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This Isn’t Just About Star Wars: The 5 Dumbest Arguments Against Gender Diversity

UPDATE (06/02/2014): Lucasfilm has just announced that 2013 Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o and Game of Thrones star Gwendoline Christie have both been added to the cast. This is great news, but of course, I’d like to remind folks, before they add any new comments gloating that we ought to have waited or that somehow these additions invalidate the piece, that the headline to this article is “This Isn’t Just About Star Wars” — the point, of course, was to talk about gender diversity in all forms of fantasy and sci-fi, film and television, or just plain old fiction in general.


As anyone with an internet connection knows, the cast of the new Star Wars trilogy was announced yesterday by Lucasfilm. It’s a top-notch roster of actors, many of whom are often mentioned when blockbuster movie roles are being cast, but are eventually passed over for bigger, blander marquee names. Unfortunately, although the announcement shows a hint of racial diversity, it shows almost no gender diversity.

The original Star Wars trilogy was light on female characters (there’s Leia, and Mon Mothma and, uh…Aunt Beru?), and the prequels didn’t improve on that disparity much (there’s Padme, and Shmi and, uh…Aunt Beru?), so it’s disappointing that J.J. Abrams and producer Kathleen Kennedy didn’t take the opportunity to encourage another “expanded universe” while they were busy killing the old one.

Predictably, the mere suggestion that women ought to be added a movie brought out a bunch of people rehashing the same old arguments about why this could never, ever work. Instead of focusing on Star Wars, let’s take a look at five of these arguments from a general perspective (one that encompasses television, comics and video games as well as film, even if I focus on film), and lay them to rest once and for all.


1. “But What About This Exception?”

Just because you can spout the names of a few great movies that have great female characters and/or work in spite of a gender imbalance, that doesn’t mean a thing when looking at the big picture. Maybe your entire top 100 favorite films of all time were all chosen for the great roles for women in each of them. Fantastic, but the numbers don’t lie. According to a 2013 study by the Women’s Media Center, only 16 percent of film protagonists in the 100 top-grossing films of the year were women, and women made up only 33 percent of all characters in those films. Many people may not see the disparity, especially with female-led franchises like The Hunger Games and Divergent making headlines, but examples will only form a finite list that can’t counter every other film ever made.

Women made up only 33% of all characters in 2013′s 100 top-grossing films.

While The Avengers was praised for having fantastic female character, the fact still stands that only one member of the team is a woman and the likelihood of Black Widow getting a standalone series keeps diminishing.

While The Avengers was praised for its depiction of Black Widow, only two members of the team are women, and a Black Widow solo film is still only in very early development stages.

More to the point, the degree to which women are marginalized is so skewed (70/30 at best, less than 80/20 at worst) that it’s a valid complaint in and of itself. The situation for female characters (not to mention female filmmakers) has been so bad for so long that even imagining a minor increase in equality is a struggle. Picture another Hunger Games-esque property for every Marvel character allowed to carry his own series of films. Those five or six would-be blockbusters may sound like a ton of additional representation, but the numbers clearly show it’d be an attempt to get close to even 25 percent of the marketplace. It’s an that imbalance simply doesn’t make sense and cannot be justified: no matter how many examples of women-led films you can come up with, they’ll only form an anthill next to a mountain.

2. “Forced Diversity is Not Real Diversity”

“So, what are you saying?” sneer the naysayers, “That filmmakers should just stuff women into movies because it’s politically correct?” Um, yes.

This line of thinking, and many of the reasons that stem out of it, point to a double standard that people will bend over backward to avoid acknowledging: the character “default” is a straight, cis white dude. If the insertion of a character from any group that complains about under-representation seems invalid or “trying too hard,” then there must be a natural alternative that is considered free of that controversy, right? When you cut out anyone who isn’t white, straight, trans and/or female, that doesn’t leave a wide range of people to choose from. (One example in the theaters right now? Noah, a film that “avoided” the race question by simply casting white actors.) According to a study by USC’s Dr. Stacy Smith, even extras are subject to the gender gap: crowd scenes in both animated and live-action movies contain on average only 17 percent female characters—a ratio that hasn’t changed since 1946.

Real-world diversity pretty close to an even split, but even if it wasn’t, analyzing population data leaves out the obvious: fiction doesn’t have to adhere to reality. There’s no reason films have to reflect anything that exists in the real world, much less a hypothetical demographic survey. There’s no limit to what people are capable of inventing or envisioning, and when all that creativity merely reflects an untrue gender bias perpetuated by the media itself, that’s really disappointing—and unrealistic. One of the principles of the original Star Trek was to create a world where diversity and positivity were celebrated. That’s a vision we should be working toward, not away from.

Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that such a gender bias just might come from the same bias being present behind-the-scenes. A 2013 study by The Celluloid Ceiling out of San Diego State University says women made up only 6 percent of directors and 10 percent of writers on the top 250 highest-grossing movies of 2013. Not only are the men in charge of these blockbusters refusing to make a conscious decision to add more women into their screenplays and films, but they’re also diverting responsibility. “Make your own movie!” is a common retort, but it’s not that easy: women aren’t getting the jobs, the contracts or the offers to do these big-budget productions that men are handed 94 percent of the time.

Genderblind casting decisions help prove the point that women and men can and should be considered for the same roles.

Genderblind casting decisions help prove the point that women and men can and should be considered for the same roles.

Some would argue that a mandate to include women is some sort of a weight, restriction or even censorship placed on the writer, but there’s nothing challenging about adding women (or anyone else) to a screenplay: just make some characters women. There’s no reason gender should upset whatever narrative is pictured with radical revisions unless that narrative is inherently sexist. Hell, writers could just leave the genders (and race and sexuality etc. etc.) of their characters nondescript and leave it up to the casting director to find an actor whose personality or take on the character matches up with what’s on the page. The original Alien was cast this way, a decision which eventually resulted in one of the most celebrated female sci-fi and fantasy characters of all time. Which brings me to my next point…

There’s no reason gender should upset whatever narrative is pictured with radical revisions unless that narrative is inherently sexist.

3. “Characters Matter!” and/or “But is That Good Enough?”

“You haven’t even seen the film. You don’t know anything about these characters.” That’s true! That’s also not important. There are three possible interpretations of a comment like this:

  1. The film will just be so well-written that nobody will want to criticize it.
  2. The female characters in the film will be so well-written that nobody will want to criticize it.
  3. The film will somehow justify the vast majority of its characters being men.

None of these are valid arguments.

The first two possibilities are easy to write off. Although the treatment of women in entertainment is certainly a worthwhile discussion, that can only happen if they’re widely represented in the first place. People often complain that the Bechdel Test doesn’t having any bearing on how well female characters are portrayed, but it’s not supposed to. The point of the test (two women who talk to each other about something other than a man, in case anyone doesn’t know) is that it looks for minimum amount of effort on the part of artists to include women. The fact that we don’t live in a world where such a test isn’t even necessary should be utterly embarrassing.

The third interpretation is more implied than stated, but it’s the most pervasive reasoning of all. Writers trying to justify their bias will often argue that a unique perspective is required when writing a woman or that the script doesn’t call for a female character, but not only is that not true, it conveniently ignores another double standard. It’s really hard to come up with a reason that a male character in a film needs to be a man, and justifications for characters being women are generally lazy or sexist (girlfriends, mothers, characters who are pregnant).

Although gender roles ingrained in us from childhood (ones which stem directly out of the attitudes and behaviors seen in mainstream media) would have people believe men and women hail from different planets, we’re all human, and anyone who can write a compelling, believable man should have no trouble writing equally compelling and believable women — a good character should be defined by more than their gender. If a movie was presented with the opposite bias as the Star Wars casting, with only two main male roles and the rest of the speaking characters women, with no on-screen acknowledgement of the disparity, there’d be never-ending discussions about what sort of world was being presented and questions about what happened to the men in the movie’s universe, but the reverse seems acceptable—the “default,” like we said.

There are antagonists in every story, and most of them don’t “contribute negatively” to the portrayal of men in film.

Those who don’t get hung up on whether they’re capable of writing women can fall into an alternative trap: the “strong female character.” Although the phrase started out as a buzzword that stuck to nerd-friendly writers like Joss Whedon and George R.R. Martin, it’s become a stumbling block itself. With each new nerd-friendly female character, the hand-wringing sets in: “Does this contribute positively to the way women are portrayed in film?” However, it’s a dumb question, because almost every story features an antagonist, and most of these roles are played by men. Those characters don’t contribute to a “negative portrayal” of men in film, because there are so many roles for men, offering such diversity and range, that film as a whole can’t be said to have a single “portrayal” of men. If people get so wrapped up in how women are viewed that nobody writes any challenging, unique or new roles, that puts more pressure on the few that do make it onto the silver screen to be an impossibly perfect creation, not to mention it creates a false dichotomy between “quality” and quantity, when both are equally important, and should simultaneously be improved.

Peggy Carter, portrayed here by Hayley Atwell. A "strong female character," not because she's physically strong but because she's well-written and well-rounded.

Peggy Carter, portrayed here by Hayley Atwell. A “strong female character,” not because she’s physically strong but because she’s well-written and well-rounded.

4. “I Don’t Care About Representation.”

Not everyone goes to the movies and demands to see “themselves” (in the sense that there’s someone up there with the same gender, race, sexual orientation, etc.). I’m an Asian guy, but I was adopted just a few days after I was born by a mixed-race family, and so I don’t feel any particular kinship toward Asian characters. However, that doesn’t mean I go around arguing with people who hold up the Sulus of the world as groundbreaking and deeply important to them. More significantly, I recognize that I might feel differently if I had ever been oppressed or treated differently because I was Asian.

The idea that straight cis white guys don’t care much about representation in entertainment really isn’t surprising: most entertainment is catered to them. Even if they logically understand some of what oppression feels like (or have experienced some oppression themselves for some other reason), they’ll never know the full extent of what it feels like to deal with the media’s omnipresent male gaze on a daily basis.

Women who love movies, TV, comics and more, however, are forced to do so every day, all while men continually reduce “women’s” entertainment with terms like “chick flicks”, “chick lit” and so on—a perfect example of how unwilling men can be to try and relate to a perspective outside of their own. The opinions of those who don’t have to think about the quality or quantity of their media representation are automatically less relevant than the opinions of those who have, and that’s not “reverse sexism / racism”—it’d be no more valid than someone trying to argue that their opinion on a restaurant they’ve never been to is as important as those who have, simply because they’ve eaten food before.

The opinions of those who don’t have to think about the quality or quantity of their media representation are automatically less relevant than the opinions of those who have.

Furthermore, those same white guys do care about representation … when they perceive it as cutting them out of the picture. Just like the thinking behind a list of “examples,” gender bias has been around for so long it’s perceived to be the norm, yet when women argue for equality—actual, measurable equality—up pop the men who can’t see the death grip they’ve already got on everything for what it is, complaining that they’re being marginalized. One clear-cut example of this is that while the age-old idea stands that “women talk too much,” science shows otherwise: men consistently talk more than women in studies and even on TV programs, yet when women talk the same amount as men, men see the women as taking up more than their fair share of the discussion time.

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One can’t help but think of Scott Benson’s vimeo cartoon about “nice guys.”Again, it’s not “reverse sexism” to suggest that men are so omnipresent in a property that some of them could be written out, and the activation of that empty persecution complex tends to derail most online discourse.

Again, it’s not “reverse sexism” to suggest that men are so omnipresent in a property that some of them could be written out, and the activation of that empty persecution complex tends to derail most online discourse. As mentioned in the previous point, one can only imagine the outrage if one were to suggest the next Transformers film were to focus solely on female characters, all from “marginalized” male fans.

Really, “I don’t care” isn’t even a stance in the first place. Many women do care about how they’re being treated at the movies, and it’s selfish to try and argue that a lack of interest (especially one created by societal bias) is somehow equally valid. The 21st century has given birth to terms like “outrage culture” and “white knighting,” but they’ve already been twisted from legit criticisms of controversy-courting journalism and facetious or malicious camaraderie into easy ways to write off those who have the gall to care.

5. “That’s Not Faithful!” / “That’ll Be Great, But Not For This.”

We live in a world where properties and franchises are routinely rehashed, remade and resurrected for a new generation of audiences. Everything from board games to theme park rides are fashioned into movies. Each one of these established fandoms is full of people who are worried about the sanctity of their beloved properties, and so there is a degree to which it’s understandable that they resist when someone calls for change.

That said, this may be the worst reasoning of all. First of all, women are not “outsiders.” We’re not talking about the “PC Police” (which is not a thing, by the way). Women love plenty of the same movies, books, shows and other forms of entertainment that men do, but the reason those universes look so male-centric is because they’re generally not welcoming for women, especially women who have opinions about how those universes could be better. Either these fandoms or the creations themselves are actively pushing away the women who would otherwise be interested, or women keep to themselves for fear of being labeled any number of awful things.

There’s no reason that any geek property couldn’t stand to be more diverse.

There’s no reason that any geek property couldn’t stand to be more diverse. Unless, of course, those fans are admitting that their favorite movies (or perhaps, they themselves) are sexist or racist to their very core. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the addition of more women doesn’t have to alter the characters, change the story or affect the tone or style of a movie. Plus, why wouldn’t someone want a wave of new fans to discover their favorite thing? Well, aside from equally useless whining like the howl of anguish that surrounds “fake geek girls” or perhaps just “fake geeks.”

Changing John to Joan caused a huge controversy, but NBC's Elementary has won and been nominated for several awards and has consistently high ratings and reviews. Despite or, very probably, because of that gender and race swap.

Changing John to Joan caused a huge controversy, but NBC’s Elementary has won and been nominated for several awards and has consistently high ratings and reviews. Despite or, very probably, because of that gender and race swap.

As far as outright changes go, stagnation is boring. When adapting something famous to a new medium or perhaps updating it for a new generation, one would hope fans desire more than just the same thing spewed out at them over and over again. Although I’ve just spent several paragraphs reiterating that gender diversity doesn’t have to change established properties, variety and change is the spice of life, and filmmakers can find new life in an old property if the changes are fully embraced or even worked into the narrative.

One obvious recent example: the change of John Watson (white man) to Joan Watson (Asian woman) on CBS’ Elementary, one of many alterations that turns the program into something fresh and new. SharcTank’s own Liane B. also pointed out that multiple characters on NBC’s cult favorite Hannibal were gender- or race-swapped from their original book incarnations, specifically to increase the diversity of the cast.


This article isn’t about Star Wars specifically, but in the 30 or so hours since this casting notice went live, I’ve gotten roped into arguments left and right about diversity. The worst moment? Last night, someone even went so far as to say that Star Wars being aimed specifically at young boys and not young girls was part of the franchise’s legacy, and something J.J. Abrams and company ought to protect the sanctity of. That’s as outrageous as it is offensive, and it’s disappointing that anyone who isn’t crazy wants to be on that side of the fence. There was a time when geekdom was inclusive, because being a geek was totally uncool. Now, with geeks in the mainstream, one hopes the first order of business isn’t to build walls around this tree fort.

Even if it wasn’t really easy to shoot holes in each one of these tropes, there’s an even simpler reason to care. Women are the marginalized party, and they’re explaining how Hollywood can improve to accommodate them. In the movie industry, money is the bottom line. Despite the gender bias, the Motion Picture Association of America reports that 51 percent of the movie-going audience is women, and they have edged out men since 2009. Who better than them to tell the world whether or not their own gender is being represented properly? More importantly, why would it be you?

If you want more thoughts on the Star Wars casting and its gender inequality, check out these articles:

(Note: This article was written primarily by Tyler, but Liane added significantly to it throughout, and edited it as well.)




There are 164 comments

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  1. useruseruser

    I agree, I hate “forced diversity”. Iv’e seen people pull this all the time when discussing games like GTA V. I think that forced diversity is stupid, its just people trying to be annoying-ly politically correct.

    • Liane B.

      I’m afraid you must have misunderstood. We’re saying there’s no such thing as forced diversity–all diversity is good and should be encouraged.

    • TCF

      Also, if something appears “forced” isn’t that just a highlight of lazy writing? These are supposed to be the creme de la creme of imagination and writing. Taking from such a wide variety of influences and texts to create a menagerie that has captured the imagination of millions. The problem isn’t with diversity the problem lies with lazy writing. I mean it seems if you can create a whole encyclopedia of creatures for a whole new galaxy then creating a strong interesting female character should be pretty straight forward.

      I mean, the cartoon version (Clone Wars) seemed to do a pretty good job of it. If the cartoon hacks can pull it off it seems J.J. could.

      • ricktard

        Pardon me for writing a reply to an old comic, but at least in my opinion, a character doesn’t only feel “forced” because of poor writing, but also because of my preconceived notions of what that character should be like. A woman playing a stereotypically female role can be just as awkward as seeing a white actor playing what was clearly written to be a token black character. Whether either of those should come off as awkward is another question.

      • thathat

        THIS.

        At any rate, people whining about “forced diversity” also forget something–people writing for a franchise ALWAYS have to work with rules. Sometimes they’re weird, kinda stupid rules: “Okay, we can use Bugs Bunny, but he has to have EXACTLY the same amount of screentime as Mickey Mouse,” in Roger Rabbit, for instance. Most of the time, they’re being forced on the writers not because of story, but because Corporate Wants It That Way–like Justice League International, where Corporate wouldn’t let the writers use any of the A-list heroes except Batman, but forced them to use Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, and Guy Gardner for Reasons.

        You get it in college if you take any kind of art courses–you have rules and guidelines, and eventually you learn that those arbitrary rules (only use these colors, include X number of things, etc) make your work BETTER because you find yourself forced to think even more creatively to come up with solutions.

        Coming into Star Wars, Abrams no doubt already had SEVERAL rules about what he could and couldn’t include and what he absolutely had to include. A huge chunk of his story is going to be dictated by what corporate wants. What makes a competent writer is someone who can work with those arbitrary additions and make it a good story. There is NO REASON that “add more women” couldn’t and shouldn’t have been one of those mandates, and if it had been and he’s any kind of writer, we wouldn’t be able to tell right now.

        • JMW

          Valid question.

          My answer: the same way that forcing desegregation made it become normal – now only crackpots argue for re-segregation. The same way that gay marriage is becoming normal. I’d have to look for the link, but I saw an article that shows that some years ago, only 20% (approx) of young conservatives were in favour of gay marriage, and now it’s over 40% (approx.). If my memory serves.

          Over time, people will just get used to it.

      • secretgoldfish

        This though. Forced diversity shouldn’t even be a thing. You shouldn’t have to be forced to have diversity in whatever movie, tv show. If you’re doing it right it won’t even appear forced. It should just come naturally.

      • CarlCastle

        Agreed. If not for the fact that I prefer to see more people besides ‘beefy possibly balding male’ and ‘hot waifish woman in skimpy clothing’ in the media I consume. It’s great to see people speaking out about, even if nerd culture has to be dragged kicking and screaming into it.

        I swear sometimes the sea levels are rising not through global warming but through the tears of nerds online.

    • ChickLikeMe

      In addition to the other responses to this thread, while this article is not about Star Wars specifically, Star Wars is set in a galaxy that is filled to the brim with diversity, significantly more so than Earth. There are countless alien races. It actually is sort of ludicrous how narrow the scope of representation among heroes in these stories has been when you consider that.

      • the invisible one

        No kidding. Loads of different alien races. But, you know, that’s so much more believable than women. Kind of the way fantasy is fine with dragons and elves, but women? Nope, not believable.

  2. Anonymous

    “There’s no reason gender should upset whatever narrative is pictured with radical revisions unless that narrative is inherently sexist.” YES, thank you.

  3. G.G.Glover

    I’m reminded of the movie “Streets of Fire.” Amy Madigan went in to read for a minor role and said she wanted to read for the mercenary (the part she won.) No one had considered a girl in the role, but 87 % of the critical reviews praised the production for just that change.

    • Sarah Brown

      The other part I know of off the top of my head that was like that is Signory Weaver in the first Alien. What I find interesting about it is that both roles were written for a man, but a female nailed it… bc the characters were well written. Thus women don’t mess up the narrative structure, lazy writing for women does.

    • Ben

      It’s not forced because no one is telling the creators what to do. To be forced, someone must be doing the forcing. If no one is forcing it is free will. Free will, free expression, free creativity, the best thing in the world. If you don’t like it, don’t watch it. That’s also free expression.

      • thathat

        Dude. You do understand that Abrams doesn’t just have carte blanche, yeah? They’re already “forcing” him to use certain characters from the old stories and they almost certainly have a number of other mandates (make this more marketable, make them drive something that can be a toy, etc) that have nothing to do with the story.

        This isn’t some noble endeavor of his. This is a corporately owned franchise. That doesn’t mean it can’t be good. But I don’t see you getting up in arms about the things he’s already forced to write.

        I don’t get why people are so vehemently AGAINST the discussion of putting more women in Star Wars. I mean, you do know we’re not going to magically make it happen, right? Your white dudeness is safe.

  4. David Arroyo

    I think there are exceptions to the claim gender should never ever affect the film or its sexist at the core. I find it hard to believe that making 54 percent of the actors in Carpenter’s The Thing female wouldn’t have affected it. It may still have been a great paranoia film, but changing gender can create subtextual differences no one foresees (for better or for worse).

    • Tyler F.

      That’d be one of those anthill examples I’m talking about in the first point. Sure, there are a few great films that feature all-male or all-female casts. In a perfect world, they’d still be exceptions, so they’re not particularly important here.

  5. lunchboxbyvalerie

    Right on! I was too young to fully understand or empathize with the 60′s “bra burning” but the older I get and the more things are changing – I realize the times they are barely a’changing. This idea that multiple females automatically equals “quota casting” of mediocre actors, when one can settle “for one good female character” just riles me up.

    Quantity has no relation to quality. Yeah, I’d rather have one well written female than 10 vapid, man-hunting females – but that’s false dichotomy to suggest that is the only two choices.

    Cast the actor for the role, regardless of color or gender, but don’t default to white male automatically.

    • Tyler F.

      Star Wars itself stems out of the same kind of social revolution. The most ’70s line in the movie: “I ain’t in it for your revolution, sister.”

  6. J

    Being a “white guy” I do find it “reverse rasism/sexism” when I’m told my opinion doesn’t matter because of me being white and male, and that’s all that’s required for one to feel discriminated against ergo racism/sexism. I agree about most of the rest of your article but I gotta cry foul there. I did growup in a neighborhood with one parent where white was a minority but a country where I wasn’t and I got nothing but reverse racism all the time since I was an easy venting for people in pain just because I looked like who was hating on them earlier due to their race and/or gender, while with the other parent I was in the white majority. I saw hating from both sides and as such find anyone who does it scum.

    Now look, I love more diverse and generly blanced books, tv, movies, comics (many of my favorite characters are neither white nor male) since it really does add to the story like you say many of my favorite superheros are female contrary to those guys who only like male superheroes and same goes for race, I eat up stories where I get new and unique perspectives. So don’t think I’m hating on the rest of this. I’m just saying that “white guys” opinions due matter, just as long as their not being racist/sexist… and the same logic applies to every other race and gender since the moment they become racist or sexist themselves they belittle their own arguments and opinions no matter how much truth they have on their side. You can’t change peoples bad ways if you belittle them, you close minds. We must be better than that.

    Now as to Star Wars, let’s ignore the original cast since they’re here just to pass on a torch for the next 40+ years worth of Disney Star Wars movies. Let’s also ignore anyone who will likely be a cgi creature or in a costume. That leaves us with one black, one white latino, one girl (some sites are claiming another female role is yet to be cast… time will tell there), and up to three white guys (one long rumored as the villain and thus far most major Star Wars villains wear makeup and/or costumes; one red head (who do get picked on for being different), and one old man who’s so versitile its hard to say villain/hero). Its not greatly balanced race wise but it is better than the actual demographics by race of America for blacks and latinos (if you count white latino, some will some won’t), including Billy Dee Willaims would have helped here but alas its apperently not to be hopefully the supporting cast/back ground characters will balance this out (and maybe VIII’s cast once the Original Trilogies cast takes more a back seat thus freeing up screen time for new characters). Gender wise it could be a lot better though it is better than previous Star Wars films, let’s hope that second female rumor is true since while in VII Carrie will be there too her role might be very reduced for VIII.

    • Tess

      So, assuming we use your rules for a moment: I counted 6 new characters, 4 of which are white. According to Wikipedia, 63% of Americans are non-Latino white, 16.4% are Latino, and 12.4% are non-Latino black. So Latinos are represented fairly, black people are overrated slightly at the expense of American Indians, Asian Americans, and other smaller minority groups, and white people are slightly overrepresented as well.

      Except that the three original visible human cast members are still in the movie, and there’s really no good reason why they couldn’t have used the chance to choose new cast members as an opportunity to balance out the original members as well. So we actually have 77% of the visibly human characters white, 11% black, and 11% Latino. Which means that white people are significantly overrepresented, and literally every other racial and ethnic group is underrepresented. And that’s ignoring the fact that the the non-visible characters they’re bringing back are all played by white people, so it’s even worse by the standards of employing working actors.

      Arguing actor versatility and such really doesn’t make any difference unless you’re arguing that black actors are not similarly versatile. And as far as people with red hair go, they’re still white people, and still come out of the same 63%. I won’t even entertain your embarrassing claim that people with red hair are a traditionally disadvantaged minority group.

      As far as gender goes, of those 9 human characters, 22% are female. And all the non-human characters are male too, because male is just the default, right? More than 50% of the actual population is female, so obviously even if they add another female cast member and bump that number up to 30%, that’s still well short of proportional representation. Adding FIVE women to the cast would equal it out.

      Overall, as of the 2010 Census, non-Latino white males made up around 31% of the overall population (91 million out of 308 million). They make up 55% of the visibly human announced cast, and 50% of the new cast members you listed. Overall in media, white males are just assumed to be the default, so a lot of people don’t even notice when they’re massively overrepresented. Movies would look completely different if less than a third of the characters were white guys.

        • J

          The original cast was cast in the 1970 and again is only their to pass on a torch, they shouldn’t count. The original cast is from a different era with different demographics and passing on the torch to a new era. Also its logical up to two of the new white cast are either CGI or voices. You ignored this fact just to slam the rasical balance.

          As stated I agree about the geneder inbalance and hope the rumor of another female role yet to be cast is true. Most of my favotrite Star Wars Expanded Universe characters where female. Sadly this script is based off of Lucas’s story treatments and he’s been quoted in the past saying the geneder diversity in war settings is what he was aiming for as to be more realstic.

          • Tess

            Why wouldn’t the original cast count? I mean, is there some quota I’m unaware of where that they have to make sure that enough of the new cast are white people, so it wouldn’t be fair for the full cast to be properly balanced?

    • g2-9412afb6b652404c3f65011a1daae279

      J, you were not a victim of racism. Prejudice, yes, absolutely, but not racism. Racism is systemic. The American system has been so rigged for so long a lot of people don’t even see it. You can put non-racists in charge of things like police departments and still end up with racial disparities in arrests and sentencing. Bigoted outcomes can exist without bigoted intent. Trans people in America are still among the most likely (especially trans people of color) to be the victim of homicide and rape group of people in the world let alone the U.S., despite the fact that President Obama is the first President to have openly trans people working in his administration. I think once more people figure this out, we’ll be far closer to solving these inequality problems than we are now.

      tl;dr I’ve been called names for being white too. It stings, but my feelings being hurt is in no way comparable to centuries of systemic oppression.

      • J

        Racism is a form of Prejudice… I think you need to be more clear if you want to seperate the two because Prejudice can be systemic too such as disperities between rich and poor or male and female.

        • anon

          No, its not. They are two very different phemenons- racism speaking to a larger socio-political system that disadvantages black people at every level of society and prejudice is just another way to describe an individual’s personal bias’s. Prejudice can harm individuals, but does not account for group discrimintation. As for systemic oppression of women- that is called patriarchy. And the disparity between rich and poor is called class exploitation (or more commonly referred to as capitialsm)

  7. Scott B.

    “Although gender roles ingrained in us from childhood (ones which stem directly out of the attitudes and behaviors seen in mainstream media) would have people believe men and women hail from different planets, we’re all human, and anyone who can write a compelling, believable man should have no trouble writing equally compelling and believable women.”

    Personally I think this statement oversimplifies that there are enormous differences between men and women. Down to the core of how each gender see’s their self worth. Even as a married man, understanding women is something I’ve resigned myself to probably never fully accomplishing. These differences make it pretty difficult for people of the opposite gender to write characters that they relate to and connect with.

    In all of my creative writing classes I took during college, writing female characters is what I struggled with the most. Given, most of my writing that I actually put effort and time into were high fantasy type stories, and high fantasy tends to focus heavily on quests for a character to prove their worth, or to protect something or other with their physical strength. Narratives that, as a man, I know how I would go about such a thing. I have no idea how a woman would go about trying to save her people from a dragon, unless of course you write one of the “strong female leads”. Most attempts I made at writing female leads/prominent roles left me feeling completely disconnected from the character.

    Now, I don’t disagree that there should be more women in movies, stories, media, etc. But when it comes down to it, writers write because they enjoy story telling, and no writer wants to feel disconnected or confused by their own story, so writing an opposite gender character is rather challenging and can feel very forced if they’re not basing the character off of someone they know very intimately. And ultimately that is why I feel there are far fewer female characters in a predominately male industry.

    • Tess

      [gender essentialism elided]

      > But when it comes down to it, writers write because they enjoy story telling, and no writer wants to feel disconnected or confused by their own story, so writing an opposite gender character is rather challenging and can feel very forced if they’re not basing the character off of someone they know very intimately.

      Then I guess they need to increase the representation of women among screenwriters too?

      • Tyler F.

        Plus, that’s no excuse. I watched Slap Shot for the first time a few months ago, a cult sports comedy about a hockey team made up of oddballs and losers who cheat, lie, and steal their way through every game. They’re the Animal House of hockey. However, the film was written by a woman, Nancy Dowd, as a tribute to her hockey-playing brother. Not only does it deliver the kind of raucous R-rated comedy stuff one would expect in a film from 1977, but it also has the decency to give the wives and girlfriends — normally a pretty shitty set of roles — rounded and developed arcs.

        We don’t just need men writing men and women writing women. We also need men writing women and women writing men. It provides perspective.

      • Tyler F.

        Scott, it’s true that men and women may act differently when it comes down to certain things, but so do any two people. If you wrote, say, contemporary stories about people our age, there’s not really any reason to think that men and women are not equally worried about how they’re doing professionally, financially, romantically, etc. More importantly, if you’re writing a story, you’re making up a person. They don’t have to adhere to some obscure specific detail of womanhood, because women who read it will automatically add some of those details through their interpretation or picture of what you write. Because you write stories from a male perspective, you feel you’re conveying that perspective, but if you read back over your work, do you really think you’ve expressed a thought or feeling that is alien or unfamiliar to women?

        Furthermore, you’re talking about fantasy. In a world where men slay dragons, there’s not much need to adhere to some sort of real-world difference in perspective. The only reason a male and female character would go about slaying a dragon differently is because you write it that way.

        The core reason men and women are treated differently in fiction is because of a double standard that needs to go. Women aren’t harder to write than men because all of it is totally made up. Unless you’re writing a story that is focused on the gender of a character, just write that story.

    • ChickLikeMe

      “I have no idea how a woman would go about trying to save her people from a dragon”

      Speaking as someone who has played more than her share of Skyrim, the sword and arrows usually work.

    • Katie R.

      Perhaps one of the reasons you feels so disconnected from being able to write solid female characters is because the world has given you so few models.

      Here’s a shocking truth… women and men aren’t nearly as different as society tries to convince us. Women can be strong warriors, brilliant strategists, bungling fools, malicious killers, shrewd negotiators, skilled craftspeople, utter disasters at life, protective parents, and rebellious children. We can be puritanical or the bawdy storytellers you’ve ever met. We can be driven by love, lust, greed, loyalty, fear, passion, hatred, faith, self-doubt, self-confidence, whatever.

      Have you ever noticed that women DON’T actually have much trouble writing about men? We do it ALL THE TIME. (It’s just a lot of time, you don’t notice because we put our initials on it, since we often have a really hard time being taken seriously as writers still.)

  8. xadie

    “You know, I’ve always considered women to be people.” George R R Martin

    “Don’t write for a woman, just write another funny character and I’ll make it a woman.” Kaitlin Olson on asking writer Rob McElhenney to make her character, Sweet Dee, more rounded on Always Sunny

    “So, why do [I] write these strong female characters? Because you’re still asking me that question.” Joss Whedon

    Men can write strong women, funny women, brave women, cruel women, scared women, complex women. There’s no reason they can’t, if they are willing to look from someone else’s perspective – after all, they write about men that they have very little in common with all the time. Look at Mike Leigh’s female characters, or even the soapy high camp of Marc Cherry.

    What’s more, complex female characters add immeasurably to the artistic value of a piece of media. Look at ‘Life’, a critically-acclaimed but low-rated police procedural starring Damian Lewis before everyone went mental for him on Homeland. The lead female character, his partner Dani Reese, spent the first season as a tough, excellent cop with a no-nonsense attitude and a whole heap of demons behind the scenes. Sounds like a male character, right? Given that they rarely mentioned Reece’s gender and allowed her to wear sensible clothes that were appropriate for her job, yeah, she could have been.

    But then for the second season, they decided that the reason for the low ratings was that they weren’t appealing to the male demographic enough. Suddenly Reece was wearing tight clothes and sleeping with her boss, while developing a UST love triangle with Lewis’ character. They also swapped a female boss for a male one, who could stand in for the male audience’s desire to have sex with Reece. The show lost its way creatively, sacrificed the things that made it different, and still didn’t win the ratings, probably for those very reasons. Men aren’t stupid, they know when they’re being pandered to. At least if they’d continued developing Reece and Lt Davis, their original boss, the show would have been remembered as something with merit that didn’t find an audience, instead of some ephemeral confection.

    Yes, there should be more diversity of writers, including more women, but it’s incredibly reductive to say, as some commentors have above, that men can’t write women. If they can’t perform such a basic function of their job, ie putting themselves in someone else’s shoes, perhaps they shouldn’t be writing at all.

    • Tyler F.

      “If they can’t perform such a basic function of their job, ie putting themselves in someone else’s shoes, perhaps they shouldn’t be writing at all.”

      Considering this debate stems directly from not being able to put themselves into someone else’s shoes as far as how they feel, they’re also off to a bad start!

    • Jaspergus

      George definitely proved that female characters can be just as strong and popular as male ones. I’m having trouble thinking of one couple in that story that doesn’t have both an important male and female.

      Even one of the best fighter in the show is a female and everything feels completely normal to me. It’s weird that other writers can’t do the same.

  9. April

    @Xadie Preach it! You took the words out of my mouth.”I’m not a man so I can’t write female characters.” “I’ll never understand women.”

    Cop outs.

    This says: “I’m a writer who can’t write”, and “Women already understand everything about men, so can write from their perspective”.

    The latter statement isn’t so bad. It implies women are better writers ;)

  10. Dave Robinson (@dcrwrites)

    I’m a 50 year old straight white guy, who has an 11 year old daughter.

    My daughter is what you might call a “geek.” She likes fantasy, science fiction, comics, gaming, and all the same nerd/geek stuff I grew up loving: With one exception.

    She has no interest in Star Wars.

    She likes Star Trek, she’s even watched fan films, as well as all the series (the original is her favorite) and the new movies. She doesn’t care about Star Wars.and never has.

    In the light of the recent commentary about gender representation in that particular franchise I think that’s a telling point.

    This is a kid who plays AD&D 1st Edition, watches anime and reads manga. Why shouldn’t she like Star Wars too?

    It’s a question that deserves an answer.

    • Liane B.

      That’s really sad, that your daughter can’t find anyone in the Star Wars universe to connect to. I think that really says something about how little Star Wars tries to be inclusive. That said–has she tried the “Young Jedi Knights” series? I really liked those when I was in junior high. They’re about the Solo twins and their friends.

        • hun10sta

          Good ol Star Wars retconning. If there’s one thing I dislike about Star Wars, it’s that a HUGE amount of the universe published in media other than the movies (such as the books written about it) are just ignored and retconned. I mean seriously, there were some really good plotlines and stuff in the books, and they’ve just went and said “nope, that doesn’t count anymore!”

  11. AtlasZwei

    And we’re what, surprised by this? This is Star Wars after all, a conservative fossil from the cold war era. I mean, it only took this franchise 25 years to bring a single gay woman into its universe and only because Bioware developers explicitly ignored the creators nonsense and decided to do it anyway. Shame on Disney and Abrams as they had a chance to actually drag Star Wars into the 21st century. Still, I am very happy that people are at least finally beginning to notice those diversity issues. It’s a step forward.

  12. CassMorrisWrites

    Thank you. I was a girl who loved Star Wars, and now I’m a woman who had hoped better from it. I’m also a woman trying to write in the SF/F field, and it sure isn’t easy — and the major franchises set the pace for that. Instead of signaling to the industry that it’s well past time to open up and include more viewpoints, they’re depressingly reinforcing the status quo. I am glad to see so many voices speaking up about the issue, though.

  13. Sean

    This article seems to be really intent of lumping all white males into one stereotypical group. As a white male I beg to differ. I’m a conservative Christian white male from a Swedish heritage, but I have more in common with my racially and sexually diverse Christian friends than most white males. I believe in sexual purity before marriage, something most white males reject. I believe in God and His creation of the universe, another thing most white males don’t accept.

    I think sexual and racial diversity in art is important, but the minute it’s forced it doesn’t really mean anything anymore. Star Trek was racially diverse back in the day because it’s creators wanted it to be so, not because they were afraid of the backlash if they didn’t cast it that way. Just because we’re a more tolerant culture than we used to be doesn’t give us licence to force that tolerance on others.

    • Highway Joe

      Sean, there’s a backlash because things have not changed all that much since ‘Star Trek,’ i.e. the 1960s. There’s only so long girls and women will look at franchises like ‘Star Wars’ and the Marvel universe and passively accept that 90% (or more) of the people onscreen are male.

    • Sarah Brown

      I disagree. By that logic, the civil rights amendment should never have been passed. The lunch counter sit-in’s that forced lunch counters and diners to open up to all people should never have happen. TItle 9 that allows for girls sports teams never should have happened. Heck, the 15th and 19th amendments should never have happened. All of these are instances of “forced diversity”. And I would argue, years later, that they were good things. How is asking for equal representation in media any different than asking for equal representation in voting, playing sports, or the ability to eat lunch out? Things change because people say enough is enough and demand it. And it’s forced until it’s not, until it becomes part of the fabric of the life we lead and we can’t remember when it was different.

      • Ben

        It’s different because one is a public service, and one is someone’s personal creative expression.
        You don’t give orders to someone creating what they wish to create. There’s really bad stuff down that road. Really bad.

        • ChickLikeMe

          No major motion picture funded by a studio is someone’s personal creative expression. If you don’t think J.J. Abrams has some oversight from Disney on the first film outing of their massive purchase of the Star Wars property, you’re living in a bigger fantasy world than the galaxy filled with midi-chlorian tainted blood.

          • Tyler F.

            A friend of mine is a professional screenwriter, and he pointed out this same fallacy on one of the comment threads that inspired this article. Studios and producers and actors demand rewrites for all sorts of stuff that dilutes the purity of the finished film. Screenwriting is compromise, and it’s yet another double standard that screenwriters will be happy to appease one type of revision but not another.

        • thathat

          “Personal expression.”

          Oh, no, honey. No. It’s a corporate mandated franchise continuation. That’s like saying Beast Wars or Transformers Animated was someone’s personal expression and therefore no one should have given those writers orders on what they created. But those writers got orders and incorporated them into their work and made fantastic shows.

          Abrams isn’t doing this because he’s got a “wish to create” the new Star Wars movie. He might also have that, but at the end of the day he’s doing this because a big studio corporation is mandating that this movie be made to their specs, and he’s the guy they tapped to do that. Presenting it as some mystical noble artist crap is disingenuous.

        • Sarah Brown

          And yet… 17% of crowds in the movies are women. 17% . A number that hasn’t changed since the 50′s (from the Geena Davis Institute). Also, you know what else is 17%, the amount of women CEOs, high powered attorneys, and doctors, and just 18% congress seats. So… Tell me again how it’s just art?

          Art matters. Media matters. Who is seen as normal where matters. Particularly in the current version of society that is all about media input. Maybe it shouldn’t and you can argue that with me all day, but you can’t say it doesn’t.

          Media shapes our language (look at what happens with movies like Heathers, Mean Girls, the franchise of Buffy) It shapes what we where (way to many movies and tv shows to even talk about… like all of them). It shapes what technology we use, what we eat, what we drink… is it so much of a stretch that it would also effect how we see workers and “deserving” people as a whole?

  14. Bartleby the Scrivener

    I think diversity is great, but movie companies exist to make money, and they follow whatever they find the path to profit to be. If you think movies with certain attributes (gender, racial, or social equality, different messages, etc) will generate higher revenues, I’d suggest that you start investing in companies that do so or make such movies yourself. I watch movies based upon what sounds interesting, but I’m not really their target market, since I watch television maybe a few hours per year and go to the movies maybe twice a year (if that).

    • Tyler F.

      Both of your points (that somehow catering to the majority of the audience — women have outnumbered male moviegoers since 2009 — would be financially detrimental, and “make your own stuff!”) are covered in the article.

  15. Highway Joe

    Love so much. Agree wholeheartedly. In fact, it’s as if Tyler F had looked into my head before writing this. Which means I can only say, “Hear hear!” and not add much, but… HEAR HEAR!

    • NON EVILGIRL

      Evilpundit guy THIS is exactly how women (and others) feel… that our opinions are not relevant and not listened to.

      And we’d like to consider other people’s opinions irrelevant as you can when things aren’t going your way, but we can’t as ours aren’t considered in the first place.

    • thathat

      Translation: “How dare you suggest that because I haven’t had the experiences directly being discussed here that my opinion of this situation shouldn’t hold as much weight as the people who are affected by this! I’M TAKING MY BALL AND GOING HOME.”

      Harlan Ellison said it best–everyone is not entitled to their opinion. Everyone is entitled to an INFORMED opinion. If you can’t be bothered to listen to the experiences of others, even if they contradict your own and gain a little empathy from it, your opinion isn’t informed.

  16. Highway Joe

    One counter-argument I hear often when this comes up is: “Make your own” or “Let’s create our own worlds.” Create our own worlds? Of course we can. But that still leaves the nearly-all-white-all-male world that the majority of people get exposed to firmly in its status quo place. Countless of artists have already created stories with women and minorities front and center (including, as it happens, Disney: See Lilo & Stitch, Frozen, and Brother Bear, which feature heroes that are Native Hawaiian, female, and Inuit, respectively), but we need even more and more of them to be mainstream, and to burst through the glass ceilings of established franchises such as Star Wars and LotR (and look at how Jackson et al wrote Tauriel into 100% male Hobbit). The fringes are fine, but we shouldn’t abandon fixing the mainstream, so that one day there will be less and less difference between the fringe and the mainstream. For this reason, I sincerely hope JJ Abrams et al pay close attention to articles like this one.

  17. winter

    This article ignores the fact that on television and in books and music, its women who dominate. There are articles written about the publishing industry and its gender bias. Why? because women read more then men. This has been the case for around at least the last 10-15 years. Large scale blockbusters are in fact still dominated by male characters, specifically white male characters, but that is hardly the whole media picture. And by the way, Frozen is already the most successful animated movie of all time, and will soon break into the top 5 of all time movie box office. That is hardly the “fringe.” Also, you cant force all strata of society to change at the same time. What this means is, because most people in charge of things are/were white male, i.e. studios, it doesnt mean thats true for all the generations. Most people who run studios, or corporations are over fifty years old. They arent many young men running studios. There is no ousting the old guard and to force this change down the throat of all the generations means you will over compensate this social change on the younger generations of people and create, yes, reverse sexism and racism. This happens in politics also as most in congress are male, etc… The experiences of a 25 year old white guy are not the experiences of a 50 or 60 year old white guy, yet most of this social activism attacks the old guard and the young gens alike, even though the younger generations have long ago evolved past these issues. This creates a culture of over-compensation and over-activism. Let the old guard die off, you can not compensate for past wrongs, sad but true. As the millenials age and come into power, our culture will be dominated by female voices and it will be men who are marginalized and condescended too. Trust me, women under 35 are not part of a victim class, they are more confident, more empowered, and more successful then their male counterparts. Women are the dominant gender within the millennial generation by every measure.

    • Liane B.

      Frozen is, like we said in the article, one of the few examples of a woman-led movie doing well in the mainstream. Mountains vs molehills, my friend.

      Women typically do have “more” jobs in publishing, but that doesn’t mean they’re higher on the echelon: according to Publishing Weekly, 85% of publishing employees with less than three years of experience are women, but the numbers in the upper tier of the industry are modest (out of the 12 big publishing houses, only two have female CEOs).

      You say that we just have to wait until the “changing of the guard,” until the younger generation rises up and naturally takes control of the publishing houses, Congress, media–but that’s ridiculous. We shouldn’t have to wait that long and to sit back and take a passive role in how the world shapes gender treatment is just that: passive and silly.

      And as a woman under 35? No. I’m part of a victim class and I guarantee that any other woman in my age demographic would agree with me.

      • winter

        With all do respect, does this not exactly prove my point? If young women dominate 85 percent of the positions, what do you think is gonna happen as the younger generations age? This problem has already been solved, in fact, over compensated for. When these young women are 50, their male peers will be dwarfed in all positions of power, yet you still fight this fight as if there has been no change at all. This is extremely harmful to the young gens of boys and men who bare zero responsibility for the exaggerated oppression you are railing against.

        The reason it its harmful to still fight these battles as if its 1965 is because it in fact destroying the younger generations of men and inflicting on wounds they dont deserve and will not heal. Like I said above, you drop social cluster bombs on society and you hit your target, the old guard of aging madmen, but when you take out 1.5 generations of young men in your blast radius, there is guilt to bear.

        Social change takes time and bears fruit slowly, meaning you make the change and then wait for the effects to show up, you dont keep on the gas pedal or you drive the car off the road. right now articles like this keep the peddle to the floor even though momentum will carry the car off the cliff of reverse gender bias.

        Frozen is not an anomaly. I loved the movie, but the days of centering any piece of entertainment around a “strong” “plucky” “rebellious” female underdog are long gone. In fact its one of the safest positions to take when designing your work. Maybe it was daring in 1990, but not in 2014. Frozen is great, and part of why its great is its strong and nuanced ( for animation) portrayal of young girls/women does not come at the expense of boys, its just that the boys are central to the story. Its not insulting to men, its simply not about them and that is completely fine.

        As to whether you are part of the victim class, well that is a complicated argument that wont fit in this comments section, but we obviously disagree. I have no idea your specific situation ( it may be tragic ), as you dont know mine, but there is little arguing that by any measure young women are dominating their male peers in every major life category, education, money, confidence, love life and sexual opportunities/dating, having and raising children, etc… Again, you have to measure generations differently. This is of course all referring to young women in the modern western world.

        • winter

          Frozen is not an anomaly. I loved the movie, but the days of centering any piece of entertainment around a “strong” “plucky” “rebellious” female underdog are long gone. In fact its one of the safest positions to take when designing your work. Maybe it was daring in 1990, but not in 2014. Frozen is great, and part of why its great is its strong and nuanced ( for animation) portrayal of young girls/women does not come at the expense of boys, its just that the boys are central to the story. Its not insulting to men, its simply not about them and that is completely fine.

          Sorry this has a couple typos. should have said:

          I loved the movie, but the days of centering a piece of entertainment around a “strong” “plucky” “rebellious” female underdog as being edgy or risky are long gone.

          and

          its just that the boys are central to the story. Its not insulting to men, its simply not about them and that is completely fine.

          should be:

          its just that the boys are NOT central to the story. Its not insulting to men, its simply not about them and that is completely fine.

    • JMW

      Allow me to reply…and disagree. And before I get into the substance of my reply, allow me to state that I am one of the privileged – male, white, straight, married for nearly 20 years, 3 kids, good job, home owner, 2 cars, etc., etc., etc.

      You write, “This article ignores the fact that on television and in books and music, its women who dominate…because women read more then men.” Women may dominate as authors (leaving aside television and music because you didn’t say that women watch more television or listen to more music than men), although I’d like to see a citation for your statement.

      But authorship is the least powerful position in the writing industry, for the simple economic reason that there are so many potential authors out there. Publishing houses receive thousands of manuscripts a month by unknowns trying to break into the industry. The publishing house has the power to decide who gets printed and who doesn’t, who gets promoted and who doesn’t, and so on. And the power in the publishing industry is held by men – all those male CEOs, editors, PR directors and so on. And because these men are interested in making money, they offer what sells.

      You write, “Let the old guard die off, you can not compensate for past wrongs, sad but true. As the millenials age and come into power, our culture will be dominated by female voices and it will be men who are marginalized and condescended too.”

      Forgive me, but I find your belief – that women will “take over” simply because they currently occupy 85% of lower positions – to be unfounded. History has shown that the old guard will die off in ones and twos, and the remainders will act as gatekeepers and admit only those whom they want into their ranks. Invariably these will be males who think like them. This is what is called “the old boys’ network”. Want to advance? Plug into it – it’s the fastest way.

      In my opinion, women and minorities must continue to fight for their fair share because the deck continues to be stacked against them. Although I would admit that some progress has been made, we as a society are continuing to marginalize people of intelligence and talent because their outer appearance (i.e., not-male, not-white) is too different from the rest of those in power. This also addresses your remark in your second comment, “If young women dominate 85 percent of the positions, what do you think is gonna happen as the younger generations age?” Those 15% of males will be disproportionately chosen for senior positions.

      And I will add that I don’t think that many women who argue for greater representation of women in movies (and comic books, and television, and politics) want women to “take over”. They want women to be fairly represented. In this, I think this reveals your thinking to be a zero-sum game: either men are in charge, or women are. Why does this have to be so? Why can’t PEOPLE be in charge?

      You write, “The reason it its harmful to still fight these battles as if its 1965 is because it in fact destroying the younger generations of men and inflicting on wounds they dont deserve and will not heal. Like I said above, you drop social cluster bombs on society and you hit your target, the old guard of aging madmen, but when you take out 1.5 generations of young men in your blast radius, there is guilt to bear.”

      The reason it is less harmful to fight these battles as if it is 1965 is that these younger generations of men are exposed to the misogynistic (and racist) modes of thought of the older generations. They lap it up in the media of their choice – movies and television and comic books. It is necessary to counterbalance that education and provide them with a moral foundation that says that everyone has equal rights, regardless of gender, race, creed, sexual orientation, nationality, or ethnicity – the foundation, I might point out, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We may assume that only old men discriminate and the younger generation will not. But if we do and remain silent, we are doing a disservice to that younger generation – both male and female. Culture transmits. Older executives will teach younger executives – “this is how you make money. And women don’t understand it.” And I firmly believe that people become more conservative as they get older, unless they make a conscious effort not to. So younger men may start out not believing this, but exposed to the misogyny – bathed in it, breathing it in every day at work, and PROFITING from it as they advance – as they age they will begin to believe.

      Will that younger generation of men be psychologically or emotionaly challenged if we ask them to not imbibe discrimination from the breast of the older generation? Yep. But which is the greater damage? For young men to be told that women are deserving of respect and consideration? Or for young men to be told that women are NOT deserving…and have no one disagree? And by that silence, for us to concede the question?

  18. anakin mcfly (@anivad42)

    Hi, gay Asian trans guy here. I generally agree with everything in this article, except that changing the race and/or gender of a character will have little to no effect on the story. I’m coming at this from the opposite angle – the change wouldn’t be due to how, say, men are inherently different from women, because as you said we’re all human. But it would be due to the different ways they get treated in society, and how that affects their behaviour and the way they react to things and interact with others. This comment thread is already a good example of that.

    I got hugely different experiences and treatment in society when living as female vs when living as male, even though I’m still the exact same person. Likewise with sexual orientation. That stuff does have an impact on people’s lives and their character development, and while there are cases where it’s great to imagine a future where all that is no longer relevant (and I do love stories like that, for the escapism), not all stories fall into that same mould, and might wish to present a more accurate picture of characters’ lived experiences. Merely changing their race and/or gender etc without changing anything else dismisses the realities of oppression and so on. But again, there are times when I just want to forget about all that crap and imagine a happy fictional world in which I’m treated the exact same as any straight cis white guy.

    (I also don’t like forced representation, because it often comes across as lazy tokenism and can often make things worse, but my alternative to that is *not* to remove diversity, but rather to do it properly in a non-forced manner.)

    and a more personal quibble about changing the gender etc of established characters – as a trans guy, I spent my childhood living through a few fictional male characters and imagining I was them. If one or more of those were to be swapped to female in a future adaptation or something, I can’t deny that there would be a part of me that would be crushed. But that’s just me, and I’d deal with it.

  19. Michael

    Diversity for diversity’s sake is simply forced political correctness. I’m a white, liberal male, and I believe that we do indeed need more strong female characters in genre entertainment. I would go as far as to say I prefer women as the main protagonist in my stories. On the other hand, I would rather have one well-written female character in a film rather than a cast of women who are poorly written and perpetuate gender stereotypes. What matters most is the writing. Not the gender or the race of the characters. This phony outrage over the SW7 casting is completely pre-mature. Get back to me when you’ve seen the final film. Also, fanboys/fangirls need to quit perpetuating the silly Internet myth that Joss Whedon is feminist or a strong champion of diversity. Avengers had a white-male cast and the one female in the group was overly sexualized with constant “ass shots” in every 30 seconds. Whedon’s about as progressive as Devin Faraci or any nerd blogger I encounter online.

    • Tyler F.

      “On the other hand, I would rather have one well-written female character in a film rather than a cast of women who are poorly written and perpetuate gender stereotypes.” Which is why you’re wrong. FIrst of all, there’s no reason it can’t be both. There’s nothing that says it’s so hard to write one well-rounded woman that afterward you just couldn’t possibly write more of them. It’s also not a one-or-the-other choice, and — like the article says — unless there’s only one man in your movie, then you’ve got this weird double standard where women take so much effort, but men are a meaningless default.

      • thathat

        Hell, I am SO freaking tired of seeing that statement too. Like it’s some kind of either/or choice: “Look, you can either have this ONE well-written woman, or you can run the risk of having a bunch of stereotypes in bikinis!”

        If anything, isn’t it easier to create a well-written, well-rounded female character if there are MORE women around in the story so the one single main woman doesn’t have to do all the heavy lifting being All Things To Everyone?

    • Liane B.

      PS: there were lots of “ass shots” of the men in Avengers and actually very little traditional male gaze.

      • anon

        Not really. I’ve watched the avengers and all of the spinoffs and its still very traditional bro fodder. Also, the op has a point. Joss Whedon ain’t a feminist by a long shot and I wish we would stop treating him that way.

  20. Alex Reynard

    “all while men continually reduce “women’s” entertainment with terms like “chick flicks”, “chick lit” and so on—a perfect example of how unwilling men can be to try and relate to a perspective outside of their own.”

    “all while women continually reduce “men’s” pornography with terms like “filth”, “perversion”, “corrupting”, “degrading”, “dangerous”, “rape culture” and so on—a perfect example of how unwilling women can be to try and relate to a perspective outside of their own.

    I love being a smartass.

    • Liane B.

      Since pornography IS objectively degrading and can & does encourage rape culture, are you therefore saying that women’s entertainment SHOULD be classified as only being silly and frivolous? Just curious what point you’re actually trying to make here.

  21. Casey

    I’m not sure this is really a big problem. Sure, I’d love to see movies with a more diverse group of actors, but is it really a good idea? Stay with me here. Of course I want more minorities in moves, but they’re just that — minorities. If there are 25 percent women actors that apply for a position, and 75 percent men actors that apply for a position, why is it a surprise that 3/4ths of the time a man is chosen for the role? Wouldn’t it be sexist if a women got the part over a man who was a better actor, solely because she was a woman? I’m not sure why there are less women in acting than men, but that’s another problem to solve. Maybe if you could convince more women to become actors — but, that’s their decision. No matter what race or sex a person is, it’s racist or sexist 100 percent of the time if another person was chosen because of their race or sex. Of course these numbers aren’t exactly right. You do have the typical racist/sexist person that will pick a white male over a black female, and it would be easier to write a script about a person’s own race/sex. So, the numbers aren’t exact. People need to be careful or racism on ALL SIDES! What the writer did here by saying that white males have no say in matters of race is indeed racist/sexist against white males.”Anti-racism” is still racism.

    • g2-9412afb6b652404c3f65011a1daae279

      This post here is a classic example of privilege. Only someone who has never experienced systemic oppression could write something this inane and think they’re being profound.

      • Casey

        Jesus, at least be polite when responding. I’m actually not privileged. I was young when my parents immigrated to the United States. Our family was dirt poor when we got here. I actually have seen the systematic oppression you’re referring to, but I don’t believe this is the same thing.

    • Sarah Brown

      You’re wrong. I work in this field. The last casting we did we had a role for 1 female and 1 male. We had over 500 submissions for the females and only 50 for the men. There are, in point of fact, significantly more women in the field working for fewer parts. For a casting director, (and this is a simplification of a longer process) it actually means that women tend to be stronger and better actors because the competition is harder. Men, on the other hand, tend to be rewarded for work that is not as strong or well rounded or good as their female counter-parts because there are fewer of them and when you are casting a show, you have to cast it.

    • ChickLikeMe

      Your vision of how casting works is so bizarre, I don’t know how you sat down and typed it out and got all the way to the end. Do you really think that they audition 25 women and 75 men for the same role and then decide who the best actor is and then decide what sex the character should be and then write the script accordingly? No, the character is written as a man or a woman and they then only audition actors for that role. If the character is written as a man, then there’s typically no women coming in to audition. That’s why change needs to happen at the writing and development stages..

    • thathat

      “I don’t think this is a really big problem.”

      The people who would DON’T get to see themselves reflected more in movies/tv/comics/books do. It’s great that YOU don’t, but that’s like saying that someone complaining about their foot being stepped on is wrong because YOUR foot doesn’t hurt.

  22. Henley

    Just like in computer games, films generally stick to a formula due to the costs and risks involved. Typically most films seem to be cash makers rather than done for the love of it and due to this follow the same stale format that has worked well enough for so long, all the way back to when sexism was normal and ‘ok’.

    I don’t think this will change until the studios feel the pot of cash there has gone, I don’t think in this day and age it’s a deliberate slate against women or others it’s unfortunately what makes the industry go round.

    Personally I’d love for that part to die off and more creative, daring and imaginative films to fill the gap and think it will shift and has been slowly with indy stuff sneaking up.

  23. Thumbnails 5/2/2014 | Article Film

    […] “This Isn’t Just About Star Wars: The 5 Dumbest Arguments Against Gender Diversity.” By Tyler Foster of SharcTank. Related: Caroline Side of The AV Club argues “The Bechdel test is fine just the way it is.” See also: Forbes critic Scott Mendelson on “Why ‘Mean Girls’ Still Matters” […]

  24. James Moffatt

    When you say “white guys opinions on representation aren’t relevant” I hope you’re aware of the irony of ignoring the existence of non-heterosexual and transgender people and their struggles with being represented. Some marginalised and under-represented minorities happen to not be split along race or sex. Gender and sexuality matter too, and wording that statement the way you did quite blatantly excludes queer and trans* minorities from your consideration.

    Before you accuse me of pedantry or say “You know I meant straight-white-cis-males but it’s not as punchy a statement” consider that this article is quite a long and impassioned argument that representation matters, and then when making that point you chose to word it in a way that contributes to the invisibility of other under-represented minorities.

    Yes I know you chose to clarify elsewhere with the use of the term ‘straight white males’ instead of just ‘white males’ (Still not acknowledging the existence of trans* people) but the fact remains that the quote you chose to highlight is exclusionary and undermines your point.

    And that matters. I matter. My trans* friends matter.

    Signed a “White guy” who nonetheless needs more representation.

      • Tyler F.

        I added another instance of the word cis, tried to tie the references to white guys in that section back to that description of them, and rewrote the offending sentence. I hope this helps!

        • James Moffatt

          It does, actually. It’s depressing that the usual level of internet discourse has made me expect hostility and defensiveness to the sort of sentiment I expressed, but I must admit it was a welcome surprise to see that you can still raise an issue with someone and they’ll actually listen and even act on your input.

          I’m sorry if I seemed pithy and antagonistic before by the way. My comment was worded somewhat punchily in order to be rhetorically effective, but on reflection I also could have worded myself in a less antagonistic way. I appreciate *quite a lot* your response and the edits you made.
          -J

  25. Kyle

    This piece definitely challenged a couple of my longtime views on racism (I’m a straight white guy, but dubs.) But even so, and I know I’m obviously biased here, I can’t get on board with the statement that white guys’ opinions on representation or racism don’t matter. It’s a blanket condemnation that doesn’t feel like the right way to promote openmindedness about this topic. For one thing, you’re rejecting every white guy who does believe in diversity and equal representation. For another, if privileged white dudes like myself are the opinions and viewpoints you’re trying to change, why would you say they’re not relevant? It shuts out the demographic whose mindset you’re trying to effect a change in, and that seems counterintuitive.

    • Tyler F.

      Although that particular sentence was already edited as per the comment above you, the overall point is that the repressed party is the one whose thoughts on their repression matters. There’s a hint of, “Well, I deserve credit for caring about this.” Except, no, caring about this in a sensitive and understanding way should be the automatic response.

      • ChickLikeMe

        I’m not of this particular mindset so I can see why other people are troubled by this point too. Speaking specifically from a trans point of view and not talking about race, I do think that cis people’s perspectives on trans repression are relevant and matter. It doesn’t mean I want them to speak over me, or “cissplain” away my repression, but their opinions on it do matter because if they flat out don’t care about about representation, that *is* relevant because it is exactly the problem, they’re in a position to change things and they don’t care to do it. If they do care about it but don’t support me when I push for it, that is relevant because it is part of the problem too.

        I think the way to phrase it better is that their opinions on representation and repression do not take precedent over those who are actually repressed by said lack of representation. That they need to be fully aware of the fact that straight cis white men are disproportionately represented in pop culture, and if they cannot concede that point, then their opinion on representation is still relevant, but only for being an example of what is wrong.

        • Liane B.

          This is such a good explanation of the point we were trying to make. We skimmed over it in the article, but if there’s any future misunderstanding of what we were saying, I’m going to point people exactly to this. Cis straight white males can definitely have a voice in any discussion, but their voice should not be the most important or the deciding voice.

        • Kyle

          This makes more sense to me. The fact that I live with and have grown up with a lot of privilege takes the air out of a lot of opinions I may have, but I’m not completely disqualified from the conversation, because after all, my race and gender are the ones causing the problems.

          • ChickLikeMe

            Re: Tyler’s change.

            ATTN: Straight Cis White Men who got their feelings hurt by this article:

            See how in this comments thread, how a couple of times people have pointed out problematic things with the article and rather than just explain them away, the authors actually consider them and in some cases have made changes, and considered the feelings and perspectives of the people challenging them, rather than just getting pissy and walking away from the conversation?

            Hmm…

  26. James May

    This article is intersectional QUILTBAG feminism 101. Not surprisingly, human beings are pulled out as white, straight, and male, as if that is actually a club (it isn’t) and don’t fare very well.

    If you look at the culture of QUILTBAG feminism, its seminars, music, books, etc. it has its own problems with diversity. I don’t care about that, or middle-weight boxing, Bollywood, or samba music. Just leave people alone, and realize there is a difference between equality and having a disdain for straight white men. You talk about them like the KKK talks about Jews.

  27. JGPangi

    The most recent gender-equal movie that I can recall is James Cameron’s Avatar. No shortage of significant female characters there, though Trudy was the only one not in a stereotypical role.

    You know, I never even thought about the Avengers franchise NOT having a movie dedicated to Black Widow? Even Ant Man is getting his own movie soon, which I dearly hope will include Wasp, and the Hulk was rebooted multiple times just to get it right. Natasha has an awesome and intricate back story- she’s an anti-heroine for a good part of it, but that’s why it’s called back story. And if they can do it for Maleficent, the Queen of All Evil, why not Natasha Romanoff, right?

    I am a huge yet fairly current fan of Hannibal, and I just recently found out about all the character changes that they made. I can honestly say that it didn’t hurt the franchise at all (Freddie Lounds is still an opportunistic gossipmonger).

    • Tyler F.

      Hopefully this changes. It sounds like they HAVE begun developing both a Black Widow movie and a female Marvel superhero movie (I forget which character for sure, but I think Ms. Marvel?), and the “Agent Carter” series is supposedly on the verge of being greenlit.

      Women are pretty well-developed in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but the popular “DC can’t make a Wonder Woman movie and Marvel’s made a movie about a talking raccoon!” meme is underwhelming because, well, Marvel doesn’t have a Wonder Woman equivalent either.

  28. Daelinya

    I think that part of the problem in mainstream media’s representation of non white males is that it does in fact make money – often lots and lots of it, because despite being underrepresented in movies women, homosexuals, different races, and different religions still buy tickets and pay to see those movies – Because it’s ALL that’s available.

    So now we have a catch twenty-two – I want to go to the movies and get some escapism but by doing so I’m feeding the monster that says that ‘This formula works! Stick to it.’, yet the formula won’t change as long as it does work – i.e. makes serious money and the only way to make that system fail is if I (and all women, different races, etc) all stop paying for movies in which we are underrepresented. But, then we are getting punished (I’ll use that word but it’s not exactly what I mean in context) because we are denying ourselves (or being denied by filmmakers) the escapism we crave.

    Hope all the above makes sense…

    • Tyler F.

      Definitely makes sense.

      Of course, Hollywood has a number of examples of female-led franchises being popular, and not really understanding how to develop that into further successes. As mentioned in the article, The Hunger Games films were both smash hits, but they only led to Divergent, whereas the first X-Men and Spider-Man movies created the comics-saturated marketplace we have today. Bridesmaids and Pitch Perfect were major winners for Universal, yet Universal seems reluctant to develop more ensemble comedies with women.

      • daelinya

        I hadn’t even thought about Pitch Perfect or Bridesmaids, which is weird since I love Pitch Perfect – musicals and movies based around music hold a special place in my heart, even Burlesque.

        The problem with using Hunger games or Divergent as an example is that even though the MC is a female almost all the supporting cast ensemble is male. Hunger games major cast: Katniss, Gale, Peeta, Haymitch. 1 female, 3 males. It gets slightly more even if you include the minor characters or characters with bigger parts in the second movie (Effie, Primrose, Joanna) but then you also have Cinna, Cato, Seneca Crane, President Snow, Finnick, etc. So, even with that movie, Divergent, or The Mortal Instruments it’s one Female Protagonist and an uneven ratio of male to female supporting characters.

        Then on top of it, the social media buzz around the movies becomes more about who should the female protagonist decide to be with and why (relationship-wise) instead of the struggles and the strength of the female character – so the media creates this devaluation of the female protagonist in anything but a relationship.

        But, that’s probably a whole different blog. :)

    • Tyler F.

      Liane and I have been talking about her writing a follow-up piece about positive / negative gender and race-swaps and this is definitely one of the big ones.

      As someone who is not familiar with the original “BSG” and only familiar with the new one in passing, I had actually forgotten Starbuck was ever a man.

  29. Demode

    “…While The Avengers was praised for having fantastic female character, the fact still stands that only one member of the team is a woman and the likelihood of Black Widow getting a standalone series keeps diminishing.”

    I’m sorry… but why exactly is her chance of getting a standalone series diminishing? There is nothing to back that statement up at all. It almost sounds like the writer is suggesting that the character won’t get her own series because the actress is getting older (at least that is how it reads to me.) Marvel has said that they plan on doing a solo Black Widow movie in the near future, so I don’t think her character is in any danger of not getting her own movie. The actress signed on for multiple pictures, which included potential solo films.

  30. fool

    I just wanted to shout out thatthat, tyler liane, g2 and all the patient and open minded posters on this site. Thanks for using words to share ideas. I’ll be back to this site.

  31. UberGeekGirl1

    As a woman and a long time geek I’m definitely in favor of more gender diversity but I don’t want it forced either. When I was a kid we had no strong role models of women. We learned from Disney and Barbie and that’s about it.

    But now we’re seeing more and more strong women as time goes on. Think Charlize Theron in Prometheus, Scarlett Johansson in the Avengers, Claudia Black in Stargate and Farscape, or Laura Vandervoort in Supergirl and Bitten. Hell I’ll even toss in Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft. Overkill, but still strong and somewhat believable (at least as much as her counterparts in other action movies anyway). Both Laura V. and Jolie do their own stunts in fact so how’s that for strength.

    The same writers that can’t seem to make strong women look plausible are also the ones that still feel the need to dress female characters in as little as possible despite how unrealistic it almost always is. They should be ashamed in this day and age if they can’t make a strong woman plausible.

    • Tyler F.

      I’m definitely not trying to say that we shouldn’t be writing strong women. However, nobody ever thinks twice about what kind of roles are being written for men, because every kind of role is written for men. The way it is now, every prominent female role is examined under the lens of “What does this say about women? Is this a good role model?” If gender diversity is applied as a blanket, and we care as much about women in functional or even background roles as we do in leading roles, then we can direct that analysis solely at characters who are being held up as role models and strong women, and women will be afforded the chance to play complex villains or flawed people or whatever else without people worrying about it.

      • UberGeekGirl1

        Oh I didn’t mean to imply that they all have to be role models. Female villains can be just as strong as female heroes. Flawed, inspirational, hero, villain, it doesn’t matter. I’m just sick to death of seeing women portrayed as the victim. I realize I’m not a majority for my gender. I don’t enjoy shopping, only own 2 pairs of shoes, and love watching action movies because I love explosions, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to see more strong women on the big screen.

        • Tyler F.

          Women portrayed as the victim becomes a problem when that’s 90% of women’s roles. It’s easy to get sick to death of it because there aren’t any other options — I’m sure there are powerful stories in which women are victimized that tell a valid story, but that’s not all of the ones being made by a long shot.

  32. Common Sense

    Something that bothers me is the sense everyone seems to have that they have some sort of intrinsic right to decide what should be in films. They’re not a public service, you know, filmmakers. They make films to make money.

    If you want greater gender representation, you have to speak with your wallets. Go and see the films with diversity, and skip the ones without. Because otherwise you’re showing Hollywood that they can continue to make male-centric films (which consistently make money) rather than taking a risk on a female-centric one (which is, as you say, less common and therefore dangerous).

    I don’t disapprove of diversity, I do disapprove of people thinking film makers can and should go out of their way to risk their well-being to make you happy.

    • Tyler F.

      There are a few problems with this. First of all, this is such a pervasive problem that the solution you suggest means people would have to cut themselves off from most media. It’d be one thing if you could boycott one or two films or even one studio’s films and send a message, but it’s not that contained.

      Second, Hollywood makes successful films starring women, as I’ve mentioned in the comments, and then doesn’t follow through on that success like they do with male-driven trends. The sexism starts with the studios. It’s very likely that making femme-friendly changes would increase profits by expanding the demographics they’re trying to target.

      You can’t blame the viewers for what Hollywood makes. It’s up to Hollywood to change, and this is one of the ways people ask for that.

  33. Branko Burcksen

    This was a very good piece breaking down the fallacies against more diversity in media. I wish larger amounts of men were as outraged by these disparities as women. It should not be a gender thing but a priority for inclusiveness.

    The series Attack on Titan, which just started on Cartoon Network, and is already available on Netflix, offers a wider range of female characters than most shows. Counterintuitive to other period set dramas (fictional worlds or otherwise) the male cast members do not judge nor call attention to their female counterpart’s gender. That is a notion many stories of a similar ilk have yet to incorporate.

  34. jessicagamer

    I am a woman and would personally like to see more women represented in high-profile film roles. In my view, I don’t think there is a way to force this to happen. What do you think might help?

    Imagine a world where filmmakers must go to a committee and prove they have a 50% female cast to get approval to release a movie for distribution. What if the movie is based on a real-life event? Let’s say it was a movie about a specific military operation where no women were involved. They would have to misrepresent the truth just to get the film out there.

    Sure, you could create a rule saying that only fictional works must equally represent both genders, but is that what you’d like to see? Let’s also imagine we took the same approach for painters, writers, or sculptors. Would we tell them they had to equally represent gender in their art? A better analogy would be that the art galleries (Hollywood) would only be allowed to pick a certain number of paintings of men (number of male characters in a screenplay).

    I agree that things are not ideal today, but want to know what you think could make things better. Would you ever boycott a movie just for having an all male cast? I don’t have the answers, but would love to hear your ideas.

    • Tyler F.

      When I say we should strive to be closer to 50%, it’s not going to be perfect. Nobody’s gonna sit down and count everything up (except for the studies done at the end of each year). We can and should do much better than 33 and 16%.

      The trap you’re falling into here is the one outlined in the first point. People in these argument threads I was in kept going, “Well, what about John Carpenter’s The Thing (all-male cast) or Steel Magnolias (all-female cast)?” What about them? In a more even world there would always be exceptions, particularly ones that are trying to make a point or do something thematic with the gender of the cast.

      History and truth are something to consider, and maybe you do make a movie that, like The Thing or Steel Magnolias, falls into that gulf where that’s part of the vision. At the same time, 90% of the historical or true-event movies that are made make tons of historically inaccurate mistakes or changes, and twist the facts to fit modern sensibilities. The majority of movies made are a form of pure fantasy, and most of them are set in current times, or fictional words / future time periods, where this does not necessarily present a problem unless the authors of those screenplays make it so on purpose.

  35. jessicagamer

    I hear you, Tyler. I used to be a very outspoken feminist in my college years and had many a long night arguing that media didn’t represent me. I went out of my way to avoid mainstream media and watch independent movies. Maybe I’ve grown a bit complacent as I’ve gotten a bit older, but I’ve also learned not to complain without having a good plan for how to make change happen.

    I think that posting articles like this does bring more visibility to the issues, and it’s refreshing to see an article like this getting so much attention. Maybe if we can get even more people to start thinking about this and talking about this publicly, it can help change things.

    By the way, I loved the adaptation of Starbuck into a female character for the new Battlestar Gallactica. I think you’ve picked out a good strategy here that Hollywood can adopt. Some of the decisions to turn male characters into female characters have made a huge positive impact on the popularity of shows and movies. I do hope to see more of this in the future.

    • Tyler F.

      Short of Ripley, it seems like Starbuck is everyone’s favorite example, and, frankly, other than characters out of “Star Trek” and “Firefly” I’d be hard-pressed to think of any other female sci-fi characters with quite that level of popularity. Genderswapping isn’t all that common, as far as I know, so it kinda speaks volumes that those characters are among the most beloved and memorable in the last 50 years.

  36. polski691

    Remember when we first completed Metroid and learnt that Samus Aran was actually a girl? It shocked us more on the lines of “There is a girl in this game!”, rather than a “The kickass dude we played as all this time was a girl!” type of amazement that was expected.

    This is exactly what is wrong with the people of today. We have all got these well defined tropes of society, and we keep fitting everyone we see into one of these tropes, regardless of whether they belong there or not. The female-healer medic has never been more significant.

    Gaming has had it’s fair share of gender discrimination breakthroughs too, but you cannot deny one thing: people are ignorant. We can do little to nothing to help.

    • Vicvillon

      I couldn’t agree more. The fact that there is a constant battle that needs to happen just for women to get a little bit of recognition really is a big problem. You would think that in today’s society, which claims itself to be more liberal, would be more open to actually allowing women to have the equality that they deserve. I know that some people try to go overboard by thinking that removing men from the picture completely would solve the issue, but that’s obviously not the case. It is important to find a balance; all genders need to be able to fit into different roles. And until we can get that balance, there will always be naysayers.

  37. kiraisjustice

    X-men was a fantastically popular franchise with plenty of variety in its female characters. Hollywood has seen it work and make money, they have no excuse not to make more sci fi and fantasy movies with more diversity.

  38. the invisible one

    Yup. And loads of different types of aliens are *so* much more believable than women, as characters.

  39. polski691

    Remember when we first completed Metroid and learnt that Samus Aran was actually a girl? It shocked us more on the lines of “There is a girl in this game!”, rather than a “The kickass dude we played as all this time was a girl!” type of amazement that was expected.

    This is exactly what is wrong with the people of today. We have all got these well defined tropes of society, and we keep fitting everyone we see into one of these tropes, regardless of whether they belong there or not. The female-healer medic has never been more significant.

    Gaming has had it’s fair share of gender discrimination breakthroughs too, but you cannot deny one thing: people are ignorant. We can do little to nothing to help.

  40. Hmmm

    Great article, but they definitely aren’t the five worst arguments against gender diversity. In the recent Star Wars debacle I managed to see a dude argue that there weren’t a lot of women in Star Wars because it would have cost too much.

    Seriously, I’m not kidding. I couldn’t make this stuff up.

    • secretgoldfish

      I’m almost a 100% sure that doens’t make any sense. Besides aren’t women typically paid less than men? It would probably be cheaper to just cast women everywhere!

  41. pklatonja

    Awesome article, you explained what I have been thinking for a while. If you put a woman somewhere where she does not belong, that is a discrimination of men then. A better suited male person did not get a job just because he is a male well that is gender inequality in trying to provide gender equality.

      • secretgoldfish

        I don’t think anything does. There are things that might determine where a certain actor/actress doesn’t belong, but I don’t think it has anything to do with gender at all.

  42. SLAMB

    I really don’t understand this whole “gender misrepresentation” shenanigan – Always being complained by people who aren’t interesting on their own, and only justify their existence by the things that they had zero control over. As if it’s a handicap which prevents them from getting anywhere. These people don’t become legends, they become the whiny waste that tries too hard to push off any responsibility from themselves and die forgotten.

    • JMW

      @Slamb: ‘I really don’t understand this whole “gender misrepresentation” shenanigan…’

      Thank you Captain Obvious.

  43. AgentD22

    This article is a little gem, kudos to the author. I specially agree with “Forced diversity” If you’re going to add a character just for the sake of filling a checklist, chances are that that character is going to suck.

    • ChickLikeMe

      well, I don’t really think anyone is actually advocating “forced diversity” in the form of a checklist I think that’s a straw man that people are harping on as part of the discussion. I think ultimately what’s being said here is a challenge to the writers and project developers to expand their creative horizons and write characters that fall outside of their limited comfort zones.

      However, say for sake of argument that someone IS advocating “forced diversity” in the form of a checklist. Why are the chances going to be that character is going to suck? In the new Star Wars they had a checklist, the characters were named Luke, Leia, Han, R2-D2, C-3PO. When Marvel developed The Avengers as a movie, they had a checklist with names like Tony Stark, Thor, Bruce Banner, Steve Rogers. That was pretty much a dead-set requirement that those characters had to be included. And Joss Whedon and Zak Penn wrote that movie, but not Iron Man, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, or Captain America: The First Avenger, and yet they managed to write a solid movie with the characters they were forced to write into their script.

      No one bats an eye at including characters that are required for continuity or for franchise security or because of actor contractual obligations. But if the reason is for diversity, then suddenly it’s overstepping some arbitrary line about the creative process.

      • Tyler F.

        “No one bats an eye at including characters that are required for continuity or for franchise security or because of actor contractual obligations. But if the reason is for diversity, then suddenly it’s overstepping some arbitrary line about the creative process.” This is similar to what my friend the script doctor said. He’s asked to incorporate all sorts of dumb and random ideas at the whim of producers or directors, and that’s his job. To somehow take a stand on female characters as an intrusion into the creative process is ridiculous.

  44. Anonymous

    There seem to be a large number of people in the comment thread missing the point of the article. The author is saying that “forced diversity” doesn’t exist, they aren’t advocating against it. The author makes a bunch of good points in relation to gender diversity in movies. Women are too often seen as secondary figures, only existing in relation to the lives of the men around them. It sends a message that they don’t deserve their own stories or narratives.

  45. Xalvador

    Thank you for this article. I think Gender diversity is extremely important. We do not realize how much we learn from our entertainment. As it stands there is not enough learning going on from women. Women are different from men like it or not and their voices, personalities, thoughts, and feelings should be given screen time.

  46. Ridge

    I have to say I disagree with some of these points. Forced diversity doesn’t make things better. Throwing in a token character from every minority you can think of isn’t moving forward. Not unless these characters are all done well in a way that adds to the overall experience. And let’s be honest, not all stories necessarily need that.

    I also think anyone can say “I don’t care about diversity” and it be a completely valid point. They don’t have to care about it. I watch awesome Asian action movies all the time. I don’t feel like throwing in a generic token white guy will make the experience any better for me. I’m fine with not seeing me on screen all the time.

    • ChickLikeMe

      The first paragraph of your response has been given ample audience in this thread and has been debunked as a valid argument multiple times.

      As to your second point, bit of a strawman. The argument is not “We need to see us on screen all the time,” it’s “We’re tired of almost never seeing us on the screen.” Consider for a second that you don’t need to see yourself represented in Asian action movies because you do see yourself represented in almost every other movie or TV show you’ll ever see otherwise. And those that you don’t, are considered their own separate genres. “Chick flicks,” “Urban movies,” etc. These Asian movies you’re watching are a break from your regular exposure.

      I think you need to consider the sentence where you said “They don’t have to care about it.” I think that’s the issue here. You don’t have to care about it because this has never been a problem that personally effected you, for the reasons stated above. You honestly have no conception of what it is like to be culturally erased time and time again, so you don’t know what effect it has on a person’s identity.

      • Ridge

        I’m not going to go read all these comments, so I’ll take your word of it on that one..

        We are all responsible for what we consume. In the media or otherwise. If you want to see more of a specific group in the media you consume, than go consume media that caters that. Just like if you want to watch something funny, you should go find a comedy. If you feel like women (or any other group) aren’t being properly represented in something than just don’t support it. Eventually if enough people speak with their wallets like this things will change.

        PS- I’m not against inclusion of any kind. We’re all just people.

  47. mercantile519

    it frustrates me that this is still a topic for debate. But it’s really encouraging to see the debate in the comments. Most folks here are pretty positive about the whole situation!

  48. wolfecrof

    I wish there wasn’t this issue of diversity and representation. It’s unfortunately something that’s part of our popular culture and we have to deal with it accordingly. I don’t exactly agree that there isn’t a such thing as “forced diversity”, as sometimes it really is “forced”. For example, having a black person in a photo as an image thing. I don’t really know how else this issue can be tackled, but hopefully these things will become natural in the future and it won’t need to be a conscious decision to include someone of a particular race/gender.

  49. desperatepower

    I pretty much agree with this “forced diversity” sucks. I really hate it how companies are now trying to put women in movies and films just because they feel like they need to.

    I do however think there is a lack of women in movies that take leading roles. Which is sad to see, i don’t understand why a woman actor can’t play the part of a hero or a protagonist.

    So basically I’m split on this topic I feel like it shouldn’t be done but there still needs to be more women in movies, I Just think that film makers need to go about this in different ways.

  50. Reel Words: John Williams, Gender Diversity, Declining Foreign Films, and More |

    […] The 5 Dumbest Arguments Against Gender Diversity by Tyler Foster at SharcTank(Full disclosure: The author is a good friend of mine.) When the cast of the new Star Wars film was announced, some noticed that only two of the 12 actors were women. This reignited a debate that has come and gone over the years about gender disparity in movie casting. Foster lines up the most specious defenses for the lack of women in entertainment and dismantles them. As the title notes, this isn’t just about Star Wars. […]

  51. Matt Jones

    I really disagree with your point that there is no such thing as forced diversity being bad. That’s called reverse discrimination. I don’t think anyone should be given a right to be in a film unless there’s a role made for that person, and that person is a good actor. Star Wars is just light on female roles. Not a big deal. Why force more female roles into it and make it something it isn’t?


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