Broaden Your Diversity Horizons

Insisting that only women/creators of color should write women/characters of color is part of the problem.

It’s an inevitable protestation brought up every time a comic company announces a new comic about a character that’s not a white guy. Most recently, the internet is all aflutter because Brian Bendis (who happens to be white) is writing Riri Williams, the black teenage girl who’s going to be the new Iron Man. Some parts of the internet want to see a WOC on the book instead. While I can most certainly appreciate the sentiment behind the movement, I find it to be a little more harmful than helpful for two very big reasons.

First, it sends the message that only women should write women or POCs should write POCs. For some books, having creators who have had the same life experiences as the characters is absolutely invaluable. Very few people would disagree that the life experiences of Sana Amanat and G. Willow Wilson do not play a fundamental role in creating Kamala Khan. Ta-Nehisi Coates also brings a unique point of view to his Black Panther book. So yes, there are absolutely some books that require a creative team with that intimate knowledge and strongly benefit from it. Every book doesn’t. In a way, it’s almost insulting to those everyone involved. Writers are supposed to have imaginations. If they only wrote about things they specifically experienced, fiction would be terribly boring.

Second, I truly believe that it actively discourages white male writers from creating characters of color. Bendis and artist Stefano Caselli get credit for creating Riri and hey, this is hardly the first time Bendis has created a young black character to take over the mantel of a white guy… Miles Morales anyone? Objectively speaking, why would someone want to create a diverse character when they know they’re just going to be faced with backlash for wanting to write a character they’ve made? I’m not saying we need to give white guys a gold star for making diverse characters but maybe a little credit or a nod of appreciation wouldn’t hurt.

The solution isn’t to stop asking for more women and minorities to get jobs creating comics (and everything else) we love so much. Instead, the solution is to ask for it more broadly and praise it when it happens. We should celebrate the work of Marjorie Liu on Han Solo and Becky Cloonan on Punisher a hell of a lot more than we do. To me, assignments like those are more groundbreaking than if Liu had been asked to write a Rey book or Cloonan a Wasp book (although I would not object to either of those.) Start bringing up the names of female and POC creators on your wish lists for books like Batman and Wolverine and not just Wonder Woman and Spider-Woman. And yes. I hope that in fifteen years, there’s going to be a young black woman writing the adventures of Riri because the character inspired her as a kid.

But (and this is a big but) let’s not pigeonhole or discourage writers from writing diverse experiences. We should absolutely continue to make our voices be heard in asking for more diversity amongst both the characters and creators. Change happens because people speak up and show that there is a demand for a certain type of story or character. Hold companies accountable but do so broadly and not just in a narrow lane.

The Diversity Wars: A Letter and An Offering

My Dearest Fellow Diversity Bloggers,

It has come to my attention that we must yet again fight the #WheresFemaleCharacter War. This shall be dubbed the First Battle of Rey as we shall undoubtedly take up her standard and charge forth into the front lines of war in the weeks following the release of The Force Awakens and then likely yet again in Second and Third Battles of Rey with Episodes VIII and IX.

But these have not been the only battles we have fought, my worthy Capable Lady Warriors. Oh no. For we have all stood together and raised the cry of #WheresHera and #WheresBlackWidow in the First Battle of the Rebel Ladies and the Second Battle of the Avengers to name but a few of the hills where we have drawn our swords. We were all there for #WheresGamora and we routinely fight in the Battle of Will Someone Please Just Give Us A Decent Action Figure Of Leia In Something Besides The Metal Bikini. (At least there’s good news from the front lines on that last one.)

As much as I value all of your efforts, my dear Capable Lady Warriors, I also value your time. Our energy is far more useful in the trenches of Twitter than in having the write essentially the same column again. In an attempt to save us all some time, I have written the below form article for us to all use when posting yet another one of these articles. Please feel free to use as you deem necessary although to be honest, we’ve all had to do this so often that we could most likely write these pieces in our sleep.

So make use of the below and then run forth to Twitter and carry our banner high! We’ll win this war one marketing battle at a time.

Best Regards,
Bria

HeraIt seems that the toy and merchandise companies can’t seem to take a hint. For every Target who stops separating their toys by gender, we find another example where a leading female character has been excluded. I recently found this __(Insert Product)__ at __(Insert Store)__ and while it featured all of the main male characters, __(Insert Excluded Lady)__ was nowhere to be found. Given that she is one of the leading characters, this is ridiculous. Apparently it’s time to start a #Wheres__(Lady)___ hashtag. Again.

This is not the first time that this has happened with __(Marvel/Star Wars)__. __(Marvel/Star Wars)__ previously routinely excluded __(Hera and sometimes Sabine/Gamora)__ from much of their __(Rebels/Guardians of the Galaxy)__ merchandise and also __(Padme and Ahsoka/Black Widow)__ from their __(Star Wars/Avengers)__ products. It’s not just getting ridiculous—it’s been ridiculous. __(Franchise)__ should have long since gotten the memo that girls like __(Franchise)__ just as much as boys. By not acknowledging the existing market, they are yet again alienating these women and young girls. Finally, __(Company)__ needs to realize that excluding women from products that feature an entire team not only shows how tone deaf they are but also sends a bad message to the young boys they are supposedly marketing to. Women are not lesser and are absolutely an equal part of the team. They should not be excluded from products that feature that team.

So come on, __(Company)__. Stop excluding __(Lady)__ from the __(Franchise)__ products and making us as #Wheres__(Lady)__. It’s getting real old real fast.

 

All-Ages Comics With Queer Representation, Part 3: Revenge of the Recommendations

Character and/or relationship spoilers for several comics lay below. Be warned.

Several months have passed since my last list of excellent comics with excellent queer major characters for excellent younger folk and it seems long over to revisit the topic with three more recommendations! This time, by sheer coincidence, all three comics feature queer women of color.

To the comics! Continue reading

Why Science Fiction Must Err on the Side of Diversity

On Friday the Supreme Court made an historic 5-4 ruling that legalized same-sex marriage throughout the entire United States. Although there is still much to be done, this is a huge step forward in the gay rights movement. Heck, it’s a huge step forward in the quest for human rights in general.

But Tosche Station isn’t a blog focused on current events or politics or even social justice (as much as some people would like to believe). We’re a blog about Star Wars, about fandom, about geek culture. That includes science fiction which, believe it or not, is a genre greatly affected by the Supreme Court ruling. Because from now on, if you create any sort of Earth-based science fiction set in the near or far future and you don’t include married couples of both the same and opposite sex, you’re doing it wrong.

Continue reading

Awesome Con 2015 – Convention Report

AC_2015_LOGO_DC_DARKAnother year, another awesome Awesome Con. As promised, this still relatively young convention headed by Ben Penrod pulled together another great show that left attendees happy and content by the end of Sunday. When you look around the hall, it’s hard to remember that Awesome Con is a mere three years old and that it was mostly confined to a hall perhaps a quarter of the size of its current location in its inaugural year in 2013. While it’s true that DC was thirsty for a convention just like this, what has really helped Awesome Con succeed is its willingness to listen, learn, and correct its mistakes. Last year, the biggest complaint was over registration. They were prepared this year and no one was forced to wait outside in the heat thanks to a combination of changing their precise location within the convention center, mailing out 3-day badges to those who preordered in time, and having a huge area dedicated to registration and entering. Panel lines also appeared to be managed much better this year with some rooms actually being dedicated line spaces for the larger rooms.

One of the great things about Awesome Con is that it’s hard to get bored. The convention hall was even bigger then last year, featuring tons of dealers, lots of great artists, and even a corner for all things Star Wars. The aisles are adequately wide enough so that one never felt claustrophobic trying to get through the crowds. The convention also made good use of the expanse convention center building. What fascinated me was how freaking huge that convention center is. I thought there was only the building used the previous two years but oh no. There is way more then that which is great news is Awesome Con wants to keep growing larger and larger. Space won’t be an issue any time soon.

Detouring back for a moment, the Star Wars corner was a great addition to the convention as a one stop shop for all the GFFA action. The local 501st, Rebel Legion, and Mandalorian Mercs groups all had tables set up as did the Artoo Builders and the local DC Collectors. The corner also featured Rob and Leanne Hannah; creators of the Blue Milk Special web comic. As someone who was fresh off a Star Wars centric convention, I loved this area of the floor because it felt like home.  The Star Wars corner also hosted ‘Blast a Trooper’ for charity which is exactly what it sounds like.  My hat is off to those brave souls who were willingly shot at with nerf guns in the name of charity. Continue reading

Moff Mors and the Importance of First Impressions

Lords of the SithApril 28 saw the release of Paul S. Kemp’s Lords of the Sith, the fourth novel in the new story-group approved canon, of which you can read our spoiler-free reviews here and Brian’s more in-depth review here. Along with being the first of the new books to focus on Darth Vader, Lords of the Sith holds the distinction of introducing the new canon’s first LGBTQIA+ character, Moff Delian Mors.

I found Moff Mors to be an interesting character and a welcome addition to the Galaxy Far, Far Away. Unfortunately, her introduction is handled with far less care than one would hope. Continue reading

Thank You, Kathleen Kennedy

Kathleen Kennedy is my master now.

Before Celebration Anaheim, it was cool to be a fangirl. Last Thursday morning, Kathleen Kennedy made it respectable.

I was already super excited for The Force Awakens panel, which opened Celebration Anaheim in the most explosive manner possible. But I didn’t realize how excited I was about the future of the franchise until I saw Kennedy walk onstage in a Star Wars t-shirt. And not just any shirt, but the new Her Universe lightsaber shirt that debuted at Celebration, which she purchased with her own money because she wanted something to wear for the panel. She rocked it with a white blazer, and you’re stupid if you don’t think millions of women are going to copy that look.

This is a huge deal. Kennedy has been a fixture in Hollywood for decades, and George Lucas entrusted her ahead of lots and lots of qualified individuals to take over the reigns of Star Wars. One of her first actions as head of Lucasfilm was to decide that the franchise would move forward as one story while respecting its vast history. She’s a hugely respected producer and brings a ton of credibility as Lucas’s successor. I’m more confident than ever in her ability to help tell great stories and be a steward for this varied, diverse, wonderful fandom.

The most important thing isn’t that Kennedy herself is a woman, but rather the fact that she accepts this fandom is so diverse. She understands it, and embraces it. She insisted on purchasing a Her Universe shirt with her own money just so she could support the business. During The Force Awakens panel she specifically mentioned the lack of female representation in the franchise’s history, and assured everyone there would be lots more women characters going forward. I can’t overemphasize how important it is to have the panel host, director J.J. Abrams, and Kennedy discuss the negative reaction to the first cast photo and say they’ve heard those arguments and agree with them. And Kennedy isn’t someone merely looking to take advantage of an untapped demographic, or bow down to “the feminists”. She’s part of that demographic, and wants to rectify the lazy, incorrect assumption that women and girls don’t like Star Wars. (If you believe that, you obviously weren’t in attendance at Celebration Anaheim, because women and girls were everywhere.) As far as Kennedy is concerned, everyone likes Star Wars, and she wants to make sure they feel welcomed and represented in fandom and the franchise.

I’ve never felt more comfortable with the future of Star Wars than after that panel. You could feel the excitement in the air just watching from the overflow room, not to mention the unadulterated happiness at seeing BB-8, the new cast, the old cast, the new stormtroopers, and finally, the teaser trailer. The crowd was so enthusiastic they had to show the teaser twice. I laughed, I cried, I got goosebumps, I clutched hands with my neighbors, I kissed my husband. And in the back of my mind I was thinking thank you, Kathleen Kennedy. Thank you for understanding that Star Wars is for everyone. Thank you for making us so happy with the greatest teaser trailer I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Thank you for agreeing to be a part of the Star Wars family. Thank you for making it accepted and respected to be a fangirl. Thank you for being someone I can look up to.

Thank you for helping make Celebration Anaheim the best one yet.

Chewie, we’re home.

All-Ages Comics With Queer Representation, Part 2: More Recommendations

Character and/or relationship spoilers for several comics lay below. Be warned.

A few months ago I shared a few all-ages comics I enjoy that include prominent characters that fall outside of the heterosexual cisgender mold. The list of excellent all-ages media with queer content, while still much shorter than one would hope, continues to grow, and thus I happily find myself writing a part 2 to that recommendation post! Without further ado, here are a few more fun all-ages comics with queer representation.

Continue reading

Separating the Art from the Artist: Why I’m Torn About Lords of the Sith

Lords of the SithI don’t want to feel conflicted about this, but there’s no way around it.

It goes without saying that an LGBTQ+ character being introduced into the Star Wars story group era canon is unequivocally a good thing. Any step to diversify one of the most prolific and powerful pieces of entertainment in the world is welcome. Despite this obvious good news, I can’t help but be wary. Not because I don’t doubt there are good intentions by the story group and the folks at Del Rey, but because the author who is introducing this character has a pretty dubious history when it comes to speaking about diversity.

Continue reading

Star Wars canon to introduce first LGBT character

Lords of the SithBryan Young at Big Shiny Robot has the scoop: Paul S. Kemp’s Lords of the Sith will feature the first LGBT character of the new story group era.

Moff Mors is an Imperial who has made some very serious mistakes but she is an incredibly capable leader and spends much of the book working hard to prevent absolute failure. She also happens to be a lesbian.

Awesome. What’s more, Bryan sat down with Del Rey’s Editor-at-Large Shelly Shapiro to talk diversity in Star Wars and Star Wars literature in a recent Full of Sith episode.

This is certainly the first character in canon,” Shapiro says. “But there was a gay Mandalorian couple, so it’s not brand new. It’s not something I really think about, it just makes sense. There’s a lot of diversity–there should be diversity in “Star Wars.”

Emphasis added. Well put, Ms. Shapiro.

Be sure to head to the Big Shiny Robot link above for more information.