In the past 24 hours, I’ve had the opportunity to see three movies in theaters: Snowpiercer, How to Train Your Dragon 2, and Edge of Tomorrow. They are all great films in their own ways and I’ll be writing reviews for them later, but they really got me to thinking. What other stories could we be telling? Whose stories could we be telling?
Why are the protagonists white dudes?
Okay, this is just a major media thing. So many of our protagonists in major movies, games, shows, whatever are white guys. That’s an established thing. Go look at the movie posters and television line-ups for the past few years and tell me that I’m wrong. I was sitting in the theater, watching the trailers for the upcoming movies and, of course, most of the protagonists of the movies yet to be released are predominantly white men. There’s even that fascinating movie by Richard Linklater called Boyhood that follows the growth of this one boy over twelve years. They filmed it over twelve years with the same cast and everything.
That’s really net, but I feel like we’ve seen so many of those sorts of movies over the years. We’ve seen a boy’s journey to manhood in both the literal and metaphorical sense all over the place. I mean, heck, even Disney’s Tarzan was a coming-of-age tale for the man who would be an ape.
Can you name even a handful of films that cover the journey of a girl from girlhood to womanhood that are about her crafting an identity for herself and not just ending up as some guy’s arm candy? I’m having a hard time finding examples in the extensive movie database that is my brain. I’m sure there are a few and you can tell me all about them in the comments.
The fact of the matter is, unless you’re a straight, white man, you’re going to have a hard time finding stories that you can look at and say, “Hey! That’s totally like what I went through.” Sure, there will be elements that you identify with and can empathize with, but it’s not the same. Not really.
Why is this a bad thing?
There’s a new Bioware game coming out called Dragon Age: Inquisition. While not a perfect bastion of social justice (because who is, really?), they’ve been doing a lot more than many of their contemporaries as far as creating more inclusive games. While the studio’s other game, Mass Effect, was among the first games from a large studio to offer a same-sex love interest (for the ladies), Dragon Age II took it a step further and made almost all of the potential love interests for the player’s character bisexual. It was just easier to code, really.
Needless to say, there was internet backlash, particularly when Anders, a companion and potential love interest, hit on the player regardless of gender. It made a number of very vocal players quite upset. So much so that one wrote a lengthy diatribe on the game’s forums to complain about how the company was just doing this for diversity and not giving a thought to the game’s actual, money-paying audience: Straight Male Gamers. The screed is legend among gaming circles, but not as legendary as lead writer David Gaider’s response in which he very eloquently told the player to get over it.
They’re now releasing information about the companion characters for the upcoming release of Inquisition. At present, two of the options are homosexual-only romance options, one male and one female. The biggest complaints I’ve seen so far in my scanning of the internet are stemming from the male option, a gallant mage with a mustache named Dorian. I’ve seen the words “pandering to minorities” being batted about the internet like doing so upsets the fabric of the universe.
I think it all boils down to the belief that somehow giving players of diverse backgrounds, genders, and orientations somehow takes away from the ones who believe that they’ve been playing in an exclusive club this whole time. It’s an opinion that many people seem to share about larger socio-political events as well. What they don’t realize is that they’ve already had decades and centuries of having their stories told.
When all you show is one side of the story, you deprive yourself of the larger picture. There are so many different faces and voices whose tales need to be told too. It’s not fair to expect that people of different backgrounds than the straight, white male have to sit back and watch as people whose faces look like theirs never take center stage. It’s not right. No one should look at their reflections and think of themselves as a secondary character in someone else’s story.
What do I want?
I think it’s time we shared more stories from different people. I want to see a movie like Boyhood about a girl to show what we of the female persuasion encounter as we age. I want to see a movie like Boyhood about a boy who realizes that he has, in fact, been a girl all along. Or vice versa.
I want to see more movies where the women swoop in and save the day like Pepper Potts in Iron Man 3. I want to see more women like Peggy Carter kicking ass and not taking any crap from the people who say that she can’t. I want to see Idris Elba as James Bond or whoever he damn well wants to be because he’s Idris freakin’ Elba and he’s amazing. I want to see more movies like Edge of Tomorrow where Emily Blunt‘s character could have also been played by a guy but wasn’t and it was great because she was great. I want to see a variety of faces up there. I want to see more protagonists like Hiccup whose disability is just a thing he lives with like it’s no big deal. I want to see the stories that Hollywood’s gotten too lazy and scared to tell.
There’s so much wonderful stuff out there if only we’d just focus our cameras, computers, and creative energies elsewhere. Let’s do it, folks. Let’s tell those stories.