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Regarding the Need For Diversity In Art

Updated on April 25, 2015

So I’ve made the argument in opposition of “diversity for diversity’s sake” on twitter a few times and I see that said argument gets a lot of opposition. Maybe its worthwhile to clarify where I stand on the issue, because you guys deserve clarification: its those token minority characters that show up in movies. You know the characters that are written into movies in a cynical effort by studios to try to convince you they’re ‘with the times?’ When applied to women this has also been referred to as the “Smurfette Principle.” If we judged movies based solely on their diversity, then films like SELMA and FRUITVALE STATION, ambitious works by talented filmmakers that tackle big issues in moving ways, would be grouped in with A MADEA CHRISTMAS.

So when I’ve said to write something organically into the narrative, I mean to avoid token minority characters. Things like the badass female (cough cough Black Widow cough) or the token Black/Mexican/Asian character don’t work as well as simply writing a character you see as LGBT/Non-white/female and which writing them as such is compelling to you. For example: I’m writing a surrealist novel which features a high school aged nerdy character solving a murder. I see that character as black, because that’s what compels me. One could argue that not enough people feel compelled to go that extra mile, which is an interesting point that merits exploration.

The other point that’s worth noting is when it seems desperate. That’s how somebody could say, back Idris Elba as James Bond but oppose Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm. Jordan’s a good actor, he’s a guy who has the potential to go down as one of the best in his generation, but the movie itself seems pointless. I think one can safely say that Fox has never helmed a successful FANTASTIC FOUR movie. They of course might be banking on nobody remembering the 2005 and 2007 films (which they really weren’t that long ago, so that’s a risky move to begin with), but I digress.

Fox is intimidated by the prospect of losing the property, the failures of their early ventures into the FANTASTIC FOUR universe didn’t quite pan out, and the diminishing box-office returns with Sony’s recent SPIDER-MAN reboot point to most of these properties eventually heading back to Marvel. Now a logical response would be: “well what’s your alternative if a black Johnny Storm seems 'desperate’? Just make the cast all-white?” Not necessarily. Why not have somebody else in the cast belong to a different ethnicity? No half-measures, take it further. Like what STAR WARS is doing right now. As it stands now, somebody could make an argument that Jordan’s casting isn’t a marketing effort to piggy-bank the growing interest in diversity in art. Unfortunately, from where I stand, that’s what it looks like.

To finish my earlier point comparing the discussions regarding Fantastic Four and Bond, the Bond franchise hasn’t been this good in a long time. It's a name that is beginning to establish themselves with quality. The recent iterations have had a predominately international cast, and have even written a Black Miss Moneypenny. This worked because she was just there. She was a part of the action, and the film didn’t think twice about her skin color. It worked. The time to experiment with the very notion of the James Bond character couldn’t be more opportune.

I suppose this is starting to come off like a bit of a rant. A premature one too, for all I know the new STAR WARS will suck and the new FANTASTIC FOUR will go over fine. Discussion of all opinions is welcome.


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