Forum > Mediterranean Avenue > In your opinion, how important is representation in fictional works?
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"In your opinion, how important is representation in fictional works?", 12 days ago, 7:28 PM #1
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Today I was asked a particularly intresting question by my aunt who ended up coming across one of my sketchbooks. She asked me why are so many of my characters white instead of black. I laughed a bit, because funny enough most of my characters are actually either races I made up or asian and she seemed to just not be able to tell the diffrence. But when I pointed her to the black characters I do focus on, such as Minerva from Baxton is not a Hero, she complained that they didn't particularly act black.


So here is my opinion on that matter:





What about you guys? I mainly made this thread because I was interested in your opinions on the matter as well, how important do you feel representation is in fictional works? Not at all? Somewhat? Extremely important?


What about non-fiction or any other forms of media?
12 days ago, 7:37 PM #2
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i always go with the phrase "its a story, not a company. your not trying to make a people quota."

representation can be nice, but it doesint need to be shoved into every little corner. its also best not to be shoved in because then its only seen as a negative. thats not what you want as a first impression when representing.

it also doesint help when people go "they dont act black." "or they dont act gay." because that vision was built by past media who shoved them in without a care. giving them the stereotypical personality's. like a super feminine gay guy or the ghetto gangster from the hood.

everyone needs some representation, but there is a time and a place for it. its better to help build itself standing alone then shoving it into someone elses shadow or trying to hoard the spotlight.
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12 days ago, 7:53 PM #3
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i don't think representation is really necessarily meant to cure bigots, it's primarily for the people who are being represented, right?
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12 days ago, 7:57 PM #4
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I think representation is important but it's not something you should do for social brownie points.

So don't get discouraged if you want to make a story with a main character who's outside the norm of what's expected, just make sure who your character is comes first.
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12 days ago, 8:02 PM #5
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I tend to have a bit of a negative brain reaction when people start talking about unnecessarily shoving representation in. I know it's probably not meant in the way my mind jumps to, but it has been used before as an excuse not to include certain kinds of people. In that situation I'd prefer people were just honest and admitted "it's because I don't want to." I mean, I'm not saying anyone should feel they have to include everyone ever, but I feel like as creators we do have a little bit of a responsibility to not make everyone the same.

I agree with some points made so far, in a sort of 'you do you! Include who you want to' kind of sense. I do also agree that it's important for minority characters to come across as characters first and foremost, but thought does still need to go into how they're portrayed. (In regards to what makes them different)

I do think that well written characters can change minds, maybe not every mind, but it can help. Certainly, in a more abstract, nation wide way, decent representation can change societal attitudes... And it has.

In addition, representation can make people feel seen and valid. Up until recently I'd barely ever seen anyone like me and media, and when they did appear I didn't really relate to them, because they never behaved or thought like me. Now I feel like I'm getting my first ever taste of characters I can truly relate to, and I feel amazing. I genuinely believe it's helped my confidence a lot. It's insane how much it's helped me, and part of the reason why I decided I will never create a work without at least one LGBT+ character.

Edit: Kyo nailed it.
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12 days ago, 8:08 PM #6
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For me I think the idea is to give people who don't usually get represented well in fiction (or at all), characters that aren't eh insulting in some way. This doesn't mean everyone who writes something is obligated to represent characters who we don't see handled well in fiction, but if your story's in a real world context that has lots of diverse characters, it's good to not write them in a way that isn't considerate. This doesn't have to conflict with every character having their own personality and identity before anything else (I agree with this)

In the end though I'm also of the mind that you should create a story any way you want, there's also lots of grey area here with author intent, satire, etc. So I don't want to come across sanctimonious like it's something everyone's obligated to do, but it's also weird imo that there are kneejerk reactions at all to characters that we don't normally see in fiction. It should be normalized really IMO, and just feel natural to see. Also Buakaw and Sanchai made me want to train in Thailand once upon a time, good choices lol
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12 days ago, 8:14 PM #7
I think representation is important in comics and stories. Allowing people to see themselves in your stories, and the impression you leave on others can educate and change their worldview. But, quite simply, if there is an option between choosing representation and not and I were to find myself rationalizing why I'm not being inclusive, I'd have to take a real pause to think about why.
12 days ago, 8:16 PM #8
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It is important, but the variation between works should be high enough that the only meaningful data is from aggregate analysis, not individual cases.

To put more simply, "we have a problem with society because adding up all works for last year, 80% of characters were ___" is a valid critique, but "this work has a problem because of the five characters, four were ____" is not. That's a very important distinction to make.

There are many valid artistic reasons for an individual work to focus on some subset - historical basis, actor availability, the topic of the story, or even just artist unfamiliarity. And we naturally do not want all our stories to be the same in any aspect. But, across an entire population's artistic output, they should average out - the same number of people writing X-focused stories should also be writing Y-focused stories (proportional to the relative populations of X and Y). So if there were no external social factors, things should balance out correctly across the entire corpus, while still having enough variance that individual stories can have wildly different levels of representation.

Now, I think most people here would agree that there are in fact external social factors at play, which we are trying to eliminate but have not yet done so, because an examination of our media in aggregate shows a lot of disproportional representation. And I think it is a rational position to argue that, until we've balanced out the rest of our society, it might be worth deliberately compensating for that and pushing extra diversity in our media. But I also think it's rational to argue that that should not override artistic concerns, and that you should take care not to fall into certain tropes and stereotypes (eg. the classic 90s white/black/asian/hispanic/handicapped five-man band) while doing so.

Basically:
1) Don't force diversity beyond what your premise and your own capabilities permit. (Bad representation can be worse than no representation)
2) Don't be lazy with representation. (You shouldn't be lazy with your art in general, but especially not here)
3) Within the limits of (1), aim for as much diversity as possible. (A varied cast of characters is itself beneficial to a story)
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12 days ago, 8:16 PM #9
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good rep normalizes minorities--a kid who grows up seeing gay couples on TV probably isn't going to end up as a homophobe. you can tell good rep from brownie point rep by looking at the creators of the work. if it's got a diverse cast but the entire creative team is the majority group, well...

there's also a distinction between indie creators and large companies. overall i believe that creators should make whatever they want, and [insert criticism of how capitalism shuts out smaller creators in favor of monopolies] it's up to the audience to accept, reject, or criticize the work. every story doesn't need every kind of rep. (although i've found that putting in the effort to represent more than just the majority group results in higher quality, since it's harder to force all your characters into the same bland template)

large companies, on the other hand, play to the bottom line rather than the story they want to tell. there will be focus groups, an analysis of what casts will gain the most interest, and the final decision will rely on what's going to make the most money. to some extent, works made by large corporations are a distant reflection of our own progressiveness. if a large company tosses a trans character into their mainstream movie, it's sure as fuck not a reason to give them your money, but it does indicate that they ran the numbers and found that the loss of the bigot demographic is outweighed by general favorable opinion of (or apathy towards) that group.

tldr do what you want, screw corporations, reflect on whether adding diversity to your work might make your characters more distinctive and fun to write
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12 days ago, 8:32 PM #10
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Kyo:i don't think representation is really necessarily meant to cure bigots, it's primarily for the people who are being represented, right?


Well....yes that's mostly correct. I mainly put that in as well as the phrase "simple minded people will be simple minded" admittedly because it was mainly a jest at such individuals whom refuse to acknowledge the group said characters are supposed to be representing as legitimate or mock them for their intentions in the off chance that targeting such viewers is the specific intention of some writers.

I have a knack for using strong language, but I am aware people have the capability to change for the better. It's usually why I don't particularly take issue with words like "moron" or "stupid" because these are things such individuals have the opportunity to change about their character, well at least as long as you can back those assertions up with evidence.


I can edit that statement if necessary.
12 days ago, 8:53 PM #11
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My comic is specie-ist since there's no humans. There are a low amount of reptiles, somewhat uncommon number of birds represented, no bugs or aquatic creatures. Feel free to sue me or write an angry article. The story is also not a gay couple romance either.
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12 days ago, 9:05 PM #12
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Kyo:i don't think representation is really necessarily meant to cure bigots, it's primarily for the people who are being represented, right?


I don't think it will cure bigots, but I do think it might inoculate people against becoming bigots. If someone comes up and tries to persuade you that (e.s.g.) cat owners are the cause of all the problems in the world and they're evil, conniving, vicious people who want to feed your babies to satan and don't recycle... you're going to be a lot less likely to fall for it if your mental picture of cat owners is shaped by positive or even neutral media, than if you have no exposure to them at all. Once you empathize with them as characters, it becomes harder to dehumanize them as people.

If harsh, negative portrayals in media can make it easier for hatred to take root, positive portrayals in media ought to make it harder.
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12 days ago, 9:18 PM #13
yesterday, you said junoro
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To answer the main question put forth in the thread's title, representation is very important!

You bring up an interesting thought, Mightguy, when you say that your own characters exist outside of their races. I know a lot of people who 'don't see' race in their work, too. However, for many people, it is a huuuge point of their personality and identity. It definitely plays a role in how I look at the world.

(Whenever an indigenous character shows up in fiction, I'm intrigued, but also super worried that the author is going to just slap our real-world stereotypes onto them. Like if indigenous people exist in a world very closely related to ours, how is an author going to tackle the effects of government interference in their lives throughout the past centuries? Or, if it's a fantasy world, is the author going to lump all indigenous people together? Is the author going to plaigirize real-life stories from real people to try to make the fantasy world more 'real'?)

It really depends on your worldbuilding. If your world has distinct races that developed with unique cultures, then race will probably matter a lot to some of your characters. As a reader of fiction, I'll be impressed if I see characters who are well-rounded, interesting people that show some interesting facet of humanity that I don't see often. Bonus points if they speak to a part of myself that I don't see much, too!
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12 days ago, 9:30 PM #14
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One another important thing from the great points already brought up is also the long term benefit of representation - having new generations of creators and people in general that aren't thinking about "default" or "normal" people features and generally aren't going to fight off ideas to go out of that box.

If you tell mainstream media to create a major character(important note, since with an extra you can get away with more) and give them nothing else, it's usually going to be a white guy. Lots of interviews and behind-the-scenes information show a LOT of higher ups that tell people to "justify" why a character is a woman, neurodivergent, LGBT+, etc, because in their mind, if there's no immediate plot reason, gotta go back to the white guy. Sometimes it's going to be a lady or person of color, because they know that gets people to notice the work - but that's usually not necessarily about the good portrayal and more just marketing.

If someone grows up reading well represented works, they won't be thinking of that default, they'll just be thinking of what sounds cool at the moment, and theorically will be more open to variety that isn't immediately relevant to a story. Kinda like lots of people on twitter watching She-Ra with their kids or little siblings, where a lot actually told their parent/sibling that they kinda saw some of the lgbt relationships coming instead of pairing whatever couple of male and female characters they knew and having those expectations. That's already a group of people that won't go "well Hero Guy needs to get together with Action Girl at the end" because they're instead looking for what characters seem to have chemistry or have cute moments, and some might grow to create more of that. Small step yes, but that's from representation, instead of just hoping they'll get on the internet and immediately understand this worldview they were never exposed to before.
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12 days ago, 9:46 PM #15
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reddog f.13:

it also doesint help when people go "they dont act black." "or they dont act gay." because that vision was built by past media who shoved them in without a care. giving them the stereotypical personality's. like a super feminine gay guy or the ghetto gangster from the hood.


Firstly, I agree with the entirety of your statement whole heartadly.

As for the quote, man I can't tell you how annoyed i get when people do that. I am black, and people used to tell me that all the time, especially in high school. Specifically, they used to tell me "why do I talk so white."


I'd be like, dude tf are you talking about. It's not a "black" thing to be unable to articulate a sentence with words from a dictionary, you can do that right now. As for the second point, you have a point about that as well.

It's funny, I should be thanking you. You actually made me realize something....

It's always been a curious thing to me how much media plays into how people think, although I think a primary culprit is how much some people allow media to be integrated into their culture. For example, about the aforementioned gentlemen that mentioned that to me in high school, I used to think they were just talking like that because they were just idiots trying to be cool. That culture was very popular where I was growing up, even among people who didn't particularly prioritize practicing it. But the slang and the lingo was all real. Thing is, a lot of those individuals grew up under parents who absolutely relished in that stuff, as in the violent hip hop and growing up under media from the 90s that portrayed black people in some pretty unfavorable lights some of the time.


It was pretty much night and day to how I grew up. I lived with my great aunt and uncle and cousin, all former military veterans with my uncle having served in Vietnam (he's fine, but he lost a majority of his hearing and he used to piss me off because we have to yell at him all day). They all happen to also be massive nerds my uncle being into boxing, cars, trucks, and military vehicles; my aunt being into movies, dramas, and comedies; and my cousin who I spent the most time around, was into manga, comics and cartoons (as some of you looking at my weeb azz ava and webcomics can tell she was the biggest supporter of my hobby since the beginning).




It kind of makes me realize how much media can change someone, and it kinda of makes me imagine either or not I'd be a different person if some things about my past were altered to cater to a very different culture.


I dunno, do I sound crazy?
12 days ago, 9:49 PM #16
What a sucker
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Nah, that sounds rational.
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12 days ago, 9:56 PM #17
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Depends on how important it is to you as a creator and an audience member.

For me, as an audience member, I don't particularly care. I don't watch, view or read media for characters that are like me or represent me. If I wanted that, I'd just look into a mirror all day; I want to see media with characters that are completely different from me. It also really depends on the type of media it is, the genre, the context, and what I intend to get out of it as a viewer (entertainment, insight, new ideas, new experiences, etc.).

I've seen a handful of media that represents my specific race and ethnic background, written BY said race/ethnic background and have never really been too pleased with it. It just never really appeals to me and I don't entirely feel that it's good representation of me, or for me. But I also say this knowing that specific media isn't necessarily made for me or meant to appeal to my specific experiences as someone in that racial group.

That being said, I don't think that creators should be held back to portray characters however they wish. If that includes a realistic or unrealistic portrayal, that's no skin off my teeth and I don't really have much room to complain considering it's not my creative project. In the end, it's fiction. Constructive critique, however, is valid but I think people get too preoccupied over fictional characters when they could focus that energy elsewhere.

It's considerably easier to complain about something than to create an entire project, story or comic from the ground up and I think it's very lazy for people to complain about not being represented or being misrepresented in the latest, most popular series or story compared to doing your own project and focusing that there. In the end, that's someone elses' creative project, and the only thing keeping you from making the story you want to tell, with the representation that you want, is yourself. As a consumer, however, that's a bit different and I encourage you to weigh your options.

That being said, no one is obligated to pay any attention to your project regardless of what the idea is or who it is meant to represent, so it's your responsibility to make it stand out on its' own. Otherwise, I absolutely encourage people to create the things that make them happy and tell their stories how they want. :)
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12 days ago, 10:08 PM #18
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Definitely agree. Thank you for sharing!
12 days ago, 10:18 PM #19
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mightguy15:Firstly, I agree with the entirety of your statement whole heartadly.

As for the quote, man I can't tell you how annoyed i get when people do that. I am black, and people used to tell me that all the time, especially in high school. Specifically, they used to tell me "why do I talk so white."


I'd be like, dude tf are you talking about. It's not a "black" thing to be unable to articulate a sentence with words from a dictionary, you can do that right now. As for the second point, you have a point about that as well.

It kind of makes me realize how much media can change someone, and it kinda of makes me imagine either or not I'd be a different person if some things about my past were altered to cater to a very different culture.


I dunno, do I sound crazy?


nah, you totally right.

back in my school days i would hear similar things about characters in books or TV shows. "really? but that character doesin't act very XX." but then the usual response was "Well, what do you expect XX people to act like?" and after that it was usually confusion or a pause for thought.

there was some documentary i watched or some show. where they mentioned how they were bullied for "talking white" or "acting white". and he questioned why he was getting bullied for having an education basically. able to speak past just slang or spending his time studying instead of running out on the streets with a gang. selling drugs was unfortunately more promoted then graduating high school in his neighborhood.

my grandpa was in the navy as well during Vietnam. hes a huge nerd for aircrafts and tanks and can go on and on about them while watching war documentary. i think along side media theres also propaganda that plays a role as well as the environment.
just looking at the racist propaganda posters or heck, even old looneytunes cartoons. it can be both destructive or supportive.
for for example my grandpa vs my aunts BF bruce. (bruce and my aunt are huge prejudice religious nuts, sadly.)
one Christmas they argued about gays allowed to come out in the military. my grandpa argued "on the battle field, you don't care. as long as they keep you safe." and that honestly "they were always there, they just wernt supported in coming out." and Bruce would argue the repetitive point of "but how do they stop them from having sex?" as if they're sexual maniacs who cant control themselves.
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12 days ago, 10:31 PM #20
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Lol. You think you got it rough? I made my lead white on a whim because I thought it'd be funny to see the coarse language of a black man (myself) projected through the mouth of a facist white teenaged cop. Makes me laugh but not everyone is going to get it immediately.

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Forum > Mediterranean Avenue > In your opinion, how important is representation in fictional works?
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