Wednesday 13 August 2014

Compartmentalizing the Entertainment Experience

That is a rather obtuse title, but it's something I have been considering for the past few days.

I adored Guardians of the Galaxy - I mean, I loved it to little pieces, and couldn't find fault with it.

Right up until I read tweets and blog posts and Facebook statuses talking about where the movie falls down in terms of diversity, in terms of POC and the way that women are represented. And I realised that they were all right. The movie DOES have faults.

And then I wondered why I wasn't able to see these issues.

It isn't the first time this has happened either. When reading epic fantasy, it has taken me a long time to realise that female characters are treated badly. I took ages to think about the impact of women warriors being represented on covers with boob armour. Often it takes thoughtful feminist posts by such commentators as Kameron Hurley to encourage me to view the world as it should be - rich and diverse, and deserving of multiple viewpoints being represented in our entertainment.

It's weird because, while commissioning novels for Strange Chemistry, I ensured a tapestry of different characters were represented - obviously the most prominent is Micah Grey from Laura Lam's Pantomime and Shadowplay, an intersex character (it took Laura's quiet reproving correction before I moved away from the term hermaphrodite), but also included gay characters, a Chinese protagonist represented on the book cover, POC, an ADHD character, and Mexican protagonists.

I have argued passionately about the need for teens to see diverse characters represented in their fiction, and yet I was taught a lesson by Cassandra Rose Clarke in The Assassin's Curse and The Pirate's Wish, where I automatically assumed that a key female character was in love with a man when she talked about the love she had lost. We are shown that, in fact, it is a lesbian relationship, and all my preconceptions were turned on my head.

Am I sexist? Am I racist? Am I against diversity?

I wouldn't say I am, but then it often takes someone else pointing out problems with books and films for me to take on board those same issues.

I think I genuinely compartmentalize my brain when watching films like Guardians of the Galaxy, and reading books like the Wheel of Time. I don't activate the part that thinks about true representation - the part that was activated when acquiring novels for teens. I don't look out for problematic portrayals, or identify issues that may cause existing stereotypes to be continued and enforced.

And I think now that I need to open my mind properly. I need to be conscious of diversity and its lack, and need to join my voice to those talking about this issues. I need to stop compartmentalizing.

1 comment:

  1. I think it's possible to read on different levels. I didn't used to notice that all animal characters in children's books were male - but I went back and read Jonathan Livingston Seagull recently (not that that's completely a children's book) and couldn't believe there isn't a single female bird. But at the same time, it didn't move the book out of my reach as a child.