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Sunday, 21 January 2018

Drunk Uncle Doesn't Like Your New Star Wars

I've seen a few legit complaints about The Last Jedi, but I've seen a lot more that are - basically - the same old shit.

You know the shit of which I speak.

They're the reason why I am painfully aware of the term Forced Diversity, a string of syllables that comes packaged with its own brand of irony, which I will delve into in a moment. They're the ones that resent a character not being part of their acceptable list. "Wait, that guy just kissed ANOTHER guy? Why do they have to CROWBAR these (insert slur) into MY (insert name)? Why do they always have to be EVERYWHERE? Why do there have to be WOMEN everywhere? Ugh! (insert name) is RUINED!"

Sooooo okay.

Who amongst my readership has never heard of Eastenders? It's a long-running British soap opera, set in the east end of London. (Fun fact: most soap operas were labelled as such because they were sponsored by soap companies, because of course, daytime serials are mostly going to be watched by the woman of the house who does all the cleaning, right? Seriously, it's fucking everywhere.)

Eastenders has been running since 1985, and it's had over five thousand episodes, showing like five days a week or something. I don't watch it myself, but it was impossible to get away from knowing something about it back when I was a kid. A lot of our parents watched it, older siblings, the works.

Hands up who on my friends list has spent any time in the east end of London.

There weren't a lot of people of colour on Eastenders for as long as I was aware of it. Which, you know, coming from the Isle of Wight as I do - that didn't really seem that out-there to me. If you've ever been there, though - if you've been to most bits of London, in fairness, some more than others - you'd realise just how laughable that notion is.

Current demographics puts the population of London as being about 60% white folks - but if you take a look at distribution, most of them live around the outskirts of the Greater London area, the suburbs and such. So let's be conservative and say that Eastenders should probably have a fifty-fifty split.

It doesn't, obviously. And in the past, there's been kickbacks from the show introducing people of colour as characters. A couple years ago the producer - who has since quit - said that if he had to adhere to "box-ticking ethnic quotas", he'd resign.

Now doesn't that sentiment seem familiar?

Spoilers: Star Trek Discovery has two main characters, both men, in a relationship. I've heard this described as forced, too. Why do there HAVE to be a whole TWO gay/bi men on a starship with a standard crew compliment of about 140? It's the same thinking that led to complaints about Lieutenant Uhura, pressure to make her quit during the original series' first season, until she was talked down by none other than Dr. Martin Luther King Jr himself.

Herein we get to Forced Diversity.

Society built a wall, brick by brick, starting way back in history. It built a wall, and put everyone different to them on the other side of it. There, they stayed, because on one side of the wall - that was where all the money was, and all the political power. The walls stayed in place, because the people who could most effectively pull it down had no interest in doing so. As Dr King himself said - freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.

As the world swings ever closer to the 2020s, more and more, we're starting to see media actually reflect the world we live in. It's work, though. It's hard. Pushing through the walls that were built to keep out everyone that isn't a middle-aged middle-class white cis het male. There's a lot of those walls still standing, obviously - and so any reflection of the actual diversity of the world, even taking steps toward such diversity, HAS to be forced. It has to be forced against mandate, against the preconceived notion that the main character in the movie has to be a white dude.

It has to be forced against the people who decided to make a cut of The Last Jedi without any women on it, because there's no women in space, or something. It has to be forced against people who believe there's just no LGBTQA people anywhere, so they shouldn't be in movies or on TV or in comic books. It has to be forced past the decision-makers who decided that a forthcoming Netflix series based on Journey To The West (a classically Chinese story) only needed a single Asian actor. (Who is playing Sun Wukong for fuck's sake, I mean if any of the actors in a story about the MONKEY GOD can get away with not necessarily being Chinese, it's the MONKEY GOD. It's like the fuckup cherry on top of a fuckup cake.)

A lot of more conservative right-leaning folks like to make the argument that seeing LGBTQA folks or people of colour or anything that isn't them in a piece of media is some kind of values-pushing. Like their lack of acceptance is a position that deserves defending, and that any show of how reality actually works in the face of that position is an attack on them personally. I suppose that leads to the belief that the very existence of a black woman in Star Trek is likewise a personal attack, let alone a gay couple.

Well, feel free to tune yourselves out.

Because this is how the world is, how the world actually is, and the desperate scramble to try and keep it off of our movie screens and comic book pages is just another paroxysm of bigots losing their grip on our lives, an inch at a time.

You feel free to keep making your fan edits, and to keep cutting things out that you don't like. Get creative with it. Apply yourselves! Write a better movie, a better novel, a better show format, that only includes the things YOU want to exist. Go ahead and get it made.

We'll be over here celebrating the release of Black Panther, and ignoring your 47 minute misogyny-cut of Star Wars.

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