Diversity Win In Geek Culture!
While watching Rogue One, I was captivated by the plot, effects, and so many other aspects of this fantastic film! However, the part of the film that I didn’t realize added to my overall happiness was the fact that I was watching a Star Wars film with a strong, female, lead and a cast of characters who were capable and diverse in their own right. When I came to this realization I could not help but smile as wide as I could that I get to live in an era where different cultures were being celebrated openly on a blockbuster film.
If this seems odd to you that I would be so overcome with emotion over the skin tone or accent of characters in a film, it might be best to remind you that a majority of pop culture has been focused on Caucasian males as a majority of the cast. If there was a well written, hero or villain then more than likely they were of a lighter skin tone. We have seen this in so many beloved franchises that it is enough to convince younger geeks that in order to be worth something you needed to be white. If you were a minority then you were set to be a side character or a villain who inevitably gets overthrown.
If you think I am over exaggerating then let’s take a brief look at some of the major franchises in geek history:
When I was younger I coveted most of these franchises, they uh can keep Twilight, and every time I would be inspired and want to be like these heroes I saw who dug in their heels to fight the good fight no matter the cost. Yet in my mind I couldn’t forget just how different I had been from my heroes, I didn’t have blue eyes and distinguished features, I was brown and grew up with eating menudo and celebrated Day of the Dead. There was no representation of me in the media I was watching and as a kid it took a blow to my self esteem, especially since my white friends would also acknowledge this and then throw it back at me whenever we would get into a debate.
There is still the issue of white washing films where they will cast Caucasian leads into the world of a minority and then magically they are able to solve all of the issues they were too incompetent to resolve on their own. Or the other major offense of having a minority character and then casting them with a Caucasian actor. If you need an example, feel free to check out The Last Samurai where a square jawed Tom Cruise gets thrown into the world of the samurai and then leads them into battle, or The Help where it takes a white author to help a deeply segregated community with their issues by writing and publishing their issues. Don’t even get me started on Scarlett Johanson’s role in Ghost in the Shell or Matt Damon’s Great Wall. It’s so ridiculous that I’m surprised it still happens in such an age.
In the defense of some of the films I listed, some of their content was created such a long time ago that they simply could not feature minorities in their material if they wanted to succeed. When major films are being released with that content, they are obligated to stay somewhat true to the original concepts, and I understand.However for reboots or new canon films I am glad that filmmakers and writers are going above and beyond to help feature a more well rounded cast. As I mentioned before, Rogue One did a fantastic job featuring Diego Luna! Star Wars Force Awakens featured John Boyega and Oscar Isaac as major side characters who are minorities themselves and with Daisy Ridley as a powerful female lead!
This is what our new wave of media looks like:
I feel confident that over time more diverse films or shows will pop up not just filled with different skin tones but come equipped with well written backstories. Please don’t understand me as well, removing white male leads from films is not what I cheer for, it is the celebration in representations of different cultures in geek media. Heck, I would even be happy if they keep a white male lead as long as they made him Australian, Russian, Irish, anything but British or American. Just something new and unique!
Also big shout out to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton for going above and beyond to write a stellar play retelling America’s history while recasting major characters as minorities to show off a more diverse America!
Thanks for reading, I was just so surprised by this revelation that I had to share my thoughts on the matter and give kudos to those writers, directores, film makers and so many others working hard to tell great stories with proper representation!