do they not deserve representation?
Similarly compare these scenes from Xena a show by people who didn’t care about representation, only in making a fun, camp, adventure series, to the modern day version of Supergirl, a show by people who care a lot about representation.
Which one of these two series do you think has better female characters?
The great irony is that when you highlight how great it is that you have black or female leading characters in the actual work itself, it actually looks like it belongs in the 50’s more than something that doesn’t have that diverse a cast like Primeval.
When you look at something from the 50’s or 60’s like say Dan Dare you can see how its more aware that it has female or minority heroes than a later progressive work like Once Upon A Time is.
For instance Professor Peabody, Dan’s leading female scientist often has to deal with sexism from people who don’t take her seriously in her profession because of her gender. That was okay for the time it was released in 1950. Back then it was genuinely unusual for audiences to see a woman in that kind of role.
A woman would also genuinely struggle in the real world to be taken seriously in the type of profession Peabody was in back then too, so having her shut down Sir Hubert’s sexism was a good thing and represented real problems women would have endured.
However that was the point by the time of Red Dwarf and Xena as we have seen no one cared anymore about a woman being the hero, or a black guy being the main character. So Xena didn’t need to say “Hey look how amazing it is that there is a woman hero” and similarly Red Dwarf has never even mentioned Lister’s race or the fact that he and his main love interest, Kristine Kochanski are in an interracial relationship.
Now however things like Supergirl and Class have actually dragged us back to the 50’s where everybody has to act amazed at the prospect of a female hero and the female hero has to remind us that she is a woman all the time, and every black character has to tell us how hard it is being black, and how every white person is lucky to be white.
If you’ve set something in the 50’s or a less enlightened time then fair enough, you will most likely have to comment on the racism and the sexism of the time if you’re hero is a woman or minority. The likes of Supergirl and Class are set in modern day however, so they have no excuse.
It leads to people being fired
In an effort for greater diversity, certain companies have begun to fire white men from their jobs in order to give minorities more opportunities.
Here are some examples.
I find it funny in a way that people like Gene Roddenberry and Terry Nation were able to give women and black people strong and heroic roles in genuinely racist and sexist times without having to fire people from their jobs. In the modern world meanwhile where there is a true meritocracy, the BBC still can’t give minorities jobs without employing racist policies towards white people.
No one is entitled to a job based on skin colour or gender. No one deserves to be excluded from one either whether they are white or black.
I have no problem with television series starring non whites. Some of my absolute all time favourite series star female characters. Still at the same time something that has a cast made up of one gender, such as Supernatural, or Xena, or Charmed, or Bottom, or Ab Fab, does not deserve to be called sexist, or changed to be artificially more diverse
Diversity and representation only matters if we are living in a time when people are being excluded and treated as inferiors because of who they are.
Ultimately however whilst I am not saying our society is perfect, thankfully we have moved on from the dark days of the 60’s and the 70’s. I feel that in the entertainment industry at least and in terms of what audiences are willing to accept, we do live in a society where any type of person can be accepted.
Representation has served its purpose in the fight for equality. Its time just to let the meritocracy judge everyone in a fair way and try and find other ways to tackle the still very real prejudice in the world today.
Let me know what you think in the comments below.