Tonight I’m watching “The Station Manager” starring pre-GoT Peter Dinklage, Patricia Clarkson, and Bobby Canavale.
It is (so far – not over yet) very good; compelling performances of interesting and, yes, quirky characters. I especially enjoy Peter Dinklage’s “Fin”. He shows so much depth – as you’d expect having seen his Tyrion – and so many microexpressions to convey the layers of conflict Fin experiences. How he avoids interactions with his neighbors, then comes to enjoy them, then gets entangled, disappointed, and ends up back where he started – wanting to be left alone. Hermity.
I can identify with that.
I also long to just get away from life and exist away from the bounds of normal civilization. But that’s a post for another day.
Today – it strikes me how different this movie would have been if they had changed the details of Fin just a bit. Instead of a man with dwarfism, what if Fin were just an average Joe. I imagine it could work, and a good actor could have made the action-less film just as good, but then I think… why?
That new show “Preacher” could have featured a white Tulip. Apparently she was white in the comics, after all. But she works beautifully when played by Ruth Negga, a black actress (we won’t discuss the faux southern accent – haha).
And why not?
The world is a huge place, small as it seems at times, and in that whole vast world, there are billions of people with billions of stories. Their faces come in a thousand different colors, their sexual orientations may manifest a thousand different ways, they have be any number of gender identities.
So why do so many stories seem to feature cis-gender, heterosexual white males? Why is that the default?
Statistically speaking – white men isn’t the average Joe, and probably never really has been. But we because history was written by them – the eurocentric patriarchy is over-represented in literature and film.
I feel like that’s bullshit, and I feel like America is finally waking up to that fact – be it in small waves.
Movies and shows and books should reflect the world we actually live in – the one that is 50/50 male/female (well, to simplify we’ll keep the gender binary here, even though that’s really a deceptive thing to discuss), the one that has FOUR BILLION Asian people living it it (which is even more varied, given how many racial groups are represented there), that has 1.2 billion African folk living in it, with another 600 million in Central/South America (primarily of Latin ancestry, but with plenty of other groups mixed in), and about 1.2 billion Europeans/North Americans.
They should tell the tale of a man with dwarfism living in an old train depot. They should tell the tale of an agender person going to university in a deep south city. They should tell the tale of a black lesbian vampire hunter, or a south-east asian man in a wheelchair falling in love, or a young Samoan girl dealing with diaspora while living in rural Montana.
The traditional answer to the question of diversity has been to just… jam in a few ‘token’ characters of color, different gender, sexuality, or ability. The standard teen movies from the 90s will show that. Four white kids – fully fleshed out – with their one black/hispanic friend and maybe a gay. Or, if not LGBT+, then a kid in a wheelchair. Rarely any other sort of disability, but if so – definitely to be played for laughs/shock value depending on the genre of film.
Or worse, having white actors play characters of other races. Angelina Jolie is talented as fuck – but why did she have to wear black face to play Mariana Pearl in “A Mighty Heart”? There are thousands of talented actresses who could have taken the part. Why is ScarJo the lead in “Ghost in the Shell” rather than any Japanese actress? Why did Mickey Rooney play Mr. Yuniochi in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”? Why why why?
The better response, would be to eliminate tokenism by creating casts of characters that better reflect the world at large. Yes – some settings will demand different ratios – but people who say there can’t be a black person in a Regency movie need to do some f*cking research because it isn’t like black folk were invented in the 1950s. It wouldn’t make sense to have a sitcom set in Mexico City, cast like the main players of “Friends”, but a sitcom set in modern day New York City shouldn’t be 100% white. And the people of color/gender variants/sexual orientation shouldn’t be relegated to props, punchlines, or puerile stereotypes.
I know, I’m rambling.
This rant probably has no cohesion.
But it is on my mind more and more lately and I’ll tell you why.
My immediate circle is lily white. We’re white, we’re straight (well…), we’re cis-gender, we’re all US citizens.
And while some of us like to stretch our experience while roleplaying (for instance, my fighter of Indian-equivalence appearance, my Korean-inspired sorceress, my dusky-skinned lesbian gnome princess, my olive-skinned bisexual investigator – a male, fwiw) others seem puzzled by the experience.
Some of them would not want to pick up my book – despite enjoying my writing and the genre – because it features a dark-skinned protagonist. Or a lesbian heroine. Or a trans-man romantic lead.
It bums me out, to think that there are so many people afraid to look outside their immediate reality to experience what else is out there. To look beyond their own reflection to see who/what else exists in the world.
I feel like the more real diversity that we see in movies and books and tv, the more those people will be forced to re-examine what it is to be human and maybe stop being so resistant to anything but ‘straight white cis-gender guy’ as the “default”.
NOTE: Finished the movie. Loved it – but can’t say why. That’s the way a lot of films are, I guess. Different from “movies” where you can relate the plot in the number of bodies or explosions, but so… GOOD.
Note: Image is “the F word” by Josie (featuring EGIRLZ font)