Category Archives: diversity

The Hope of Just Representation in Entertainment

By Guest Contributor refresh_daemon, cross-posted from Init_Scenes

The cast of the original “Star Trek.” Image via English Online.

There Is a Problem

Every year, without fail, a report will show that the American entertainment industry has consistently underrepresented people of color on screen, both in character and by actor. Even when studies show that it is actually in the best interest of Hollywood to have more equitable representation, we do not see equitable representation on screen. This is true for film, network television, and cable television and not only in front of the camera at all levels, from leading roles to background actors, but also behind the camera, from the writers, to the directors, the producers, and all over the corporate structures that run the studios and networks to even the big money interests that fund them.

And it is not only a product of racism, but the inequitable representation of people of color, women, and other marginalized groups, actually contributes to and reinforces deep underlying systemic racism and other injustices not only in the United States, but also to any place where our entertainment products have reach.

And this is a problem.

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Quoted: Arturo & Kendra Talk Comics On NPR’s Code Switch

Kendra on the industry’s expectations of the audience: “What’s the nerd stereotype? The guy who looks like Kevin Smith, or the [brown] girl who’s been loyal to the same comic shop for years? There’s a worry, subconscious or not, that if white males have no one to identify with that the readership vanishes. No amount of trend-bucking — take Miles Morales, for example — is going to change that.”

Arturo on white fans’ reluctance to accept when POC are cast as characters who were originally white: “It’s the natural result when the industry spends decades prioritizing white male characters — you have white male fans getting twitchy over this sort of casting while accepting white-washing or all-white stories.”

- From “Who Gets To Be A Superhero? Race and Identity in Comics” by Gene Demby.

Recommended Reading: The full transcript of a panel interview including Kendra, Arturo, Kelly Kanayama and Alan Yu.

Drake and Sasheer Zamata on SNL.

Open Thread: Sasheer Zamata & Drake on SNL

By Arturo R. García

Expectations were high surrounding this past weekend’s episode of Saturday Night Live, as it unveiled a more diverse lineup both in front of and behind the camera.

While the ostensible lead was guest star Drake, pulling double-duty as the show’s musical guest, the show also marked the debut of Sasheer Zamata, the first woman of color in the ensemble since Maya Rudolph’s departure. Zamata’s hire was precipitated at least in part by the furor over Kenan Thompson’s infamous “they never find ones who are ready” remark in November. But, perhaps even more crucially, the show also added two women of color to the writing team in Leslie Jones and LaKendra Tookes.

So far, the results appear to be positive: the show scored decently enough ratings-wise, and Drake’s performance has been well-received enough to suggest he should get the Justin Timberlake open-door policy.

But how do you feel the episode did? Did Zamata get enough opportunities to spotlight herself? Do the new additions make you more optimistic about the show? And is anybody else stuck seeing Rick Ross as a Red Teletubby now? Here’s a couple more videos for those of you who didn’t catch the show.

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Who-mogeneous: If Doctor Who Doesn’t Diversify, Will It Last Another 50 Years?

By Guest Contributor Anoosh Jorjorian

When I was 13 years old, my best friend introduced me to Doctor Who. Growing up as a brown girl in a predominantly white neighborhood in Sacramento, people would ask me, “What are you?” When I explained that my family came from Armenia and the Philippines, I might as well have said they were, like the Doctor, from the planet Gallifrey in the constellation of Kasterborous. The show played perfectly to my fantasies of escape into wider possibilities. Yes, funny smart man with your English accent, please whisk me away in your blue box as far in space and time as I can get from 1980s Northern California.

Nearly two decades have passed since I first watched the show, but on the occasion of its 50th anniversary, to my eyes, the show looked a bit… like 1980s Northern California. “The Day of the Doctor,” the episode marking the special occasion, was simulcast globally in 94 countries, an official Guinness World Record. So why was so little of the world in it? I had expected the diversity of the audience to be reflected on the screen, but instead the episode seemed Anglo in every dimension.

I monitored #DoctorWho50th on Twitter but couldn’t find many people of color livetweeting the simulcast. The few that did seemed to have “the feels” like everyone else. No one mentioned race. With Matt Smith’s tenure in the title role ending on Wednesday, I turned to Facebook to find more Whovians: friends, friends-of-friends, and strangers, mostly Americans, mostly people of color. What did they think about the whitewashed “Day of the Doctor”?

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Thor: The Dark World Has No Place For Hogun

By Arturo R. García

Hogun (Tadanobu Asano) tells Thor (Chris Hemsworth), “Hello, I must be going.”

World-building is at the heart of Thor: The Dark World, both in front and behind the camera: with the character’s first film and inclusion in The Avengers out of the way, director Alan Parker and the film’s five credited screenwriters show viewers more of the workings of Asgardian culture, and the connection between Asgard and the rest of the Nine Realms enables the filmmakers to provide a world-jumping final battle between Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and the Dark Elf Malekith (Christopher Eccleston).

Which makes it particularly sad when this expansive view of the Thunder God’s world can’t find any time at all for one of his series’ more stalwart characters, Tadanobu Asano’s Hogun the Grim. Again.

SPOILERS under the cut
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Where Are All the Zombies of Colour?

By Guest Contributor Jenn, cross-posted from The Nerds of Color

I don’t mean the zombie survivors. I mean the zombies.

Ironically, The Walking Dead is pretty racially diverse compared to other zombie movies in the genre. Remember Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake? There are, in that case, two sole surviving Black men, although one (Mekhi Phifer’s Andre) is singularly stupid. Meanwhile, there are no other notable characters of any other race or ethnicity among the survivors. And how about 28 Days Later ? Sure, the main female protagonist is a Black woman (Selena, played by Naomie Harris ), but why is she the main cast’s only character of colour despite the fact that London boasts a 20% Black and 20% Asian population . In fact, most zombie movies are typically populated by an almost all-White (with a token or two) surviving cast; against this backdrop, I’m relatively pleased by the racial diversity of The Walking Dead, One-Black-Man-At-a-Time rule notwithstanding (more on this later in the Walker Week).

But, here’s my gripe: where the heck are all the zombies of colour?
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Race + Gaming: Brown Skin, White Masks

By Guest Contributor David Song

A gallery of Dungeons & Dragons character types from the D&D Player’s Handbook (2003).

The phrase, “human race,” has always taken on different meanings in Dungeons & Dragons. I can remember, when I read my first D&D Player’s Handbook as an ungainly and imaginative teenager, the allure of the game that remains the same across the whole role-playing hobby: To imagine myself as a fictional character that I have created myself. The D&D Player’s Handbook guides every role-player through a step-by-step process of creating an imaginary character. And I remember being fascinated by the variety in every step of that process: Class, alignment, skillset, religion, and coming before all of them, race.

The most eminent franchise of role-playing games, and the one most tied to popular perceptions of the hobby, D&D has always had an odd relationship with race — or rather, with a concept of race, one where race has strict boundaries and inherent qualities. The choice of role-playing D&D is to play a member of the “human race,” which stands as the norm in the D&D universe, or one of diverse alternatives: dwarves, elves, gnomes, half-orcs, and so on. Not Englishmen, Frenchmen, or fantasy versions of ethnic identities, but either human beings or other people with similar but fundamentally different blood. “Race” is the very first characteristic D&D asks its players to define, before their characters’ skills, their personalities, whether they are barbarians or rogues or sorcerers.

While the earliest version of the game’s Player’s Handbook displayed only light-skinned characters, implying a medieval, quasi-European setting, 1989’s Advanced Dungeons & Dragons allowed players to create Human characters who could be light-skinned or dark-skinned, their hair straight or curly, their bodies wide or slender. In other words, it avoided the tacit identification of “human beings” with “white people.” The art in the game’s 2008 handbook reflects a diversity of colors and bodies that might belong to anyone actually playing the game, beyond the image of the white male.

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Racialicious attends New York Comic Con 2013

by Kendra James

Let’s keep this short, sweet, and blunt: I’m disappointed at the lack of panels dealing exclusively –or even mentioned in summary– with issues of diversity, gender, sexuality, and other marginalized views at New York Comic Con 2013.

I can’t recommend and won’t be attending too many panels this year. Of 334 panels and screenings I was able to find 3 focusing exclusively on marginalised voices in fandom. 3 panels in 4 days of con-going. (Gosh, how will I ever will I have the time make it to all of them?) I’m thrilled to be attending what I am, but the lack of diverse content is concerning, to say the least.

On Thursday night there’s the LGBT and Allies in Comics panel presented by the New York Times and Geeks Out. X-Men writers Marjorie Liu and and Greg Pak will be featured along with Dan Parent and Rich Bernatovech.

While there are panels that have at least one person of color featured, there’s no focused panel on any marginalised issues in comics, fandom, or media to be found on all of Friday.

Saturday appears to be The Day for diversity at NYCC this year, and by that I mean a grand total of 2 panels will be hosted. The Mary Sue will present Representations in Geek Media at 2:45 where panelists, including Phil Jimenez, will discuss their favorite minority, disabled, LGBTQ and female genre characters. Later that evening at 6:30 I’ll be attending Geeks of Color Assemble!: Minorities in Fandom, a full PoC panel discussing the question of what challenges in media remain that minorities still have to overcome.

On Sunday Marvel hosts their Women of Marvel panel which will once again feature Marjorie Liu, but given that it’s a company sponsored panel one has to wonder how much critique and open discussion will actually take place.

If we’re willing to count Sunday’s panel, that brings the grand total of panels focusing on representation in media to 4 out of 334. Attendance and interest have never seemed to be a problem; the NYCC hip-hop and comics panel was incredibly well attended last year and each focused panel I attended at San Diego Comic Con this summer was filled with people at rapt attention. Nor is it an issue of panels not being submitted*. I try to look on the bright side, reminding myself that cons are exhausting and doing too much tends to ensure that I end up sick on the Monday after, but this is just ridiculous.This may have been the year of Pacific Rim, but this lack of representation at one of the largest cons in the country shows geekdom still has quite a way to go when it comes to leveling the playing field.

As usual, please feel free to say hello if you see me on the floor (between not being in panels all day, and likely being one of the few, if not the only, Black Margaery Tyrell in attendance, I should not be hard to spot), and follow @racialicious and @wriglied for live tweets of the panels I attend and excited reports of any Nicole Beharie sightings.

*In the spirit of full disclosure, Racialicious submitted a panel for consideration on the challenges of growing up as and raising geeks of color. It was not accepted.