…also Juan “Johnny” Rico was Filipino

I got waylaid today in a message board for a show I, oddly enough, choose to no longer watch, “Falling Skies”.  The title of the post was “Dead Characters – Why are they all minorities?” in which the original poster makes valid complaint that the show has a significant number of white characters versus minority, yet, a largely disproportionate number of minority to white characters die.  The subsequent responses spiraled off into debate about casting choices in Hollywood with several well formatted arguments on both sides, though admittedly some of the assertions made lacked factual context, and one foolhardy reply chose to lay blame on the minority actors themselves as though they wrote themselves three lines and then a pitiful death scene.

It really got me thinking, though, about portrayal of minorities, and disenfranchised groups all around, in popular media, most specifically in regards to Science Fiction and Fantasy, as Science Fiction is the genre “Falling Skies” falls (no pun intended) into, and thus was the most cited by commentators, and also because those are the genres in which I prefer writing.

Scifi and Fantasy, to me, have always been the safe haven genres for outcasts — people who have been deemed by society to fall outside of the “norm” — because inside of those genres anything you can imagine is possible.  Although they’ve been scoffed at for being weird or silly because they aren’t based in reality, more so than any other genre, Scifi and Fantasy have done more to explore political and religious ideologies, they’ve analyzed and questioned social injustice, and examined our lives in more accurate and greater detail than romance or mystery can claim.  They’re often times speculative, philosophical, and delve into notions and ideas that mainstream was originally afraid to touch.

Yet, lately, Hollywood and popular media have co-oped the genres, streamlined them, removing anything of value and depth , gave them a sleeker, glossy, more attractive finish (slender women with manicures and plucked brows in an apocalypse, lean muscular men with unscathed faces and pristine white teeth on the battlefield), and turned them into little more than action/thriller fodder with high-end graphics and fancy pyrotechnics.

Gone now are the explorations into social injustices, and in are the token minority characters that we can typically expect to die first.

One commentator hit on an important point, and although I’m not entirely convinced of its validity, I think it does carry a hint of truth.  She points the finger at the audience, and though she makes claim that Hollywood casts white characters because the majority of the audience is white and therefore can relate better to the characters which I feel is utterly false – demographics aside, a character is more than their “racial” or any other identifying category and people can relate regardless, I do think she’s right in that part of the blame may fall on the audience.

Why do we continue to watch shows/movies that marginalize minorities?  Or is that an unfair assumption?  Is Hollywood truly guilty of obliterating Scifi and Fantasy’s inherent nature of equal possibilities?

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