Welcome back to Seriously Geeky Sundays, the best damned writing prompt challenge on the internet, bar none! Created by Heather, the undisputed overlord (overlady?) of Just Geeking By, the internet’s finest questionsmith, bar none!
Today we look at a hot, hot topic in the world of geekdom, representation! It’s a heavy one, hopefully my usual levity will shine through though. Needless to say, if I get anything wrong, or accidentally cause disrespect, then please let me know! Now, onto the briefing…
But first, an addendum to this piece! In one of my answers, I prasied The Witches remake for adding more representation, but I totally forgot about the controversy surrounding the depiction of the witches themselves, so that got yeeted the heck out of there!
During February LGBT History Month is recognised in the UK, and in the US Black History Month is recognised. There are also several other awareness days throughout the month. With this in mind, I felt that this was the right time to approach the topic of representation in pop culture.
Question 1 – Let’s start with a broad question; what do you consider representation in pop culture to mean?
An interesting question, that!
Without going too much into the past (that’s the next question), let’s try to get our heads around what this means in the present. Representation is not only a welcome addition in modern culture, it’s something that is absolutely essential in the modern era.
I’ve just finished playing through Mafia 3, which is set in the late 1960’s in the Deep South of America. I’d heard stories throughout history of the Black Rights movement, obviously the big names like Martin Luther King and Malcolm are known, as well as the endeavors of black women like Katherine Johnson thanks to (excellent) movies like Hidden Figures and The Help. But playing Mafia 3, in the role of African American ‘Nam veteran Lincoln Clay, I was really immersed in the world of 1968 New Bordeaux (New Orleans, then) and got to experience most of the characters in the game being horrendously racist, hardly ever calling Clay by his name, even.
Now I get it’s only a game, but it paints a picture of a real past, where millions of black and other BAME people were treated that way, and worse.
The media and the entertainment industry can do so much to bridge these gaps. When I was a kid in the 1990s, living in a rural village in northwest England, there was very little diversity. As an adult, I find myself friends with many different kinds of people, all across the spectrum of race, gender, sexuality, and people who face all manner of struggles in their lives. All it takes is to change your thought process from “I don’t understand, it’s weird” to “I don’t understand, but I’m going to educate myself about this subject.”
Question 2 – What representation existed in fandoms when you were young?
Honestly, not a lot really.
When I was a kid, most characters in movies, video games and TV were white as sour cream, straight as a ruler and athletic as a Spartan warrior! There were non-white folk, sure, some of them were even women (shock, horror) but they were always the “token” black guy, or the “token” Native American girl. Folk of different sexuality or gender, forget about it!
It makes me so happy these days to see that movies like Black Panther do so well, and inspire people who were used to seeing other people like them reduced to “token” roles in decades past not only take the lead, but take the industry by storm.
Now all we need is more representation for the LGBTQ+ community!
Question 3 – Do you feel that representation has improved since then?
So, to follow on from that last bit: yes, things are improving over time, albeit slowly.
As I mentioned, movies like Wonder Woman and Black Panther have done a world of good in the realm of blockbuster movies, and there are more and more video games prominently starring people who traditionally haven’t been represented that much in the industry before, even video game women are being designed with armour/clothing that actually covers their bodies properly, which is definitely progress!
So keep it up, geekdom, let’s cover characters from all walks of life!
Question 4 – Tell us about some of your favourite diverse characters.
Well I already mentioned Lincoln Clay from Mafia 3, who is a brilliant African-American character portrayed by actor Alex Hernandez. Driven by cold hard revenge, Clay was easy to empathize with, often had some brilliant dialogue and had a really interesting backstory, being an orphaned child who was raised by a priest before being drafted to the Vietnam war.
When it comes to the ladies of geekdom, well there’s been a lot over the years, and they constantly get better and better. Be it Wanda Maximoff, Sadie Adler, Katniss Everdeen, the list goes on!
All we need now is more characters representing different sexualities and more trans characters and we’ll be on our way to a glorious new future!
Question 5 – What fandoms do you recommend for diversity?
Well, I suppose the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a decent one these days, lots of diversity in all of the heroes and villains so definitely worth a shoutout! It’s also nice to see recent movies, such as the remakes of Lady and the Tramp, leaning into the spirit of representation a little more too. The former even changed up that Siamese cat sequence to make it less… horrendously racist for a modern audience!
Netflix also seems to be tackling diversity head-on, series like Atypical do great work, with that one in particular exploring life with autism from the point of view of a young man and his family.
Question 6 – When did you first feel represented in a character?
So I’m a cis, heterosexual white male who’s into movies, gaming and books… that’s a lot of commonly explored groups for me to identify with! I really just wish that other people could say the same for themselves. Let’s have more black, Asian and Polynesian characters, more gay or bisexual or asexual heroes, more trans stories making their way into pop culture. There are so many fascinating stories out there, let’s get every person to the point where they too can say what I said above, “that’s a lot to identify with”…
And there we go, mission accomplished! I hope I didn’t get too serious this week, but this is something I have been thinking about a lot recently! If I explained anything wrong, or if you feel I missed something important, please let me know in the comments, I live to learn! (unless you’re some far right wacko, then bugger off!)
As always, check out all of the other writers pumping out top drawer content under the #SeriouslyGeekySundays hashtag, they create absolute gold in word form! This is also true of the mighty Heather herself, so check out her site too!
See you all next week!