04 Dec Attack of the POC Pod People
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We return to today, to our serial, Attack of the POC Pod People. In our latest installment Amazing Stories responded with amazement at the fact that POCs were somewhat upset about a certain piece on diversity.
Today, Steve Davidson clarifies his position:
I think that calling into question gratuitous examples of diversity advances a valid argument: stating that a character belongs to a particular minority while not backing that character up with background and characteristics that make them genuine representatives of that minority is, in many respects, gratuitous. The point of featuring non-majority characters is to expand our experience and knowledge, not to make a work more marketable. (And other things, like creating more opportunity, providing good role models, etc)
I want to ask what are the particular examples here, because Felicity does not offer a *single* one in her original piece. She talks about the guidelines of a tiny, token, non-active magazine called Expanded Horizons and then goes onto mention POCs at conventions, but that is not a particular example of gratuitous diversity.
We also have to wonder what is genuine representatives of that minority. If we are saying that characters should be well-developed and well-written…well, that’s the truth for all characters. But here we are asking for background and characteristics that make them genuine. What is a non-genuine Mexican? Do we have three types? The maid and the gardener and the drug dealer? And if you step beyond that and suddenly you have an astronaut are we in fact being not genuine.
Then there’s the fact that POC characters must expand our experience and knowledge. They must be, in this sense, didactic. You can have fund reading the adventures of Conan, but once it comes to a black hero with a sword, that hero better have some knowledge to impart! Sadly, I don’t always feel like being a PBS special on Latin American culture, you know?
There’s also the point that including POCs just to make a work more marketable is bad. Is it? If your audience actually says “I’m tired of only seeing male white heroes in the damn bookstore, can we have a lady warrior” or “lady high-tech spy” is that terrible? Should you NOT answer the concerns of your market? The reason why Harlequin has lines dedicated to African American women or imprints have Latino lines is not because they’ve done this out of the goodness of their heart but because there is a market out there for this fiction. Because more and more readers might be interested in it.
Furthermore, the original piece was about “selfies” meaning this is not some non-POC including POCs because he wants to be hip. We are talking about POCs being told they are selling out to the white man by INCLUDING people like them. Really?
I, for instance, am bothered by television commercials where it is obvious that some corporate hack somewhere demanded that “one of every kind” be visualized in the commercial. They’re not genuine portrayals, they’re contrived and as such distort. It’s the same thing as rote translating a slogan – without bothering to find out that the rote translation might be slang for something offensive, or have an entirely different colloquial meaning in the native culture. Nuance and detail matter.
I am not sure why there was a comparison with a TV commercial here (an imaginary one I assume!). I doubt we are seeing the equivalent of United Colors of Benetton ads in magazines and if so, please point me to them!
Also, what is not genuine about having “one of every kind” (yeah, I love that phrasing) in a story or TV show? If we have one Asian, one African character and one Latino character in a room at the same time does the universe implode? Do POC people never get together? Maybe they contrive to get together? In Toronto by the year 2031 POCs will account for more than 60 percent of the population, come on.
It seems that the point here is that there is a finite number of POCs and a finite number of representations we should accept.
I think what she wanted to suggest was that in order for our pursuit of diversity to work and be truly effective, we need to encourage the genuine expression of it.
A nice sentiment, but I feel a tad…revolted? Is revolted the right word? To hear talks about genuine expression after all this…um…claptrap?
Felicity Savage’s piece was a poorly written piece that did not remotely resemble an essay, with no examples of poor representations of POCs. And there are many she could have mentioned. She could have gone into the magic negro phenomenon or wondered why Firefly provides us with an Asian-inspired universe without Asians, but she did not.
Please. We have an expression in Mexico. It goes “me quieren dar gato por liebre,” which means “they want to give me a cat instead of a hare.” It means they want to fool me. You are not fooling me, Amazing Stories.
There’s also another word in Spanish that applies to this situation. It’s the very elegant pendejos.