How To Avoid Diversity Drama

I have been following all the drama over the efforts to make our culture more diverse because it could impact my literary ambitions. I don’t object to diversity in theory because diversity is variety and like most creative people I like variety. Creative people are easily bored and feel a need to explore other cultures. They tend to be very open to new experiences, the unfamiliar, and the novel. Like most creative people I would actually get upset if I was deprived of the opportunity to read stories from different perspectives due to some bullshit like bigotry.

But there is a right way and a wrong way to pursue diversity in the arts. A lot of the drama appears to be due to some terrible ideas on how to go about making our culture more diverse. One of the biggest mistakes is to think that you need to redefine something that is already cherished as an institution. People do not like it when you redefine any aspect of their culture. They will readily accept your additions to the culture but they won’t like you messing with what already exists. Some forms of art are more susceptible to redefining established works and thereby getting into trouble with the aficionados. For example the comic book community is currently being torn apart by controversies over diversity in comics. I think this is due to the fact that comic book writers like to re-imagine established characters. They are always creating alternative universes or timelines where superheroes exist with different attributes. This would seem to lend itself nicely to a desire to introduce more diversity but it is a radical redefinition of beloved characters. Fans get really upset if Batman reveals a desire to transition to a woman and becomes the Bat Tran! The Batman character has existed for decades and he can’t suddenly become a transsexual with no indication of such a proclivity over all those years. Unfortunately the comic book industry has felt free to change the gender, race, and sexual orientation of many of its classic characters. This has pissed off many fans and sets the content creators against the fans.

The film industry has done something similar with its film reboots. A notorious example was the Ghost Busters reboot which switched the gender of all the major characters to show that women can have STEM careers. Yeah, as mad scientists chasing supernatural entities. This was a fairly obvious attempt to signal the virtue of the screenwriters and the film producers at the expense of the original story and characters and the fans.

All this drama can be avoided by creating something entirely new. Nobody can object to the gender, race, or sexual orientation of a new character. You are free to establish all the attributes of a new character during the introduction of that character in your story. You can add new characters to existing stories or create an entirely new story with original characters. This avoids all the drama caused by messing with beloved characters. So why don’t content creators do this? Well often it is because they want to piggy back on the success of established stories and characters. They want to challenge the institution.

Fortunately the theater community avoids some of this drama because you cannot change a single word in a play without the playwright’s permission. For example, you cannot perform Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? with a black man playing Nick and then introduce a lot of new dialogue to create the expected racial tension. But some directors do attempt to interpret the classic plays with unconventional casting. The theater community tolerates this because everyone tends to be very liberal and you are not actually redefining our culture when you are creative in your interpretation of a beloved play. But you will still see a little controversy when anyone threatens to seriously subvert Shakespeare with a highly unconventional production and suggests that this become the norm.

It is important to remember that our culture is our social definition. Our stories define us. Shared stories define our society. Nobody has permission to redefine our society over the objections of everyone else. You don’t get to play god. Anyone expecting to be welcome to do so will be met with a rude awakening because there will be fierce resistance. Culture can evolve but it does not change through force without a fight. The proper way to change the culture is to gradually introduce new material which can be accepted to fill the needs of the changing society. This is not a process that can be forced by fighting a divisive culture war.

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