Originally posted on Tumblr on October 16, 2013 as an unedited, stream-of-consciousness piece.
We meet again, Fandom, when it comes to talking about diversity.
The good news is that it’s not Star Wars that is the culprit/subject of this piece today but rather Agents of SHIELD. To be more specific, it’s some of the viewers and commenters. I’m not in the mood for flowery language today so we’ll cut right to the chase:
You do not get to decide who counts as white based purely upon what you think they are.
Since Agents of SHIELD started, plenty of people have been quick to note how white the show is with the exception of Ming-Na Wen as Agent Melinda May. While I am all for more diversity and for calling out shows when they lack it, there’s just one problem here: Agents of SHIELD stars two actresses of color.
I will be the first to admit that Joss Whedon has not been the best about casting a diverse mix of actors in his shows. Angel was slightly better than Buffy the Vampire Slayer with the inclusion of Gunn and Dollhouse had both Boyd and Sierra but they were all still overwhelmingly white casts. And let’s be honest: there’s really no excusing Firefly with its Chinese-American culture fusion and not a single Asian to be found amongst the main cast. So this is not me being a Whedon apologist.
Actress Chloe Bennet plays Skye, the hacker for Team Coulson. Bennet, despite what some people on the internet might think, is biracial as her father is Chinese and her mother is American/white. (She also had a singing career in Beijing which is pretty darn cool. That girl is incredibly accomplished for being only 21.) This does, in fact, make her a woman of color. For those keeping track, this means that a third of the main cast is comprised of Asian women. While I can grudgingly understand that not everyone looks at her and automatically recognizes that she is biracial, some of the comments that people have made when informed otherwise have been a bit unsettling. Many of them can be boiled down to “Well, she can pass for white so she doesn’t count towards the ~visual~ diversity of the cast.”
Originally posted at Tosche Station on July 2, 2013
Casting rumors have been flying around rampantly almost as long as we’ve known about the Sequel Trilogy and with the recently leaked Episode VII casting breakdown, it seemed like a good time to tackle an issue that’s been bothering me a lot lately: the lack of diversity in leading roles in the Star Wars galaxy when it comes to gender, race, and species.
The Star Wars galaxy is an incredibly diverse place. There is an in-numerous amount of different species in the galaxy far far away all living on hundreds upon hundreds of different planets. So why is it the default in Star Wars films and literature to (almost) always make the protagonist a white male?
Think I’m exaggerating? I recently completed a reread of 130 Expanded Universe books. Out of those 130, only 15 of those books had a leading character who was not a straight white man, excluding books that you could potentially argue are led by Skywalker women. Five of those books are the Republic/Imperial Command novels and I’m even including books like The Cestus Deception and The Approaching Storm which were co-led by aliens and (you guessed it) a straight white male. 15 out of 130. That’s about 12%. In a galaxy where I couldn’t even name all of the alien species if I tried? I haven’t sat down and looked at every single main book in the Expanded Universe but I reckon that number wouldn’t rise much above 15%. That’s pretty bad and unfortunately, the films don’t do any better.
Star Wars is an epic universe that is ripe with opportunity for diversity. This is science fiction we’re talking about here. To quote writer Jane Espenson, “And if we can’t write diversity into sci-fi, then what’s the point? You don’t create new worlds to give them all the same limits of the old ones.” If the vast majority of the named cast is white and mostly male, then the creators are failing at truly embracing the core tenants of what science fiction should be about. What really makes all of this jarring is when you watch the films (especially the Prequel Trilogy) and see the wide variety of species and races in the background. It’s not that the writers and the character designers and the special effects artists are lacking in imagination because clearly those characters and those ideas are there. So why haven’t we been seeing more Star Wars stories with more diversity in the forefront? Continue reading