Today I’m going to diverge a bit from my usual spiel, but not by much. Oh, who the hell am I kidding? This is pretty much par for the course at this point.
Last week millions of us bore witness to the Republican National Convention, a subsidiary of Trump. One of the points that was made throughout the convention was how they had speakers of all different backgrounds at one point or another, despite the overall representation being very white. Since representation is something I’ve dedicated a lot of my time and energy into for this column, I feel that I should address this and how it parallels representation in comics and other media.
Starting on July 18th and going through the 21st, overlapping with San Diego Comic Con, the Republican National Convention rolled out many women speakers, Hispanics, black men, and even a gay man. Sure, Peter Thiel is a cis white billionaire who was outed against his will, but he’s still queer so that’s something, I guess. Republicans then used these speakers to make the claim that they’re the party of diversity and promptly patted themselves on the back for it.
Sound like something I’ve said before? You probably read what I wrote about Star Trek Beyond, Marvel’s handling of Iceman (I know, I’ve referenced that Iceman piece a lot lately), and more. These all fall under diversity being added for positive press hits. And similar to the Republican National Convention, highlighting efforts of diversity in comics and movies tend to come from straight cis white guys downplaying how dominated their industries are by other straight cis white guys.
Now I’m not comparing the likes of Simon Pegg to Donald J. Trump. Though diversity for good press in the entertainment biz isn’t without harm, it’s certainly not on the same level as what Donald Trump has done and can do.
There is an assumption that tends to come with being inclusive. The assumption being that you must support X fully and without hesitation if you give X any level of positive or even neutral representation. We see this all the time in comics and movies like with the representation mentioned earlier. We have also seen this in politics. And yes, Democrats can be guilty of this too, but the Republican National Convention this time around was exceptional.
Many speakers at the convention made it a point to condemn PC culture. They made sure to have non-white speakers like Ben Carson to stress this point too so as to show it is not just the rhetoric of a shrinking voting block. Similarly, they found about as many black men as they could find to say either Blue Lives Matter or All Lives Matter. The intention of which was to make it okay to say those things because black men also say them, despite the disparity between how many people in a particular community feel about an issue like that.
Watching that display at the convention brought back the recent memories of the team on Star Trek Beyond having Zachary Quinto speak on George Takei’s disapproval of Sulu being gay now since Zachary Quinto himself is gay so of course his opinion is right. Or how Axel Alonso defended Marvel’s hip hop covers campaign using the fact that since they have radically diverse editors on staff that they are right. Paul Jenkins in my interview with him a few weeks ago stated how he had trans consultants on the script for Alters with the implications that he’s justified in approaching this comic the way he is. Often PC culture is blamed here as well.
It’s important to keep in mind that people like Zachary Quinto, Axel Alonso, and Paul Jenkins in these particular instances aren’t inherently wrong because they found people that agree with them from the communities that would be the most skeptical. The Republican Party isn’t inherently wrong for the same reason.
Minority communities are not monoliths. We are all individuals with minds of our own and different sets of experiences that shape our outlooks. And all of these communities are large enough where you can find nearly every opinion under the sun in them. So please, whether it’s in politics, movies, comics or elsewhere, don’t ever assume that a couple of people from one group expressing an opinion represents the entire group.
And yes, that includes my opinion too.