Lack of Intelligence (and Diversity)

Posted by on Jan 16, 2014 | 2 comments

Be Ye Warned, There are Spoilers Ahead

Most of you know that I’m a rabid consumer of television. Like a lot of kids my age, I was mostly raised by TV. I don’t say that as a bad thing, just a truth. I don’t watch as much as the “average American” whoever that represents, but I watch quite a bit. In particular I always give fantasy and science fiction shows a chance, in solidarity for my genre of choice.

I was pretty excited when I saw the previews for Intelligence start a couple of months ago. I find current-tech and near-future SciFi particularly exciting because I feel like it’s where science news and entertainment collide. I was pretty happy that Sawyer from Lost would be in something else again, and very excited that it looked like the main female character would get to have the protector role for a change. It seemed like a fun show all around.

I still think the base idea is a good one, but I have a HUGE problem with the execution of this show so far. There is a not a single person of color in the main cast. NOT. ONE. I had hopes Gabriel’s wife might become a recurring character (she was played by the amazing Zuleikha Robinson who I may or may not have crowed about on here already) but it appears now that won’t happen. Most likely because they are making room for a romantic subplot–UGH. In fact, it’s worse than that. Every single non-white character with lines so far has been a bad guy. Even the Chinese diplomat who helps them out comes off as shady.

Really, is this where we are now? I’m deeply disappointed. I know no one does these things on purpose. I’m not trying to lay blame, or claim they are overtly racist. Just put a TINY bit of thought of into your casting. That’s all I ask. Listen, I’m super pleased Intelligence has a woman kicking ass and a woman in charge, really I am. But we can do so much better. We HAVE to do better.

What got me ticked off enough today to write a ranty blog post about this was a few clips from a very cool documentary on black voices in Science Fiction from the 90s. If you don’t want to watch all three videos (though I highly recommend all of them, especially the one with Nichelle Nichols) here’s the salient point queued up for you: Mike Sargeant on black characters in science fiction. As a society, we need solid, meaty non-white characters. It’s important for all of us because diversity exists, and it needs to be celebrated.

I’m making it a personal goal of mine to have at least half of all characters in my stories from this point on be non-white. I’m going to try for not only racial diversity, but ethnic diversity as well. That takes a little more effort, and a little more research, but I think the process and results will be worthwhile.

Rants and ranties,

-C

2 Comments

  1. I was pretty excited about Intelligence as well–although, since I don’t have cable, I will have to be patient and hope the show arrives at Netflix soon.
    I’ve had similar thoughts about featuring diversity in my stories, as my characters do seem to come up consistently white, and more often than not, male. The thing is, since I’m white and female, (so I know what I like in my men 😉 ) that is what comes naturally for me to write. Can I write a believable character with a background different than my own?
    I think it will be an interesting challenge, and one I think is worth pursuing.

  2. Hi Kirsten!

    I’ve been thinking and reading a lot about this, obviously, and I’ve found a couple of pages that deal with how exactly you go about writing another identity.

    http://mediadiversified.org/2013/12/19/how-to-write-women-of-colour-and-men-of-colour-if-you-are-white/
    http://www.buzzfeed.com/danieljoseolder/fundamentals-of-writing-the-other

    Those are two of my favorites. Mostly it’s about empathy and reading enough to understand the situation of the point of view you’re trying to write from. It’s definitely daunting to consider, but I’ve already written from points of view that aren’t mine so I think I can apply the same principles.

    -C

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